The Department of Homeless Services will move forward with the proposed 125-family homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, but elected officials and civic leaders alike made their opposition known at a Dec. 12 public hearing.
After being given notice of the hearing just four days earlier, Assemblymen Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) joined Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) in testifying at the public hearing of the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services.
“As a city, we have a legal and moral obligation to provide adequate housing,” Crowley said at the hearing. “But to fulfill this great responsibility, we should do everything possible to guarantee that we use the limited resources we have to make the strongest possible difference in struggling New Yorkers’ lives.
“That is why I cannot fathom why the city,” she continued, “would spend close to $30 million at this location.”
The DHS wrote a letter to the Mayor’s Office last week pledging its support for the five-year, $27 million proposal between Samaritan Village, a Briarwood-based human services agency, and the city.
An abandoned factory sits at the site, and there are fears that the plot is contaminated.
With the first phase, the contractual agreements, completed, the second phase, a full environmental review of the site conducted by the DHS with no independent verification of the review’s findings, will begin soon, according to Hevesi.
The third phase, if the plot passes the environmental review, will be a financial review by the Comptroller’s Office.
While Crowley discussed what she sees as a misallocation of funds, Hevesi warned the DHS at the hearing that the lack of transportation in the surrounding area will increase the length of stay of the shelter’s residents.
“The nearest subway station is approximately 1.3 miles away from the site, and only has a single line running on its route,” Hevesi said in his testimony. “One-point-three miles distance to a single subway line cannot be considered convenient or accessible to residents of the facility who need public transport to get to off-site linkage services. This lack of transportation will not help decrease residents’ length of stay in the shelter.”
Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri and District Manager Gary Giordano also testified at the hearing.
Arcuri said on Monday that, while residents are comforted that their representatives came out in force to oppose the shelter, there is only so much they can do before the de Blasio administration takes over.
“I don’t know what de Blasio’s position is. It’s all up in the air,” Arcuri said. “But when you talk to the people, they’re comfortable in the fact that we and the electeds are on it and we’re trying to voice the needs of the community about the subject.”
Arcuri says that, after reviewing Samaritan Village’s proposal, he is preparing an analysis on it that should be ready by the time CB 5 reconvenes in January.
Outgoing City Comptroller John Liu told CB 5 at its Dec. 11 meeting that there isn’t much he can do about the issue, but he promises to pass along the comments and concerns of the community to incoming City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Liu did, however, state that the issue has been a long time coming, thanks to the Bloomberg administration’s reaction to the 2008 recession.
“This has been one of the shortfalls of this administration. With the recession, there was no planning for what always ensues: an increase of homelessness,” Liu said. “It’s a disservice to the homeless and it’s a disservice to the communities where they want to put these shelters. I will let the new comptroller know that this is a very big issue.”
Despite the outpouring of opposition at the public hearing, Hevesi also told CB 5 at its monthly meeting that the project, which the DHS has full control over, will be difficult to kill.
“The process is designed to keep local communities and their elected officials out of it,” he said. “The logic is if they allow community members and elected officials to drive the process, there would never be a homeless shelter anywhere in the city. We will fight and do the best we can.”