Oct. 9, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Residents will begin moving into western Queens’ newest homeless shelter at the Verve Hotel in Dutch Kills around Oct. 16, although the Department of Homeless Services will start setting up at the site this weekend.
DHS officials visited the Dutch Kills Civic Association on Thursday evening to provide this and other details on the new shelter, located at 40th Avenue and 29th Street.
At full capacity, the shelter will house 200 single women.
However, as described by Camille Rivera, DHS Communications and External Affairs Deputy Commissioner, the agency will be “slowly transitioning” shelter residents into the Verve, starting with a “small group” on Oct. 16, she estimated.
Rivera said she could not give a more detailed explanation of the length or structure of the phase-in, since that is “based on the capacity and the need.”
One point of confusion among DKCA members was the fact that DHS had not yet signed a lease for the property as of Thursday evening.
“Why is it that if you’re having a soft opening there’s no such lease in hand?” one member asked, using the term the group had adopted for this weekend’s pre-resident takeover of the site. “I don’t understand how you can do one without the other.”
“The simple answer is that we work with the landlord [hotel owner] – we have a capacity and emergency need before that lease is signed – they will trust us to know that that lease will be signed,” Rivera responded.
With negotiations ongoing, Rivera said she could not speak to the terms of the lease, although DHS Director of Government Relations Heidi Schmidt noted that “the leases are typically three to seven years.”
DHS did not respond to requests for an update on the lease on Friday.
Verve Hotel management also did not respond to questions about the shelter transition process.
Like the Westway Motel shelter on Astoria Boulevard, the Verve Hotel shelter was opened by the city on a six-month emergency basis.
This means that, with a greenlight from the City Comptroller, DHS can open a shelter with one-week prior community notification, and afterward the shelter provider (in this case the Acacia Network) can participate in a formal application process for a shelter contract past the six months.
A persistent worry among Dutch Kills residents is that the Verve will be just one of many hotel-to-shelter conversions in this area, which is undergoing a hotel boom. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer noted that discussions with the Mayor’s office on this topic are ongoing.
However, Van Bramer said, “the administration has not yet committed to not siting another shelter in one of these [Dutch Kills] hotels for the length of time that we all are interested in.”
Click here for prior Verve Hotel shelter coverage.
Reach reporter Jackie Strawbridge at [email protected]