Students Rally For Safety In Response To City's Shelter Plan


This past Monday, November 25, local students—surrounded by parents, local pols, community advocates and the 100th Precinct’s Neighborhood Community Officers—powerfully made their concerns loud and clear at a Kids Care Safety Rally organized by Rockaway Solutions Not Shelters (RSNS), regarding the proposed Department of Homeless Services shelter for 120 single men at Beach 101st Street. In true Rockaway fashion, on the surface the rally seemed like a party as attendees were treated with live music by DJ Paddy Tubz, free pizza from Elegante Pizzeria and a fire truck ushered in by local, Jerry Rea. However, once the rally began in earnest, the reality began to sink in as students got down to business to express why they’re not against the homeless, but are concerned about what the shelter could mean for their safety.

The site of the proposed shelter is an old brick warehouse at the corner of Beach 101st Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, a roughly two-and-a-half-minute walk to where roughly 5,000 kids go to school, including Scholars' Academy, Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability, Channel View School for Research, and New Visions Charter High School. The shelter would be part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ‘Turning the Tide’ plan to address homelessness. The city says it would be the first traditional shelter serving single men in a particular community district.

The rally was organized by RSNS co-leader, Torey Schnupp, who was unable to attend the event as one of her daughters was in the hospital, however, Schnupp’s presence was profoundly felt as her other daughter was there to represent her mom and fellow students by proudly holding up the sign, “I’m proud of my mom (Torey)!”

DJ Paddy Tubz, another core RSNS leader, kicked off the event playing the well-suited 1980s Twisted Sister song, “We Not Gonna Take It.”

As attendees chanted, “Kids Safety” pumping their fists in the air, Tubz said, “This is not an anti-homeless rally. We believe every human being should have shelter, but our kids’ safety should be a priority. This rally is about giving our kids a platform to speak, and today we want to hear them.”

The first speaker was Lilly McKell, a student at Scholars’ Academy, who earnestly shared her concerns. “I go to Scholars’, which is a just a few blocks down the street. I’m involved in 10 student clubs and I’m at school late in the day. Like many students, I take the MTA and walk to school. This homeless shelter is a big issue because personally I don’t feel safe knowing that it’s going to be located here. Although, yes, it’s for homeless people, this is all about kids safety. So many kids go to school in this immediate area, and I would hate to see anyone get hurt. It’s the people of this community that makes us so great, and to see anybody at risk would just be terrible. So, I’m asking everybody here to please advocate for kids’ safety, and don’t let this homeless shelter go up.”

Tubz then shared, “DHS publicly announced three times that third-degree sexual assailants will be residing here.”  This comes after a few weeks ago, a resident of a homeless shelter in Ozone Park was allegedly caught on security footage, sexually assaulting a three-year-old at a laundromat. “So boo to DHS and boo to our mayor on this. It’s a bad move to place a single men’s shelter, that will warehouse human beings down the block from eight schools,” Tubz said.

Belle Harbor resident Bill Corsello, a father of four children, who has lived in the community for over 35 years, coaching little league and local roller hockey team, the Rockaway Rockies, is beyond upset. “It’s an outrage that the city is going to pay $71.5K for each man to live in a shelter that’s situated near so many schools. That’s more than what my wife and I brought home for our family of four children. Over the years, I’ve worked really hard for the children of Rockaway, and I know placing a shelter here would be devastating to their safety. No one is against helping the homeless, but our children’s safety has to come first,” Corsello said.

Two eighth-grade female students from Channel View School for Research, expressed their worries about what commuting to school is going to be like if several homeless men will be wandering through the streets.

They said, “On our commute, many of us walk by this building every day. We came to this support rally because we feel really unsafe that a homeless shelter for single men is going to be here. In the morning, most of us are headed to school at 7 a.m. or leaving at 5 p.m., when it’s dark outside, especially during the winter time. Some of us are even walking alone. We’re going to have to find another route to walk, which may make the walking distance from the bus or train even farther.”

Rockaway Park resident, Nicole Melhado, a mother of two nine-year-old children who attend school Waterside, is beyond frustrated. “I’m just about ready to pay off the mortgage on my house, which is pretty exciting, but now I’m probably not going to be able to give it away, much less sell it. I’m terrified for my children since their freedom is going to be taken way, which they enjoy just being able to cross the street and go to the store, without being worried about staying clear of sex offenders. It’s very concerning to watch kids leave school at 4 p.m. and cross the street when it’s getting dark. Are we going to need a neighborhood watch to make sure these babies get home safe? Here I was thinking that next year, I’d give my kids the freedom to walk to school. With this shelter, that’s definitely not going to happen. It’s about their safety first.”

The rally ended with DJ Paddy Tubz leading the crowd in shouting, “Kids Safety!” and as the crowd started to disperse, there was a somber feeling as the sky started to darken, almost indicating the pallor the shelter will cast to a bustling community of school children.