He wrote a letter to the company that conducted the environmental impact study, believing the results were “made up.” He donated money to a lawsuit to halt the project.
The plan never got off the ground, and the site remains vacant today. Though the city continues to consider possible homeless shelters in the area, Hevesi has changed his tune on homelessness.
At Community Board 5’s monthly meeting last week, the Queens lawmaker stepped up to the podium and made a declaration.
“I will never be on a protest line again, ever,” he said. “Not judging anyone else who does it, this is just for me personally. I won’t do it.”
Hevesi explained that his position changed after he took up the chairmanship of the Assembly’s Social Services Committee. In the last three years, his top priority has been ending the homelessness crisis in the state.
The legislator has visited shelters every few weeks for the past six months. He has seen what kind of conditions they’re in, and what the occupants have to live through. In his eyes, protests do not help solve the problem.
“This is a flat-out, 'you’re going to make money' business,” Hevesi said. “Not-for-profits, for-profits, they’re in business and business is good.”
He said once shelter providers receive long-term contracts from the city, they don’t worry about the services. It’s all part of a system designed to “manufacture” more homeless people, he said.
While he doesn’t blame the city for homelessness — Hevesi sees the city as just a symptom of the crisis — the lawmaker instead points the finger at the governor and the groups that profit off the problem.
Hevesi’s solution to homelessness is a sustained rental subsidy to keep 80,000 at-risk people in their homes. But the state, which used to have a similar program six years ago, cut it for fiscal reasons.
Now, Governor Andrew Cuomo refuses to agree to legislation for rent supplements, even though it has passed the Assembly twice. Hevesi said it has enough support in the State Senate as well, including three Republicans.
“We were ready to go and Andrew Cuomo killed it. Then he killed it again,” he said. “He’s going to keep killing it until we push him over the top. We can get him to fold.”
Hevesi believes it’s because the governor’s sister is “in the shelter business.” She runs HELP USA, a nonprofit provider in New York. He also accused the governor of taking political donations from shelter owners.
“The governor and I have been going at it for years,” he said. “He hates me, I hate him, I enjoy his hatred, he deserves it.”
While his rental supplement program continues to be blocked, Hevesi said they scored a minor victory when they received a pilot program for 240 families this year. The lawmaker pledged to keep fighting for what he believes is the true solution to a growing crisis.
“I am the guy who gets up everyday furious about this, and goes to war with the meanest guy in New York state politics,” he said. “We have a blood feud, and I’m not going to stop until we win.”
As for the protests, the lawmaker said he will never do anything that will add “more difficulty and more consternation” for people in that circumstance.
“I’m going to solve the damn problem so we don’t need the shelter in the first place,” he said. “I don’t want to disappoint people. If you want an elected official who’s going to yell and scream, I’m not your guy.”
Glendale civic leader Kathy Masi, who is planning her own rally against the shelter proposal at 78-16 Cooper Avenue, said her September 23rd action will go after contractors who seek profits by selling shelters in small communities.
“With no thought, it’s just throw them in there,” she said. “Warehouse them with no supplies.”
Hevesi responded that he believes he’s on the same side as shelter protesters, but he has a different target.
“I am enraged with the system,” he said. “I am going after the guy I believe is keeping the growth of homelessness happening.”