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Homeless Men Living in Luxury Kew Gardens Hotel-Apartment Tower, City Says

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | October 3, 2017 11:58am
 The city placed 42 men at a 20-story complex in Kew Gardens. 
The city placed 42 men at a 20-story complex in Kew Gardens. 
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DNAinfo/Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska

KEW GARDENS — The city began renting dozens of rooms to homeless people inside a 20-story hotel and apartment tower near Queens Borough Hall — alarming both residents and local leaders.

The Department of Homeless Services is currently renting 42 rooms in the building at 82nd Avenue and Queens Boulevard, which includes an 84-room hotel operated by Comfort Inn, as well as a residential portion known as The Kewl, featuring 38 luxury units.

The city began using the complex, which has addresses at 123-28 82nd Ave. and 124-18 Queens Blvd., on Friday, DHS said.

The agency is currently using 19 rooms at the hotel to house single men who would otherwise be on the street, but it expects to eventually fill all of the rooms, the agency said.

Tenants living in The Kewl, which is located on floors 10 through 20, expressed concerns about the city's decision.

“I have kids, and I’m very worried for the whole Kew Gardens community,” said one tenant who has lived in the building since April and pays $2,700 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.

The tenant, who said he did not want his name to be used fearing retaliation, said the homeless men arrived last week by school bus and occupy the fourth floor and a portion of the fifth floor.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said that she called the mayor’s office about the move and was told the men will be housed there only “temporarily.” 

“They know my displeasure about it, and I’m going to try and do whatever I can,” she said.

The homeless men were placed in the hotel, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to discontinue using hotels as shelters by 2023.

“As we implement our borough-based approach to address the citywide challenge of homelessness, we are ending the use of all cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities, including this commercial hotel location — currently the only capacity for serving homeless New Yorkers in this community, which will be completely phased out," DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said in a statement.

"With more than 300 individuals from this community currently experiencing homelessness in shelters citywide but no real shelter capacity in [Community District 9], we anticipate identifying new shelter space within this community for at least 300 individuals so we can offer those New Yorkers who called this neighborhood home the opportunity to be sheltered closer to their support networks, including schools, medical care, and family as they get back on their feet," McGinn added.

Representatives from Comfort Inn did not immediately return a request for comment.

A leasing agent for apartments in the building said he was not aware that the hotel was used to house homeless people.

The agent, Ari Silverstein of The Silverstein Collection, noted that all The Kewl's residential units had been rented within two months of its opening in March.

“It was a tremendous success,” he said.

DHS said it notified the community, including local elected officials and Community Board 9, the same day the men were placed at the hotel.

Representatives from CB9 did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Local residents have been concerned about the complex, located near P.S. 99, for years. Many opposed the project from the beginning, fearing it would bring more traffic, noise and parking problems to the area.

The building remained vacant for several years after it was completed, but opened in January as Hotel Louie, before Comfort Inn took over in March

“It’s highly concerning,” Andrea Crawford, a Kew Gardens resident and member of Community Board 9, said on Monday.

“We were worried from the beginning about the transient population half a block from an elementary school," she added. "Is this a back door to open a homeless shelter in the neighborhood?”