Homeless shelter at motel by LaGuardia stirs protest

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The conversion of a motel near LaGuardia Airport into a homeless shelter has sparked a cry of outrage from Borough President Helen Marshall, who blasted the city for failing to contact the community until just before the center’s opening.

But the city Department of Homeless Services said the rapid action came in response to an unprecedented rise in the number of homeless families seeking emergency housing.

The Skyway Motel at 102-10 Ditmars Blvd. in East Elmhurst was transformed last week into the LaGuardia Family Center, a 49-room homeless shelter providing housing and social services to help get families back on their feet.

But Marshall’s office was only informed about the conversion early last week, merely a day before the first families moved in on Aug. 20.

“We’re not opposed to sheltering the homeless,” said Dan Andrews, the borough president’s spokesman. “We don’t believe, however, that this is the way to go in terms of not reaching out to the community.”

The motel sits across the street from the Marriott LaGuardia and next door to the Crowne Plaza LaGuardia, hotels that cater to a largely business clientele. Officials at both hotels have expressed concern that a homeless shelter across the street could drive down business.

The shelter is operated by Family Center Associates, which operates 12 such facilities around the city, including five Queens locations in East Elmhurst, Jamaica and near JFK Airport. This is the second hotel in Queens to become a shelter for homeless families this year despite community outcry. In May, the former Best Western Carlton House hotel near Kennedy Airport opened as a shelter after declaring bankruptcy.

Family Center Associates negotiated a lease with the owners of Skyway in response to the city’s request that all of its shelter providers find more accommodations to house a burgeoning homeless population.

But the deal was only reached Friday, Aug. 16, with the city agreeing to send clients there after touring the facility the following Monday. Although Homeless Services Commissioner Linda Gibbs called Marshall immediately after seeing the site, that only gave about a day’s notice before families began arriving.

“The city is working aggressively to respond to record numbers of families and we’re having to do that work quickly,” said Jim Anderson, the spokesman for the city Department of Homeless Services. “We are making every possible effort to give community notice and we will work diligently to ensure that community concerns are heard and addressed on an ongoing basis moving forward.”

The city’s shelter services system is currently assisting 8,500 families, the largest number since the city began tracking such statistics two decades ago, Anderson said. The number of applications received at the Emergency Assistance Unit in the Bronx, where homeless families first register, are 25 percent higher than the same time last year.

Although the city is required by law to provide housing for any family that seeks assistance, many people have been forced to stay overnight at the intake office in the Bronx because the city has not had anyplace to house them.

The city is paying $93 a night to house each family at the LaGuardia center, said Joe Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Family Center Associates.

The center is in the process of adding numerous amenities to the site, like kitchenettes in each room and a fenced-in playground behind the building. The company provides security guards to prevent residents from loitering outside the building.

Numerous social services are also available to families who stay there, like an educational program designed to help parents earn their GED and visiting nurses who are called when residents are sick.

“If you’re just going to let them have a room and then nothing, they’re never going to get off public assistance,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’d like to put in services that will help them break the poverty cycle.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:18 pm, October 10, 2011
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Reader feedback

stayed there before from east elm hurst says:
That place is crazy they dont care at all for the people who stay there there is a lady name Elizabeth who work the front desk is horrible like a ugly walking horror movie who will get you logged out if she dont like u and the directior Francis run the place like a jail using his old co tactics to scare the familes these two needs to be replaced only time —— get straight is when dhs come around then demands get answered
March 13, 2015, 7:07 pm
mr wallace from east elm hurst says:
The director of that place is a real jerk he talks to people in a nasty way he needs to be removed ,him and his social workers who is all are heartless females who rather come to work looking like tramps then helping the people who need help not to be punished for being homeless all they in it for is the money why cant we hire people who actually care about people the rooms are very hot in the summer there ambulances outside on a daily basis cause the heat then when u finally get to sleep they pulling the fire alarm 5 oclock in the mourning im gonna ask the borough president helen marshall to remove the director from this job if u reading this please help out on the quest to put people who wanna help people in this place not people doing nothing but eating hot wings on the money that should go to the familys there struggling.
July 6, 2015, 9:51 am
Pay back is a bitxx from Eastelmhurst says:
That place is dirty got big waterbugs in the hallway u could barely sleep cause they ring the alarm at 5:30 in the mourning waking residents baby's up Mr Francis is a ex Co who make your stay there like u in jail I hated staying there I was very depressed there cause how my family was treated there the workers there is like parole officers with no care for people in need of help this is all truth the only time things get fixed is when dhs is coming other wise your problems go unanswered they want u to work all day to come home and have to go to there work shop downstairs I wounder why they got family center in the name ain't nothing family about it people downstairs at front desk give u funny looks when u passing by I hated this place it should be investigated truly fly's every where summers are the worst the rooms become ovens everybody who works there knows how crooked this place is the lady who give out metrocards is mean bitxx too she try to embarrass you upfront of people come knocking on your door early in the Mourning with no cares questioning people upfront of there kids like she your parent I hated her she looks like leather face oyea MS rodregez the worker is sleeping with the directer too whole bunch of stuff the world needs to know shot out to the families who still there trying to get out y'all got my blessings last thing I wanna say is please shut this place down .
Dec. 17, 2015, 5:22 pm

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