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Queens Chronicle

CB 5 Chair: Rumored shelter not allowed

Arcuri says code violations, zoning regs, contamination are hurdles

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Posted: Thursday, August 23, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:29 am, Thu Aug 30, 2012.

The chairman of Community Board 5 has released a statement saying that numerous legal and technical difficulties would await any developer seeking to convert an old factory in Glendale into a homeless shelter, as has been rumored for the last two weeks.

Vincent Arcuri Jr., in a statement issued on Friday, said that the board has not received any proposal for a shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. He also said that existing zoning for the site would not allow a so-called community residence facility, though “if Mayor Bloomberg declared that an emergency situation existed, the City of New York may be able to place such a facility here, there or anywhere else.”

Glendale residents had been hearing rumors in recent weeks that were given some weight last week when Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) wrote a letter to residents saying she had spoken about the possibility of a shelter with property owner Michael Wilner.

Wilner could not be reached by the Chronicle for comment, though Crowley stated in her letter that Wilner told her there had been contact with a nonprofit group looking into the possibility of a multifamily shelter on the old industrial site.

City agencies told the Chronicle last week that no proposal has been made to them.

Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, vowed that residents, civic and elected leaders are keeping a close eye on any possible development.

But Arcuri said on Friday that even if the city chose to go ahead with such a plan, there would be some big, if not insurmountable, roadblocks.

First, he said, the building, which has several active Department of Buildings violations, may contain lead paint, asbestos and various PCB contaminants.

The latter two are known carcinogens. Lead paint, which has been banned for household use in the United States since 1978, can cause lead poisoning that is particularly harmful to small children if paint chips or particles of dust are ingested.

“The cost and time to convert this structure to a residential facility would be extensive, and possibly twice as much as new construction,” Arcuri said.

Then, according to the chairman, there are the grounds themselves, which are located adjacent to a known federally-recognized brownfield.

Arcuri said previous occupants of the building, which has been vacant for about two decades, included an aircraft parts manufacturer, knitting mills, machine shops and the Eastern Cabinet Co.

Local lore also has it, according to Arcuri, that the site was part of the Manhattan Project, the World War II code name for the development of the world’s first atomic bombs.

The cabinet makers would have worked with lacquers, paint and other “environmentally sensitive” products.

The former presence of knitting mills, Arcuri stated, along with its location and low ground elevation, could mean in-ground concentrations of perchloroethylene.

PERC, as it is called, is a substance in dry cleaning fluid in use to this day that is recognized as a workplace hazard by the U.S. Department of Labor and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Within the building itself is the site of an old internal railroad spur used by both coal and diesel engines, a track that likely was routinely sprayed with petroleum products to keep dust down.

Arcuri concluded his statement by recalling efforts of CB 5 a few years ago to develop the site for high-tech industry and the needed jobs that would come with it. He wrote that while the New York City Economic Development Corp. was interested in purchasing the property, Wilner apparently was not interested in selling it.

“Queens needs jobs for its residents, jobs which produce the payroll taxes that the city of New York runs on,” Arcuri wrote, “not large community facilities that take properties off the tax rolls.”

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