LONG ISLAND CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There is growing concern over plans to move hundreds of homeless people into a hotel in Long Island City, Queens.
People who live nearby call their neighborhood “Blissville” and they are battling to keep it that way.
To an outsider, the working class neighborhood might not look like much.
But to residents like Maria Davis, who have chosen to call Blissville home, it’s everything.
“There’s something so special about Blissville,” Davis said.
“It was quiet. Nobody knows where this place is. (There’s) parking at night. (It’s a) small community. Everybody knows everybody,” resident Nina Perez added.
“It’s quiet. It’s safe. It’s always been safe,” another person said.
But Davis and her neighbors say their sense of security is changing due to a population explosion.
Less than 500 people currently live in Blissville, yes, that’s what they really call it, a five-block area in the southeast corner of Long Island City. But they will soon be outnumbered by homeless people.
The Department of Homeless Services is turning the Fairfield Inn on Van Dam Avenue into a permanent homeless shelter for hundreds of adults. More than 100 men already live in a temporary shelter in the City View Hotel two blocks away, and even more homeless families are staying in another hotel less than a mile away.
“People’s cars have been broken into. There have been robberies. People hanging out, asking for money cigarettes and what not, odd behavior,” Perez said.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said he and Blissville residents aren’t opposed to helping the homeless. The issue, he says, is about fairness.
“My district now houses four times the number of homeless individuals than we produce,” Van Bramer said. “And the mayor’s whole plan is about equity.”
Residents confronted the Department of Homeless Services during a public meeting Thursday night.
“I don’t understand why you’re dropping them here on our doorstep. We already have two,” Erika Clooney said. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Clooney owns the Bantry Bay restaurant and says her customers are made up of tourists staying in to those hotels, now turned shelters.
“You’ve taken now two of the hotels away from me. Now you want to take my third. I’m going to suffer from this,” she said.
Another resident asked, “What are you going to do to protect us?”
“We will have security on sight at this facility,” a representative for DHS replied. “Ten guards and one supervisor every shift.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the homeless population in Blissville will decline as the temporary shelters close, but added, “We’ll keep looking at that community to make sure what’s done is fair.”
Despite the outrage at Thursday night’s meeting, DHS says the shelter will opened as planned. It’s slated to open this spring or summer.