Ozone Park residents voice opposition to shelter
by Mark Garzon
Nov 15, 2016 | 3728 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilman Ruben Wills holds a town hall meeting for his constituents to discuss a proposed shelter in Ozone Park.
Councilman Ruben Wills holds a town hall meeting for his constituents to discuss a proposed shelter in Ozone Park.
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Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services and Breaking Ground.
Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services and Breaking Ground.
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Residents of Ozone Park voiced their opposition to a proposed homeless drop-in center at a town hall meeting last week.

A group of representatives from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and Breaking Ground, the service provider for the facility, were present to listen to community concerns.

The site was criticized for its proximity to the High School of Construction, Trades, Engineering, and Architecture. In particular, parents were concerned by the lack of screening that could lead to sex offenders at the facility.

“If any harm, such as an assault or rape happens to any of our children or family, you will be responsible for it,” warned one resident.

According to DHS, the site is expected to serve 75 drop-in homeless tenants, as well as 25 to 50 safe haven clients. Officials assured residents they would all be evaluated upon entry by Breaking Ground.

“We will not serve sex offenders in this program,” said Daniel Tietz, chief special services officer of the Human Resources Administration.

Despite this, members of the community dismissed his assurances due to the presence of sex offenders in other homeless shelters in Queens, such as the Skyway Men’s Shelter in South Ozone Park and the Pan Am shelter in Elmhurst.

In addition, concerns were raised regarding potential homeless residents dealing with substance abuse and the safety of students in the area.

“Many high schoolers and kids walk to school and walk home by themselves,” said one resident. “It’s a major concern for us as a community and parents to have them walk alone near homeless people that we know nothing about.”

Although DHS informed the crowd that security officers would supervise the facility and the surrounding area, they were met with an overwhelmingly negative response.

The general consensus among residents was that the site was the wrong location for a drop-in center. Tietz informed residents the location was not considered final and welcomed suggestions from the community.

Stanley Schuckman, the owner of a shopping center located next to the proposed facility, offered his experience as a realtor to help DHS find an alternative site.

“Frankly, I will help you out finding, identifying, negotiating and guess what, I won't charge a nickel,” said Schuckman.

Schuckman’s proposition was well-received by the crowd and Tietz agreed to his offer, stating he would be happy to have that conversation.

Councilman Ruben Wills, who coordinated the meeting, reiterated the community’s position on the proposal.

“DHS and Breaking Ground fully understand we are in opposition,” he said. “The answers that they gave we do not feel are satisfactory.”
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