State Sen. Tony Avella has joined the opposition to the planned conversion of an emergency homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel into a permanent facility due to what he called “horrendous” conditions at the site.
Avella, who is chairman of the Senate’s Social Services Committee, joined residents and local leaders to speak out against the proposal to convert the shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst to a permanent facility under a $42 million contract with the city.
“It is an outrage to take an abandoned hotel, warehouse homeless families inside it, ignore shocking City Code and HPD violations, waste an exorbitant amount of taxpayer dollars in the process, and then award a $42 million contract to a questionable-at-best organization, making the entire situation permanent,” Avella said.
According to the senator, the shelter houses over 700 residents, made up of families of which many have small children. Each unit at the shelter holds four to five people.
Because the shelter uses former hotel rooms, they are not equipped with cooking facilities. The senator and organizations such as Elmhurst United claim this goes against a NYC Administrative Code requiring that each unit at a family shelter have a kitchen, and in order to do this, there would need to be major renovations at the site.
The shelter has also had a large number of violations such as failure to provide hot water or heat for days, reports of bed bugs, peeling of lead paint in one unit, and garbage left sitting in front of the entrance to the children’s play area, according to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Due to all these conditions, Avella said he calls on the city to reject the contract that would covert the former hotel into a permanent homeless shelter because he believes it is “not fit for long-term housing for the homeless.”