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Maspeth Shelter Opponents Vow to Return to Commissioner's House Every Night

By Katie Honan | September 16, 2016 7:42am
 Protestors target Steve Banks, the commissioner who oversees the shelter system, calling him a liar outside his Windsor Terrace home.
Protestors target Steve Banks, the commissioner who oversees the shelter system, calling him a liar outside his Windsor Terrace home.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

WINDSOR TERRACE — Hundreds of Maspeth residents crossed into Brooklyn on Thursday night to protest in front of the home of Commissioner Steven Banks over the city's proposal to put a homeless shelter in their neighborhood.

They came off of three buses — with signs taped outside that said "Solutions Not Shelters" — and marched up the quiet, tree-lined street with whistles, noisemakers and signs.

"Banks has gotta go, Banks has gotta go," they chanted.

"Liar! Liar! Liar! Liar," they yelled, while pointing toward his house.

Neighbors said Banks, the commissioner of the Human Resources Administration and Department of Social Services, wasn't home. The NYPD said he's received so many threats over the shelter plan that he filed an aggravated assault complaint. 

Outside his home, the unified group said they brought their fight to the commissioner's front yard to show they weren't going to back down.  

The proposed shelter was to be located in what is now a Maspeth Holiday Inn, but last week the hotel's operator announced that the plan would not go forward. City officials have said they're still negotiating.

"We have nothing against homeless people. We have a definite problem with the way he's treating us and the homeless people," organizer Michael LoCascio said over a bullhorn. 

"We're going to be here until that man understands we're not gonna tolerate it."

Upset neighbors asked for the protesters' permit, but police officials said it's only required for a parade, procession, or when noise amplification is used, according to the NYPD.

"This is ridiculous," said Cheryl, a neighbor who only gave her first name.

"Who are they? We have shelters here."

Another neighbor, who also only gave his first name, Robert, said it was "very unfair to neighbors to disrupt" at this hour. The protest began at around 8 p.m. and lasted until 9 p.m.

"It's not going to accomplish anything, it's just going to create animosity for them," he said.

But John Scarimvolo, who lives up the block from Banks, said he understood why they were upset. 

"I think they have a right to demonstrate and protest, and they have a point if they have that many shelters in proximity to where they live," he said.

"But homeless people have to go somewhere."

While most neighbors stayed on their stoops observing the protest, some challenged the protesters.

One man called them rude, and another woman shouted "you should be ashamed of yourselves." When one man noted that they were waking up the entire block, a handful fired back, "that's the point."

"We're going to be back here every night," the protesters vowed, chanting "we'll be back" as they walked back toward their buses to take them to Queens.