March 7, 2019 By Jon Cronin
The opponents of a proposed homeless shelter in College Point have retained a lawyer as they get ready to do battle with the Department of Homeless Services.
The College Point Residents Coalition, a group that formed soon after the public heard that a 200 all-male transitional shelter was being planned for the area, has hired E. Christopher Murray who has experience helping Queens residents fight against the opening of homeless shelters—notably in Glendale and Ozone Park.
Murray, an attorney with Uniondale-based Ruskin Moscou Faltischek, said that he will file suit against DHS to block a proposed shelter at 127-03 Ave 20th Ave. should the deal be approved. He said he won’t file suit until DHS has signed off on the plan.
“Hopefully they will change their mind,” Murray said, and a lawsuit won’t need to be filed.
Murray, however, is preparing for that possibility and has filed Freedom of Information Requests to find out whether the city has unfairly saturated the neighborhood with public services, which could be grounds to argue against its opening.
He is also investigating the condition building. He is looking to find out what complaints and violations have been filed against the building and whether it is fit for housing.
Murray didn’t reveal what arguments he would present should he ultimately file a lawsuit.
Murray has filed a lawsuit against DHS in the past. He filed suit against the agency when it proposed opening a shelter in Glendale on Cooper Avenue in 2014. He questioned whether the proposed building was suitable for a shelter, since it had at one time been used by an airplane manufacturer that used dangerous chemicals. The court disagreed and threw the suit out.
The city, however, didn’t move forward with the Glendale shelter because of political and civic pressure.
Last summer, DHS applied for a permit to build a transitional hotel at the Cooper Avenue site after Mayor Bill de Blasio stated that he needed to open more shelters to combat homelessness in the city. There has been no progress to date.
But the City appears to be making progress, along with its non-profit partner Westhab, with its College Point shelter plans.
“The City and not-for-profit social service provider partner Westhab are ensuring the building is ready for occupancy, finalizing all required reviews, and moving forward with opening this facility as soon as possible,” said Ariana Fishman, a spokesperson with the Department of Homeless Services
Meanwhile, protests against the proposed shelter are likely to continue.
Jennifer Shannon, co-chair of the College Point Residents Coalition, has already organized 10 rallies against DHS’s shelter proposal and plans to do more.