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Queens Chronicle

Dormant shelter plan officially dead

Homeless Services says it no longer has interest in Cooper Avenue site

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Posted: Thursday, January 18, 2018 10:30 am

It’s been five years since the fight over the proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale began.

During that time, there were heated meetings, protests, angry press conferences and even a legal challenge — funded entirely by furious neighborhood residents.

That war has now officially ended, the original proposal having slowly faded away.

Without giving a specific reason as to why, a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson told the Chronicle on Tuesday that the agency is no longer pursuing its plan to convert the former factory building into a shelter.

Instead of housing the homeless, the site could be occupied by cubicles, as the Department of Buildings approved plans last year to transform the structure into a four-story office and warehouse location.

After over a year of little to no new information about the proposed shelter, speculation ramped back up over the last week, as residents noticed work being done at the site.

But according to Councilman Bob Holden (D-Glendale), that was just the repair of a broken water main — he posted a picture of the Department of Transportation document for the work to his Facebook page.

Holden was one of the strongest opponents of the shelter plan, as he and other civic leaders founded the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition in September 2014.

After raising thousands of dollars from neighborhood residents, the group sued the city two months later over an environmental assessment of the decrepit former factory that the city contracted out to an independent firm, a process the coalition said was deeply flawed.

The litigation was dismissed in court almost exactly one year later, and the group’s appeal was denied in early 2016.

But by then, little action had occured on the city’s end with the plan. And that fall, the neighborhood’s attention turned to a plan to convert the Maspeth Holiday Inn Express into a homeless shelter.

In a Tuesday email, Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi said she is thrilled by the city’s announcement that it would no longer pursue the site, but added that she isn’t ready to declare a permanent victory yet.

“I think the news about the shelter is great but I am not really going to let down our guard,” she said. “We are dealing with very underhanded people on all levels.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said in a Tuesday interview that while it’s hard to believe everything the city says, he leans toward believing them this time around.

“This is great. It was a bad idea from the start and it was far from the optimum place for a homeless shelter,” Addabbo said. “Once a bad idea, always a bad idea.”

Masi added that the DHS’s decision was proof that sometimes you can fight City Hall and come out victorious.

“I always knew that we probably would not win in Court but the fact that we were able to wear them down obviously worked,” she said. “So for now I am happy and grateful to all the community people who stepped up and helped. This was defeated by residents of Glendale and Middle Village and local business owners together.”

Welcome to the discussion.