VALLONE RIPS REAL ESTATE COMPANY THAT WANTS HOMELESS PUT AT 127-03 20 AVE.
If City Hall wants to put a homeless shelter at 127-03 20 Ave. in College Point, it better be ready for a fight.
The owner of the four-story brick building has responded to the city’s open request for proposals for homeless shelter sites. And while the de Blasio administration hasn’t decided if the undomiciled will be housed there, area stakeholders vow tooth-and-nail opposition to any shelter on the site.
Dozens went to a Monday evening rally in front of the building with area civic leaders and elected officials promising to battle any homeless shelter plan for the location.
City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) brought up how near the property, there are three public schools and an all-girl high school that together serve more than 2,000 students.
“We are here today in College Point once again to protect the great people here in College Point and say, ‘We have had enough,’” the lawmaker said.
Additionally, he and others pointed to how College Point is a neighborhood that the city’s burdened with a litany of government facilities, such a waste transfer station, a Department of Sanitation garage and multiple NYPD facilities, including its training academy, and a Department of Motor Vehicles office.
The neighborhood doesn’t have any train stations. And on 20th Avenue, truck traffic is frequent and heavy.
“This is not a community that’s saying, ‘Not in our backyard,’” Vallone said. “This is a community that’s saying, ‘We have had enough!’”
The councilman also took shots at David Levitan, a co-owner of Liberty One Group, the firm that owns the building and wants it to become a homeless shelter. The councilman pointed out that Levitan has been behind multiple buildings that have operated as shelters, in Queens and outside of it.
“He has sold communities out one by one for the sake of profit,” the councilman said. “That is not right.”
According to Vallone’s office, Levitan has received city funds to operate at least eight shelters at locations in Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. His company has converted and constructed buildings to have the homeless housed at them.
City records show the company owns the building in Ozone Park that the city plans to turn into a shelter. It also possesses 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale; the city had planned one at that site, but Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village) is working to get it turned into a school instead.
Levitan did not return a Chronicle inquiry prior to deadline.
At Monday’s rally, Vallone read part of a 2002 story by the The New York Times about the city temporarily housing the homeless in apartments that Levitan was quoted in. The developer then told the publication he estimated making $1,000 per night from units he rented to the city.
Levitan was slapped with a wrongful death lawsuit in 2012 by the family of a man who was killed in a shelter at a building the developer owns in the Bronx. The suit was ultimately dismissed.
Along with Vallone, the rally featured a long list of speakers that included state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D-Flushing), Community Board 7 First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian, College Point Civic and Taxpayers Association President Joe Femenia and Community Education Council 25 President Joseph Di Benedetto.
Avella mentioned how back when the city had a plan to put an airport facility at the College Point Corporate Park, 400 protesters stopped traffic at the Whitestone Expressway and 20th Avenue.
The senator suggested “maybe we have to do that again to say to the city how serious we are” about there not being a homeless shelter at 127-03 20 Ave.
“We have to stand once and for all for College Point, to say to the City of New York, we’re not going to stand here and allow this to happen,” said the senator, who is running for re-election on two third-party lines after losing a Democratic primary to former City Comptroller John Liu.
Rosenthal, who was elected last year, is also deeply opposed to any College Point homeless shelter.
“We need to be able to lift the people up in homeless shelters and try to provide them with the social services that they need,” the assemblyman said. “And they will not get those services here. How will they get to work? How will they get to medical facilities? How will they get the services that they need?”
Before the rally, Rosenthal had written the city Department of Buildings a letter requesting an audit of 127-03 20 Ave. In the correspondence, Rosenthal mentioned how building documents filed by the developer show plans to build a multiuse communal space and laundry facilities and do “extensive plumbing work.”
Earlier this year, hundreds of people rallied at the Poppenhusen Institute in response to a rumor that a hotel being built at 14-61 127 St. would be used as a homeless shelter. So far, the undomiciled haven’t been housed there.
The Department of Homeless Services did not return multiple Chronicle inquiries prior to deadline about when the city would be making a decision to put a shelter at 127-03 20 Ave. Vallone spokesman Lionel Morales told the Chronicle on Tuesday that his office also hasn’t yet gotten a response to the same question.
We Love Whitestone Civic Association President Al Centola blasted the city at the rally.
“They just want to warehouse the homeless, they don’t care where they put them,” the civic leader said. “They pretend that they care but they don’t plan, they don’t do anything to make sure that they get the services they need.”