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Child From Pan Am Shelter Spit on, Called Racial Slur at School: Sources

By Katie Honan | December 24, 2015 11:48am | Updated on December 28, 2015 8:40am
 The city has transferred a family out of the Pan Am shelter after their son was called the N-word and spit on at school, officials said.
The city has transferred a family out of the Pan Am shelter after their son was called the N-word and spit on at school, officials said.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ELMHURST — The city has had to transfer a family out of a controversial homeless shelter after their son was called the N-word at a nearby middle school and threatened with racially-motivated gang violence, according to officials and sources.

The boy, whose name is being withheld by DNAinfo New York because of his age, was in the school's gym locker room at Intermediate School 5, a few blocks away from the shelter, last month when he was approached by children from the neighborhood, according to sources.

The neighborhood children called him the racial slur, spit on him and called him a "dirty kid from the Boulevard" — referring to the name of the Boulevard Shelter that is located inside the former Pan Am hotel, sources said.

The boy, who is African American, never told his parents or anyone at the school or shelter about the incident, but told his friends who urged him to fight back, sources said.

The boy from the shelter went back to school and confronted his attacker, pushing him to the ground and sparking a war with the attacker's friends, who circled the school armed with chains and deadbolts. Sources said all the students involved in the incident were suspended for several days.

The Department of Education did not respond to inquiries about the incident.


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Things escalated last weekend when groups of neighborhood kids from I.S. 5 and Newtown High School got into fights with kids from the Boulevard Shelter at the McDonald's on Queens Boulevard and nearby Elmhurst Park.

A manager at the McDonald's confirmed there was a fight inside and outside the eatery on Sunday night.

On Tuesday, a child living in the shelter told officials that a classmate called and said friends had guns — and they planned to shoot kids from the shelter, sources said.

The NYPD is investigating the fights and threats, according to the Department of Homeless Services.

"We take the safety of our clients very seriously," a DHS spokeswoman said. "We have taken swift measures to ensure the safety of this child, his family and the residents of that shelter and community."

The Department of Homeless Services transferred the family to another shelter for their protection, and is working with the NYPD to address the incident.

The NYPD did not immediately have information about the incident.

Tensions surrounding the shelter have stayed high a year and a half since it opened. 

Last month, a father from the shelter was arrested and charged with assault after he pushed a 69-year-old man to the ground who he said stared him down outside P.S. 102 on Van Horn Street, police said. 

The victim, Mei Hua Wang, 69, was picking up his granddaughter from school, and told DNAinfo that he didn't mean to stare at the man, saying it was a misunderstanding that turned unnecessarily violent.

The shelter resident, David McLean, told police he felt he had to "protect" his family. He has posted bail, and is due back in court Jan. 23.

Wang, who has been bedridden since the attack, said he felt the city wasn't doing enough to protect local residents.