“We have spoken with residents and the schools and we all see the loitering, drug-dealing and prostitution firsthand,” said association president Sam Esposito. “The Dollar Tree has reported more theft, and there is garbage piling up that the Sanitation Department did not know about until we called them.”
The group sent a letter to executives of both Wyndham Hotels, the parent company of Days Inn, and Choice Hotels, the parent company of Comfort Inn, calling attention to the fact the hotels were still using the brand names but were no longer operating as hotels.
The letter noted that two schools, JHS 202 and Robert Goddard High School, are within walking distance of the shelters and lists several issues, including drug use, drinking, and public urination.
Executives from both Wyndham Hotels and Choice Hotels responded, saying the franchisee was no longer associated with their brands and planned to take legal action in order to have their sign and logo taken down.
“These are franchises so nobody knew what was going on until we brought it to their attention,” said Esposito. “They advised that they do not want their brand associated with homeless shelters because that's not what they are.”
As of last week, the sign at Comfort Inn was taken down but the owner replaced it with a Travel Lodge sign. The hotel chain ordered the owner to remove the sign.
Esposito believes the owner needs an official hotel sign in order to maintain his business status for the building's mortgage.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services said the agency isn't concerned about the sign issue.
“The sign on the front door doesn’t change the social services we provide inside,” said Arianna Fishman. “At these locations we continue to support families with children experiencing homelessness as they get back on their feet, who otherwise have no traditional shelter options in this community.”
According to DHS, approximately 9,900 New Yorkers are sheltered in Queens, with nearly half of them in commercial hotels. The agency argues it has persistently reached out to communities to find innovative ways to house the homeless without using commercial hotels, which would save a total of $100 million per year.
Both of the hotels on Redding Street will be phased out as shelters under Turning The Tide.
Esposito said the community isn't opposed to helping the homeless.
“We are not against homeless people and we will do anything to help them, but anywhere a shelter is opened an increase in crime follows,” he said. “The residents are really upset, but they're glad that after three years someone is finally listening.”
The group sent an open letter to all state and city elected officials requesting a meeting to discuss the projected 90 shelters in residential areas across all of the boroughs. The group blames the high cost-of-living and the release of sex offenders into communities with no guidance or means of survival as leading causes of the rising homelessness.
An emergency five-borough summit is also being planned to engage community leaders across the city to solidify an alternate solution to the homelessness crisis. The summit is scheduled for February 8.