The not-for-profit organization operating a temporary migrant shelter in Staten Island is facing criticism from local pols for allegedly ousting the residents of the former senior living facility earlier this year after they were told the site was up for sale.
A 95-year-old veteran was among the some 50 residents at Island Shores Residence at 111 Father Capodanno Blvd. who were displaced in March at the behest of the site operator, Homes for the Homeless.
“The thing I’m annoyed about is how they did it. It was very disgraceful what they did to the people in Island Shores. They gave us time to get out, but they never said when and they never said they were going to get us out and then one day there’s a thing on the board, a notice on the board, you gotta be out by March 15. I think that gave us like a month and a half,” said Frank Tammaro, a 95-year-old Korean War Veteran who had lived at Island Shores for about four and a half years.
“I thought my suitcases were gonna be on the curb, because I’m not that fast. If it wasn’t for my daughter, they would have been on the curb,” Tammaro said, adding that “we didn’t have a chance to actually make any attempt to stop them because there wasn’t enough time.”
During a Sept. 25 press conference at her district office, U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis accused Homes for the Homeless of “stonewalling” elected officials who she said previously offered to help keep the facility open for its senior residents.
“My blood pressure went through the roof when I found out that this had happened. I was really upset to think that our tax dollars as citizens of New York were being utilized to house citizens of other countries while at the same time kicking out veterans, people who put their life on the line,” said Malliotakis.
Local residents previously protested the conversion of the 288-bed facility to a migrant shelter, resulting in the arrest of ten people.
According to Staten Island Live, residents were notified by Homes for the Homeless last September that the site was going up for sale and that the organization was looking to sell to another senior operator.
The organization reportedly told residents that they would have to vacate the facility by March 1 if a suitable buyer was not found.
After the site was not sold by the March deadline, residents were asked to vacate the premises, leaving former inhabitants like Tammaro to scramble for alternative accommodations. He now lives with his daughter.
State sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton, who represents part of Staten Island and southern Brooklyn, accused the organization of misleading its former residents and their families.
“Most importantly, Homes for the Homeless made it sound like they were going to be selling this facility and they left these seniors with the hope that maybe somebody else would be taking over, and they didn’t. So to me, they are the biggest culprit in this situation, they misled the seniors, they misled the veterans and they misled their families,” Scarcella-Spanton said.
According to a source in City Hall, the site was long vacant before the City considered using it as one of the many temporary migrant shelters scattered across the five boroughs.
Some 119,000 migrants have arrived in the city since spring of last year, according to the Department of Social Services, while there are approximately 61,000 migrants still living in the city’s homeless and emergency shelters.
Homes for the Homeless declined to comment on the situation. The not-for-profit organization has previously come under fire in 2019 for displacing the residents of a separate senior facility in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan.
Malliotakis said she has filed a Freedom of Information Act to found out more details of the deal brokered between Homes for the Homeless and the City, which she has deemed as “shady.” Malliotakis’ office told Brooklyn Paper it is expecting a response from the City by Nov. 7.
“We want answers, we want transparency, we want accountability from this administration that entered this deal,” she said. “Don’t use our tax dollars to house citizens of other countries who illegally entered the border … to throw out these senior citizens and veterans and then turn around for a lucrative deal.”