They came, they saw, they shouted. An army of local residents, pols, civic and community leaders charged onto Beach 101st Street to protest the NYC Department of Homeless Services’ (DHS) proposal to house a whopping 120 homeless men at a warehouse at 226 Beach 101st Street.
The rally and candlelight vigil held last Friday evening, February 15, was organized by John Cori of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association and Community Board 14.
Many protesters arrived with signs expressing disapproval of the plan and many voiced frustration, outrage and fear, but the outcry was not a matter of NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”), but an expression of how locals are just fed-up with the city historically treating the peninsula like a dumping ground. Many noted how Rockaway is already saturated with nursing homes, shelters, and adult care facilities. They are worried the shelter will affect their neighborhood’s safety and quality of life — especially when the area is finally beginning to bloom.
The proposed site is an old brick warehouse, located at 226 Beach 101st Street, yards away from where many students attend schools in the area, including Scholars’ Academy, Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability, Channel View School for Research, New Visions Charter High School, and St. Camillus.
The proposed shelter would be part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide” plan to address homelessness. However, at the rally, with folks holding up protest signs with slogans like: “No shelter here! We can’t cope! Take it to Park Slope!” “Mermaids Against Moronic Mayors,” “How many more hurdles does Rockaway have to Overcome?” “Don’t Warehouse People,” and “No to de Blasio!,” it was evident that the crowd’s rancor was not just directed to DHS and the building’s owner, Yosef Rabinowitz (who purchased the property for a little over $3M in April 2018) — but at the Mayor himself.
Cori said, “We are mourning the fact that we have no recreational facilities for our children, many families are still not back in their homes since Hurricane Sandy, our beaches are in dire need of replenishment, we have only one hospital, and the highest unemployment rate in Queens. So for the City to think that it’s right to dump 120 homeless men here is just plain wrong.”
The crowd in unison began shouting, “Hell no de Blasio!” Cori then implored the crowd to call NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office to let him know that Rockaway is against this shelter and desperately needs his help.
“Scott Stringer is probably our last resort. The city is doing it to us again. Longtime local businesses like Harbor Light are still waiting for their building permits, while these banana heads get the green light to build this shelter,” Cori said.
Assembly District Leader Lew Simon implored the teeming crowd to “Call Stringer and beg him to not sign the contract permitting this shelter.” As the crowd whooped and clapped, Simon led them into the chant, “No Shelter!”
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said, “Since learning about this proposed shelter, I’ve been calling every city department and official I know for help, but it’s going to be your voices that matter more than mine. We have to stand together if we want our voices heard.”
The uproar has drawn the attention of DHS. The agency will send reps to the March 12 Community Board meeting at the Knights of Columbus. Board 14 Chair Dolores Orr is encouraging residents throughout Rockaway to attend the meeting.
Orr also shared some information about building permits. “When any work is being done on a building, you must have permits. There is only one permit on this warehouse fence, and that permit expired on December 27, 2018. I ask everyone to call 311 to let them know that the Work Permit for Department of Buildings is expired, and the fence has to come down,” Orr said.
Councilman Eric Ulrich fired up protestors when he said, “Homeless shelters are not the solution, permanent housing is the solution. The Mayor needs to deliver on his promise to give affordable permanent housing to the people that need it the most. We have 60,000 men, women and sadly children sleeping in the shelter system tonight. We are not protesting homeless people tonight, we are protesting failed and hopeless homeless policies. This protest needs to be taken to the steps of City Hall. We are not going to let the Mayor flush down all the progress we have made since Hurricane Sandy by bringing a shelter here. De Blasio and his administration are a bunch of poverty pimps, like the owner of this building who will make money off these people. Shame on them!”
After all the great speeches, the protestors were riding on a high of hope; however, local Pat Harvey remarked to the RT, “What if we wake up one morning to find out that these men were moved in, in the dark of night. A scary thought.”
Keep reading the RT for future updates.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS