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Pols Sue City Over Maspeth Shelter Proposal as Neighbors Rage Over Plan

By Katie Honan | September 1, 2016 8:54am
 A woman yells up at Commissioner Steve Banks at a meeting for a proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens on Aug. 31.
A woman yells up at Commissioner Steve Banks at a meeting for a proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth, Queens on Aug. 31.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

QUEENS — City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley announced at a meeting Wednesday for a proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth that she and other elected officials filed a suit against the city over the plan — as angry residents loudly protested against it, threatening to do anything to stop it from happening. 

Crowley told residents at the meeting at the Knockdown Center that she filed the suit earlier in the day against the city and Commissioner Steven Banks, who is in charge of the Human Resource  Administration and Department of Social Services.

"As your council member, as your elected representative, I am taking real, meaningful ways of addressing Mayor de Blasio and his administration's short-sighted plan to turn the Holiday Inn into a homeless shelter," she said. 

"We must all understand that housing families in hotels is not only wrong, it is illegal. It is against the law."

She said she filed the suit in New York Supreme Court "to ensure the administration is acting as it should, following the law," she said, to cheers. 

Other politicians, including state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, joined in on the suit, she said.

A spokesman for the city's Law Department said there was a need for this shelter in Maspeth.

"The statute is clear on what the requirements are and they are being followed," he said in a statement issued by email Wednesday night.

Crowley made the lawsuit announcement as one of many speakers at the public hearing to discuss the plan to turn a Holiday Inn near Maurice Avenue into a shelter for adult families.

While the city at first said they were looking at alternatives to the hotel, they now say the plan is officially moving forward. The hotel would house up to 220 families, with an opening date of Oct. 1, officials said. It will be run by the Acacia Network, which owns other shelters across the city.

Banks, who made his second visit to discuss the Maspeth plan, was greeted by boos and shouts from the raucous crowd, and called a "failure" by residents.

As he began to discuss the details of the proposed shelter, the crowd turned their backs to him in unison.

"No homeless shelter!" people chanted. Many wore T-shirts that said "No Homeless Shelter" and "Maspeth Matters."

One woman defiantly raised both middle fingers up in the air toward Banks.

Of the dozens of speakers, no one spoke in support of the plan. Many asked about what they called a backroom deal for the shelter, a lack of transparency from the current administration, and questioned their community's safety. 

Resident Lance Lovejoy asked Banks questions on the percentage of future residents who have drug addiction or mental health issues. The commissioner mentioned citywide statistics that show 23 percent of adult families work and 43 percent of the residents are on federal disability. 

"When you get back to the office, show your boss this, and tell him we're not getting a shelter in Maspeth," Lovejoy told him. He ripped off his "Maspeth Matters" T-shirt to reveal another shirt that said "Mayor de Blasio Go F--k Yourself."

The shirt also featured a photo of his daughter as an infant with her middle finger up, which he later said was for the mayor. 

Bob Holden, president of The Juniper Park Civic Association, said the community will continue protesting if the city moves forward with their plan — one of many who discussed civil disobedience, like shutting down the Long Island Expressway, to get their point across.

"Mark my word, this is a promise: We will do everything possible to shut that area down on a nightly basis, and we will not tolerate something that's being shoved down out throats," he said.

"I will fight 'til the death for this neighborhood that I love so much. And for you to think that we are going to roll over and just let this thing happen and destroy our neighborhood, you should know better."

A woman stands with her back to Commissioner Steven Banks as the crowd turned in unison against him. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)

City Hall senior policy advisor Lincoln Restler, center, sits quietly as residents cheer one of the many public speakers at a hearing on the proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth on Aug. 31, 2016. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)