Hundreds rally to stop College Point shelter

Area residents raising money for lawsuit aimed at stopping 127-03 20 Ave. plan

College Point residents doubled down on their plans to sue the city over a proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood at a rally Sunday.

More than 200 people filled the street near the proposed site at the corner of 127th Street and 20th Avenue. Many residents brought their children, whose signs read “Protect us” and “Save our families, before they get hurt.”

Community leaders and activists stood behind a red-and-white banner that read “No Shelter in College Point” in both English and Chinese.

“College Point can’t handle a shelter of this capacity,” said Michael Deng, a neighborhood real estate broker. “No matter where we come from originally, we will fight this together.”

Deng said he’d helped form the College Point Residents Coalition to fight the shelter, which will be established at the four-story building at 127-03 20 Ave.

“We’re not against shelters in general but not here in College Point,” he said. “We can help by donating food and money.”

Jennifer Shannon, a neighborhood resident who helped organize the protest, told the crowd the newly formed coalition needed $10,000 to retain a lawyer. Before the rally started, she had made her way through the crowd, handing out printed signs and collecting cash donations in blue water jugs.

“This organization is so we can get money and sue the hell out of New York City,” Shannon said.

The crowd started chanting “Lawsuit, lawsuit, lawsuit.”

The coalition is in the process of selecting a lawyer and isn’t ready to discuss the legal grounds on which the lawsuit would rest, Deng and Shannon said.

The rally followed a contentious meeting of the College Point Civic and Taxpayer Association last Wednesday night, where community members told Department of Homeless Services officials a shelter isn’t welcome in the neighborhood. The facility would bring 200 single men to the location in September 2019.

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) called out the site’s owners on Sunday.

“David Levitan and Steven Berger, this isn’t over,” Vallone said. “They sold out College Point for profit.”

Community District 7, which includes College Point, is now home to one shelter for adults and two commercial hotels that house families with children.

The Department of Homeless Services has declined to identify the locations, saying such an admission would violate state social services law.

Only three of the borough’s 14 community districts have fewer homeless shelters per 100,000 people, according to DHS data.

As part of its plan to open the 20th Avenue shelter, the agency says it will phase out CD 7’s two hotel shelters.

Vallone encouraged those in the crowd to attend a Dec. 17 town hall at PS 29 on 23rd Avenue.

The event will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Vallone said representatives from the Mayor’s Office and DHS will attend.

“We won’t rest until we change their mind,” he said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

At the end of the rally, people began handing Shannon cash — $20 bills mostly — with a few fifties sprinkled in.

Maddy Peeri, a resident whose children attended area schools, said the building would serve better as a high school.

“There are so many more things we need,” Peeri said. “I don’t like the fact that it’s men in a family neighborhood. They should put it at the other end of College Point where there aren’t so many homes.”