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City Pays for Empty Rooms at Playland Motel Amid Record-High Homelessness

By Katie Honan | October 17, 2016 3:58pm
 A room inside the Playland Motel.
A room inside the Playland Motel.
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Playland Tavern

ROCKAWAY BEACH — The Department of Homeless Services booked nearly a dozen rooms at the Playland Motel last week for homeless families — but never filled them, an official confirmed.

The city rented the 11 rooms at the boutique hotel on Monday, Oct. 10 for a 10-day stay with the intent to house families waiting for more permanent shelter, according to the city.

But the rooms have remained empty the entire time, a DHS official confirmed, despite record-high homeless numbers throughout the city.

Rooms at the motel rent for between $97 and $160 each night, according to travel sites, although the city would not say how much it's spending for the rooms.

The city plans to continue to hold the rooms open, officials said, but would not say when they plan to fill them.

“As we continue building more affordable housing citywide, the city must continue to meet its legal and moral obligation to temporarily house homeless individuals and families," DHS spokeswoman Lauren Gray said.

"In rare instances, DHS may determine it’s necessary to rent non-occupied rooms to help manage incoming clients.”

The city's homeless numbers have reached a record high, with 59,999 people in the system as of Oct. 13 — a number that includes more than 25,000 children, DHS data shows.

The use of hotels is a decades-old city practice to provide quick lodging for homeless residents, Commissioner Steve Banks said last week in regards to the city renting rooms at a Maspeth hotel. 

Playland Motel announced last week it was looking for new commercial tenants for its bar and restaurant, and also rented its block of second-floor rooms to the city.

The news angered local residents, who spoke about the plan at a community meeting Sunday.

Councilman Eric Ulrich is also planning a rally on the steps of City Hall on Friday. He blasted the mayor's current homeless policy, saying his constituents, and the city, "deserve better."

"The time has come for this administration to put forth real and meaningful solutions that will actually help people find permanent housing and rebuild their lives," he said in a statement.

"The Playland Motel is not the right answer."