Local residents gathered outside the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth to mark the 5th anniversary of the successful protests that stopped the city from housing the homeless at the hotel.
“They came to Maspeth and they thought they could force a shelter on us, but they had another thing coming because the people know how to fight,” one attendee told the crowd.
The rally also offered the opportunity to speak out about the city’s current homeless policies.
“That’s not what these hotels and motels were built for,” said mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa at the rally. “That’s what they should not be repurposed into.”
The Republican candidate recommended the city consider housing the homeless in commercial areas where warehouses are empty.
Attendees at the rally also called for the removal of Staeven Banks, who is commissioner of the Human Resources Adminstration/Department of Homeless Services. Banks has defended the city’s response to the homeless crisis, arguing that agencies at the state level are more to blame.
“There’s so much public focus on how the city should do more, but the state disinvestment is totally lost, we’re making up for them,” Banks said during a virtual City Council budget hearing earlier in the year. “There’s a real danger that New York state is going to continue to withdraw from providing support for the social safety net in New York City.”
Phil Wong, president of the Chinese-American Citizens Alliance, lives behind the Pan-American Hotel on Queens Boulevard, which serves as a homeless shelter for families. He said he saw children struggle to adapt to remote learning during the pandemic because of a lack of resources.
“Meanwhile, what do you see? Homeless under the LIE, in the subways and sleeping in parks,” he said. “So we are looking at outright abuse of our tax dollars. We’re talking about systems of sources that have failed for the last seven years. Steven Banks has to go.”