Nov. 30, 2018 By Meghan Sackman
College Point and Whitestone residents will be rallying Sunday to protest the city’s recent decision to place 200 homeless men in a building at the corner of 127th Street and 20th Avenue.
The protest will take place at noon on Dec. 2 at the 127-03 20th Ave. location, and stems from the Department of Homeless Services’ final decision to give the owner of the privately-held site the go-ahead to convert it into a shelter.
David Levitan, co-owner of Liberty One Group, a Brooklyn-based real estate company, has owned the College Point building since March, and had applied to have the four-story building converted to a shelter as part of a DHS open request for proposals.
Levitan’s company also owns at least seven other buildings used as shelters in New York City.
Sunday’s rally will be the second against the proposal. The first protest took place on Oct. 29, just days after Council Member Paul Vallone learned that DHS and the Mayor’s office were looking into the possibility of converting the building into a shelter.
Vallone and Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal were among the protesters in the first wave.
The Sunday protest now comes after Vallone was informed by DHS in mid-November that the building would indeed be used to house 200 homeless men, and that it would be in use as early as September 2019.
“Establishing a 200-bed men’s homeless shelter along 20th Avenue would be misguided and irresponsible,” Vallone reiterated in a statement. “The Administration’s failure to deal with the homelessness epidemic should not allow one corrupt owner to sell out College Point.”
Westhab, a non-profit, will be in charge of running the shelter and stabilizing the transitional homeless men.
DHS has assured residents that there will be around-the-clock security and a curfew of 10 p.m. for shelter residents, with a board to be established to address future community concerns.
But residents have not been placated by these assurances. More than 2,500 have expressed their opposition to it in a change.org petition launched by Vallone two weeks ago.
Community concerns include residents breaking their curfew, a lack of jobs or services for shelter clients, and the shelter’s proximity to area schools like P.S. 29, P.S. 129, the newly opened M.S. 379 and St. Agnes Academic High School.
On top of the petition and two protests, a Department of Buildings audit, requested by Rosenthal, was conducted to assess what the lawmaker said were competing uses and occupancy standards within the shelter site–a method to impede the shelter site’s opening.