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Shut JFK hotel may open anew as homeless shelter

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A 335-room hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport that closed last month could reopen as early as June, but this time as a homeless family shelter.

Under reorganization plans filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, the Salvation Army would lease the Best Western Carlton House at 138-10 135th Ave. in Jamaica for five years as a homeless shelter, said Jim Anderson, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Homeless Services.

An emergency request to move the plan forward immediately was denied Friday at a court hearing, said Scott Markowitz, the lawyer for the hotel’s owner, JFK Acquisition Group. But he said the plan could be approved at the next hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

The JFK Acquisition Group had approached the city and Salvation Army about turning the hotel into a homeless shelter. “It was the management of the company ... who came up with the idea,” Markowitz said. “We’d like to start that.”

The partnership filed for bankruptcy protection in December as a result of the downturn in air travel following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Management was also involved in a labor dispute with Local 6 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.

The hotel’s conversion would help the city cope with a growing demand for shelters, but the first occupants could not move in for at least two weeks after the plan is approved, Anderson said.

Court documents show Homeless Services wants to house about 75 families in the hotel and pay the partnership $72 a day per room through the Salvation Army. The amount does not include food costs. The city also agreed to limit a family’s stay to 27 days.

The deal is being reviewed and the Salvation Army hopes to complete the agreement with the city in about a month.

The hotel would serve as a Tier 2 facility at which families can stay while looking for permanent housing, Anderson said. They would qualify for three meals a day, social services and educational programs provided by the Salvation Army.

To be accepted for admission to a shelter, families must apply at the city’s intake center in the Bronx. Once their eligibility is approved, the city assigns them to a suitable facility.

“We try to place families in shelters best able to meet their needs and get them back on their feet,” Anderson said.

The proposal came as a response to the city’s open-ended request for proposals to increase the number of homeless shelters. “Given the fact that there is continual growth, the city needs to increase its capacity,” Anderson said.

New York houses about 30,000 homeless people a day, including nearly 7,600 families, and demand is growing. Requests for family housing rose 21 percent last year.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300 Ext. 138.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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