Councilman Ruben Wills joined community members, parents, and school officials to discuss the growing concerns caused by Skyway Hotel, located two blocks from P.S. 124 on 132-10 South Conduit Avenue.
It has come to the attention of the community that more than one convicted sexual predator might be residing at Skyway and over 150 residents will be placed in the shelter by the end of the month.
Capt. Thomas Pascale, Commanding Officer of the 106th Precinct, told the audience that if sexual offenders move into the shelter, the Board of Education and the parents will be notified.
P.S. 124 Principal Valerie Lewis is planning on requesting a fourth safety agent to guard the students. Skyway Hotel currently sends a security guard in the morning and one in the afternoon. The 106th Precinct is responsible for sending a patrol car to drive around Skyway and check the school in the morning and during dismal.
“I’m concerned when our kids leave the perimeter of the school,” said Lewis. “There’s only so much I can do.”
Representatives from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and Skyway Hotel housing provider, BASICS Housing Inc., were expected to attend the follow-up meeting to address new safety plans, but they were a no-show.
Facilities like Skyway were voted upon in a 1989 City Charter change, which meant that facilities such as homeless shelters would be equally distributed across the city.
Wills and other elected officials claim that certain communities, particularly those in outer borough, urban minority neighborhoods, are bearing the brunt of an over-abundance of these facilities, with fewer resources and without proper notification to residents.
According to Wills, there are 14 homeless shelters in Southeast Queens, or 68 percent of the homeless shelters in the entire borough.
“The city has a mandate to house the homeless, but we are getting the brunt of it,” he said. “We get waste transfer stations, shelter, prisons — everything undesirable.”
DHS is being criticized for bypassing the community and converting the facility without warning. Wills was told the reason DHS put the shelter in “emergency fashion” was due to a spike in single men homeless population.
Wills was also told the reason why these facilities pop up in the area: the land is cheaper.
“If the land is cheaper, how come we don’t have the abundance of youth centers and community centers?” he said.
“This is a neighborhood of hardworking people,” said Harriet James, a longtime resident. “Why is our community becoming a dumping ground?”
Wills and others, like Assemblywoman Michelle Titus, are working with community advocacy groups and lawyers to decide on the next step before a five to nine year contract is awarded by the city.