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Former Sunnyside Hotel Used as Shelter for Homeless Families, Officials Say

By Jeanmarie Evelly | September 28, 2017 12:37pm
 The city has been using the hotel on Hunters Point Avenue between 38th and 39th streets as a shelter for families since Tuesday.
The city has been using the hotel on Hunters Point Avenue between 38th and 39th streets as a shelter for families since Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

SUNNYSIDE — The city is using a former hotel in the neighborhood to house homeless families with children, officials said.

The Department of Homeless Services reserved all 82 rooms at the former Best Western on Hunters Point Avenue between 38th and 39th streets, with 64 of those units being used as emergency shelter space for families who would otherwise have nowhere else to go, a DHS spokesman said. The city began using the facility on Tuesday.

The move comes despite a plan by Mayor Bill de Blasio to phase out the use of hotels as shelters by 2023, replacing them instead with "high quality" homeless shelters the city plans to open in each borough.

The use of hotel rooms as emergency housing has been criticized in the past, since the sites often lack basic amenities like kitchens and can cost the city hundreds of dollars a night.

This is the third commercial hotel within Queens Community Board 2 that's being used as a shelter, with the three locations housing approximately 250 homeless households, according to DHS. All of these will eventually be phased out under the mayor's plan, which also calls for the end of "cluster sites," or apartments located in private buildings that the city uses as shelter space. 

"Our first priority as we transform the shelter system and completely end the use of all remaining cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities is phasing out cluster units, which all have agreed are less effective sites for our homeless neighbors," DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said in a statement.

The city has a goal to remove cluster sites entirely by the end of 2021 and will then begin phasing out the use of hotels. Since January of 2016, the city has shuttered 1,000 of these cluster units, according to McGinn. 

"In the interim, while we are phasing out cluster units as first priority and increasing high-quality borough-based shelter capacity citywide, we are using commercial hotels like this location as a bridge to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers, including families with children, who would otherwise be turned out into the street," he said. 

The city notified  Community Board 2 on Tuesday that it would begin using the Best Western site as a shelter, according to Chairwoman Denise Keehan-Smith. 

An employee who answered the phone at the hotel Wednesday said the property is no longer operating as a Best Western, but did not have additional information about plans for the facility.

A message left for the owner was not immediately returned.