There have been nearly 1,000 COVID cases in city homeless shelters, according to Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. Of the 961 recorded cases, 658 were single adults.
Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi raised her concerns about the shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. during last Wednesday’s Community Board 5 meeting.
“It’s not possible for them to social distance in the building,” she said. “They have 120 men in there in addition to staff.”
Amanda Nasner, Queens borough director for the Department of Homeless Services, confirmed the capacity at the Glendale shelter will remain at 120 as a result of COVID-19, Councilman Bob Holden’s (D-Middle Village) Communications Director Ryan Kelley said in an email.
The city has been looking to relocate people from congregate shelters to hotel rooms during the pandemic.
At least 76 homeless people have died from the coronavirus in the city, including 52 in single-adult shelters, Banks told the City Council at a remote hearing Monday.
“The problem for the community we see is in the congregant shelters the virus can spread very quickly and then also the virus can spread quickly in a neighborhood,” Holden told the Chronicle Monday.
The lawmaker compared the setup to schools in that there are lots of people in a confined space.
“You can’t say one is more dangerous than the other,” Holden said. “They’re both dangerous.”
Masi told the Chronicle Monday that the shelter residents are “out roaming on Cooper Avenue with no masks, no personal protection. It’s crazy.”
Holden noted that residents don’t have to wear masks as long as they are socially distancing from others.
“There’s only so much I can do,” he said, regarding complaints about people in the area not wearing masks.
While the city looks to move the homeless to hotels, Holden says the DHS hasn’t said when it will get to the Cooper Avenue shelter because there are more overcrowded shelters to deal with first.
The DHS did not respond to multiple emails by press time.
In other board business, CB 5 Chairman Gary Giordano said the numbers on Census returns are “not good news.”
The national rate of return is 58.6 percent and in New York State it’s 53 percent. Queens is at 47 percent.
The returns for some neighborhoods in the district are even lower.
Maspeth is at 47.49 percent, Middle Village is at 46.57 percent with both Ridgewood and Glendale returning 43 percent.
Because of the coronavirus, the Census Bureau is extending deadlines. The self-response phase will end on Oct. 31 instead of July 31.
Census takers were scheduled to interview households in person from May 13 to July 31 but instead will begin on Aug. 11 and go through Oct. 31.
“At least we have some more time but the returns so far are pretty dismal,” Giordano told the board.
In 2010, New York lost two seats in the House of Representatives because the count showed less population growth than in other states, and there was concern from lawmakers and activists that Queens would be undercounted in 2020.
DHS responded after press time and said it anticipates relocating the men residing at the shelter in the coming weeks and that masks are available to staff and residents.
Within shelters, beds are being reorganized, stricter room capacity limits are being implemented and enforced and gatherings are limited.
The story originally misstated Ryan Kelley's position as Chief of Staff to Councilman Bob Holden. We regret the error.