Elmhurst residents rally against additional shelters

East Elmhurst and Corona residents took to the streets last week, calling for a halt to new homeless shelters in their neighborhood.
Nearly three dozen protestors say there has been an increase in crime and disturbing behavior related to the shelters.
Beverley Johnson, an employee at Malcolm X Daycare Center on Northern Boulevard, said she witnessed a drug overdose and a man exposing himself to children in the past two weeks.
“We called the police, they came and couldn’t do anything because it is a mental health issue,” she said. “We cannot deal with this anymore. People are afraid to bring their children to school for what they have to see everyday.”
The daycare center is located across the street from the Marriott Spring Hill Suites, which is currently is one of 11 in the area.
“Every day we have to walk past people sitting outside the Malcolm X Daycare Center who are drinking and doing drugs,” added Johnson.
Speaking just a few hundred feet from the future site of PS 419, protestors questioned the placement of a shelter within a stone’s throw of children.
Assemblyman Jeff Aubry said the original proposal of a hotel to service LaGuardia Airport, which never came to fruition, was not appropriate for the area to begin with.
“This was a bad idea from the start,” said Aubry. “If you look at this street, this is neither a place for a hotel or a homeless shelter. The access to services are almost none.”
Aubry clarified that his gripe is with the city, not with the people without permanent housing.
“We are not against homeless people,” he said. “Many of those homeless people look like us. We are not here saying that homeless people should be thrown in the streets, but you can’t indiscriminately put them anywhere.”
Frank Taylor, president of the Ditmars Boulevard Block Association and member of Community Board 3, aimed some of his anger against Steve Banks, commissioner of the Deaprtment of Social Services.
“Somebody has to say it to Steven Banks or the mayor, enough is enough,” he said. “People have worked all their lives to have houses and condos here. This is not a throwaway area.”
Former councilman and state senator Hiram Monserrate suggested the neighborhoods of southeast Queens, along with East Elmhurst and Corona, are targeted for the placement of shelters by the city.
“I’m not saying there was a racist or discriminatory intent, but clearly the impact has been that communities of color have overwhelmingly been impacted by the city’s policies on homeless shelters,” he said.
Former Corona resident Russell Cheek says the homelessness issue goes hand-in-hand with a lack of affordable housing.
“If we focus on creating affordable housing, as opposed to creating more shelters, the community and the city as itself will be a lot better off,” said Cheek.

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