An outspoken opponent of using Maspeth’s Holiday Inn Express as a shelter, freshman Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth), has drafted and plans to introduce a mulifaceted bill that would empower community boards to veto planned shelter sites.
Given the experience with their communities that board members have, the lawmaker said, their votes would be based on more information than City Hall’s.
“At the end of the day when you leave all the decision-making power in the hands of the mayor, the fact of the matter is you leave the authority to the person who is in my opinion causing problems,” Barnwell said. “Notification is great but you need something to actually have the power to stop bad decisions.”
The assemblyman does not think that granting the shelter-placement rejection power would result in NIMBYism preventing hotels from ever being used as shelters, though it would block sites like the Holiday Inn Express from housing the homeless. Different sites could be suggested by the board, he said; and no government body is ever compelled to approve anything.
“What forces the Senate to approve a nomination for the Supreme Court?” he said. “The community board is not gonna turn down every site.”
Community boards are advisory bodies. Because Barnwell’s legislation would designate the hotel shelter location veto authority, the assemblyman said that a “home rule message” — legislative approval by New York City — might be required.
The Law Department declined to comment about whether the bill would require a home-rule message; City Hall and the office of Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan, Bronx) did not immediately return requests for comment.