2014-07-25 / Columnists

Official Point of View

The Double-Edged Sword
By Councilman Donovan Richards

Last week, the Department of Homeless Services alerted us that the former Daytop Rehab facility in Arverne would be converted into a homeless shelter, after denying their plans to do so for nearly two months.

First-off, I want to be clear that in no shape or fashion is my frustration aimed at the homeless families, who most likely will occupy this facility. Instead I’m disappointed by the city’s process and lack of transparency with the community.

As we already know, the east end of the Rockaways continues to face immense challenges due to the lack of essential services that other parts of New York City enjoy. Just last month I called on the city to add additional EMS service after the death of the Tingling twins, and their response to me was that we have adequate service.

The day after receiving their written response, the NY Post printed a story about a lady who was left in a coma because ambulances in Far Rockaway took a halfhour to reach her. The service is repeatedly failing this community and at times has fatal results.

This is just one example, and as we all know, the list goes on and on. Everyday it’s a struggle and a fight to get the necessary amenities we deserve.

I certainly understand New York City’s homeless population is at a record high, and obviously it’s an accumulation of things that have led to this crisis. One reason being that the affordable housing crisis has simply priced working New Yorkers out of their neighborhoods and left them in the shelter system, without a way out. I know some of these families’ plights and they certainly deserve to have a safe place to lay their heads at night, as they get back on their feet.

The only way this will happen is to continue to attack the inequality crisis that has left 54,000 New Yorkers in the system. This is why I’m fighting to ensure the east end of Rockaway remains affordable, otherwise we can expect more shelters in the future.

After Hurricane Sandy, many of us were temporarily or permanently displaced, so we certainly sympathize with the homeless. However, to this day, government has moved at a snail’s pace when it comes to getting us back in our homes and providing extra resources to our community. Prior to Sandy, our community was already dealing with employment, education, transportation, and healthcare crises that continue to rear their ugly heads. Sandy only exacerbated these issues!

Now the city is proposing to put some of New York’s 153 neediest families into a neighborhood that truly lacks the basic services which would help move these families out of the system in the long run. We shouldn’t simply look at just housing families, but look to provide necessary resources to get them out of poverty. If the city hasn’t done this for folks in our community already, how do they plan to do it for these incoming families?

With this in mind, I have several questions for the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and the administration based on their proposal. 1.What plans are there to ensure these families will have access to wraparound services? 2.What plans are there to expand and support both the Addabbo Health Center and St. John’s Hospital? 3.What plans are there to expand bus rapid transportation to the east end of the Rockaways and for the Q52/Q53 bus to run to Ocean Village? 4.What are your plans to repave our roads and increase sewer infrastructure improvements throughout

Arverne? 5.What are the plans to improve EMS service? 6.Will the city finally expand PS 106 so our children aren’t sitting on their teachers laps during class? Do PS 42,

Goldie Maple, and PS 183 have the capacity to handle the influx of new children coming? 7.What are your plans to ensure the peninsula is more resilient and sustainable in case of another storm? Have you communicated with the

Office of Emergency Management on your plans? 8.What is your security plan for the facility? 9.What are your plans to ensure jobs, vocational training, and extra GED assistance is available on the peninsula? 10.Will there be a community advisory board consisting of DHS, community stakeholders, families, and elected officials for this facility?

These are the myriad of questions that we anxiously await the city’s answers on, because for several decades these same questions have been raised without any action. If the city wants to truly make life better for these families and fellow Rockawayites, we need to see action on these concerns. While we want nothing but the best for these families, we need to know there’s a commitment to not only house them here, but to ensure a community that has been neglected for decades gets City Hall’s undivided attention. Are we just creating a cycle of poverty for a community, or getting to the root of the problems?

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