Queens Neighbors Protest Homeless Shelter

Residents in Elmhurst are fearful the shelter will bring down property value and increase crime

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A group of residents in a Queens community is protesting a homeless shelter being set up in the area, fearful it will bring an increase in crime and a decrease in property value. Michael George reports. (Published Tuesday, Jul 1, 2014)

    A group of residents in a Queens community is protesting a homeless shelter being set up in the area, fearful it will bring an increase in crime and a decrease in property value.

    At a rally in Elmhurst Monday night, hundreds of neighbors complained that they were never consulted about the shelter being built at the former Pan Am Hotel.

    "I believe there are a lot more neighborhoods they can find shelters for," said resident John Quinto. "This neighborhood is up-and-coming." 

    Elmhurst is a diverse, middle-class neighborhood with large Hispanic and Asian populations. Many of the protesters Monday carried signs in Asian languages. 

    In the middle of the protest, a few of the homeless families staying at the shelter showed up to give their own message to the residents who don't want them there.

    "We ain't leaving, we ain't leaving," they yelled from across the street, provoking loud boos from the protesters in response. 

    Justin Leyba, who is homeless and raising a young son, said he's angry that he's being told he's a danger to the community. 

    "They got signs saying 'save our kids,' like we don't got kids of our own," he said. 

    "If there wasn't no shelter, you'd see people out on the streets, you'd see people begging, you'd see people stealing," said Leyba. 

    But longtime residents said they shouldn't have the shelter forced on them.

    "I feel sorry about those people, but at the same time it's not good for our schools, for all of the kids, for this whole community. We don't feel safe," said Joy Lee. 

    The shelter's managers said they've heard the complaints and promise to have security around the clock and address any problems that come up.

    The Pan Am Hotel closed in January of this year after 50 years, according to the Daily News. Homeless families were transferred to the space beginning in June. 

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