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Furious Residents Slam City Officials Over Shelter In Maspeth, Queens

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Outrage was made clear at a community meeting in Maspeth, Queens Wednesday night, as residents shouted about plans for a homeless shelter in the neighborhood.

As CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported, the meeting lasted more than three hours, and residents did not hold back.

They turned their backs as Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks took the stage. Their strong opposition to the possible homeless shelter moving into their neighborhood was very clear as one by one they made passionate pleas.

"If you think we will give up on this fight, you don't know the strength and the will of the people," one resident said.

"Commissioner, you have a moral and legal obligation to the taxpayers -- not to the homeless, to the people who pay you," another said.

But Banks said space must be provided to the homeless by law.

"In New York City, there is a legal obligation to provide shelter to New Yorkers and to make sure people have a roof over their heads, and that's a moral obligation as well," Banks said.

With nearly 60,000 people currently in homeless shelters across the city, officials said they must turn to hotels, like the Holiday Inn located in Maspeth off the Long Island Expressway, as an alternative. They want to use the 110-room facility on 55th Road as an adult-only shelter.

City Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D-30th) stood with her constituents as she announced that her office filed a lawsuit against the city and Commissioner Banks.

"The mayor is in clear violation of the city's administrative code," Crowley said. "The law states clearly, homeless families and adult families must be housed in shelter units that have kitchens, and we all know that the Holiday Inn does not have kitchens."

Residents voiced concerns about the location -- how and why it was chosen, crime, property values and those who would be moving into the shelter.

"These people are going to be sitting in a hotel all day, and I think they have to leave the hotel during the day and come back by a certain time at night, and so they're going to be roaming around," said Anthony Lewandowski of Maspeth.

Many pointed to nearby Elmhurst, Queens -- where a family homeless shelter opened in 2014 in the old Pan Am Hotel. Some residents in that neighborhood are still upset.

"This is another disaster over here," a resident said. "It's a no-no. They shouldn't do that."

Shelter residents said they felt the cold shoulder at the old Pan Am.

"We're not allowed to hang out in the front because to them we're low lifes," said shelter resident Sheila Baptiste. "To them we're basically animals."

Those in Maspeth are willing to do anything to avoid the same situation.

"A hotel is not really the right place for homeless people," said Karen Lachiana of Maspeth. "They need more facilities that can help them and get them back on their feet."

The shelter is slated to open on Oct. 1, yet according to the commissioner, the official contract has not been signed.

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