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Queens Chronicle

Glendale gains an ally in shelter fight

Independent Chemical Co. against its potential next-door neighbor

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:06 am, Thu Jun 26, 2014.

You can now add the proposed Glendale homeless shelter’s next-door neighbor to the list of entities that vehemently oppose the city’s plan to house up to 125 families in the former factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave.

A driveway and a tall fence topped with barbed wire separates the Independent Chemical Co., which has operated at 79-51 Cooper Ave. for 60 years, and its sealed barrels of hydrochloric acid from the proposed shelter.

The chemical company’s proximity to the planned haven for homeless families has often been referenced as a reason to oppose the Department of Homeless Services’ proposal, citing the industrial use of the area.

Now, company President Jonathan Spielman has joined the hundreds of residents and numerous civic groups and elected officials in opposing the shelter, which would be operated by Samaritan Village.

“I’m against the idea of a shelter because there’s no transportation or support there. It suffocates them and it suffocates the area,” Spielman said. “Your goal with social welfare is to bring them up to a level where they can support themselves. To drop them into one building surrounded by industry with no buses and no jobs is not fair.”

The agreement between Spielman and the community came out of an impromptu meeting Tuesday morning with Juniper Park Civic Association President Bob Holden.

As Holden attempted to tour the perimeter of the site with Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi and others on Tuesday morning, an Independent Chemical Co. employee called the police on them because the group refused to stop taking pictures, the civic leader said.

“I was standing in the middle of 79th Place when they closed their doors and someone came out and said we’re hurting their business,” Holden said. “We just were there to show why this area isn’t suitable for a homeless shelter.”

The situation was defused peacefully by Holden, Spielman and two plainclothes officers. Spielman said Department of Homeland Security policy requires such calls to authorities to be made.

Independent Chemical Co. is a recognized member of the National Association of Chemical Distributors and employs 65 people, all of whom, Spielman said, are committed to the safety of the facility and the contents it stores.

“I’m very proud of my company’s safety and its history in the community,” he said.

As animosity over the shelter plan grows, Holden is calling for DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor to resign and be subjected to a criminal investigation due to what he sees as “gross incompetence” by DHS over the building’s proximity to the chemical company.

“I’m sure it’s a good company, but I don’t believe DHS ever went back there to look at it,” Holden said. “The Juniper Park Civic Association is calling on Taylor to resign. Whoever in DHS thought this was a good site for a shelter should be brought up on charges or, at the very least, fired.”

When contacted by the Chronicle, the DHS did not comment on Holden’s allegations. Instead, it provided an update on the site’s ongoing environmental study.

“The proposed shelter for 125 families with children in Glendale is undergoing an environmental assessment by an independent contractor,” the agency said. “We expect the results of the study to be available within the next month.”

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