• September 15, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

Cooper Ave. shelter plan moves forward

Controversial project coming in ’20; Ridgewood also receiving one

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:33 pm, Thu Sep 5, 2019.

On again, off again, on again, off again.

Now it’s on again.

The long-proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale will open during the first half of 2020, according to Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village), who opposes the project.

In a statement, the lawmaker said he and other elected officials received word last Thursday from the Department of Homeless Services that the agency intends to move forward with the shelter.

It will be run by Westhab, a Westchester-based service provider, and will house 200 men. A significant portion of the men housed at the shelter will be from the now-closed Maspeth Holiday Inn temporary shelter.

The site will house men who are currently employed or who are actively seeking employment and will provide on-site services and support such as job-readiness training and job-search assistance, with access to employment case managers and job developers focused on helping clients find and retain employment, while building income and achieving independence, the city says.

Holden wanted to see the site become a school for special needs students to replace PS 9, located in an industrial part of Maspeth.

“I am disgusted with the way City Hall does business when it comes to housing the homeless,” Holden said in a statement. “I presented a strong plan to have a new District 75 school built on the Cooper Avenue property and I was told by all involved city agencies that this was an ideal solution. But as soon as Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza got involved, he decided it would be better to continue wasting our tax dollars and let the District 75 special needs students suffer in a century-old building surrounded by heavy truck traffic.

“I tried to fight against this shelter the right way, by negotiating with city agencies and coming up with reasonable proposals, only to have the rug pulled out from under me. I was told countless times that DHS and the School Construction Authority loved my plan to build a new school on Cooper Avenue and the mayor’s approval was all that was needed. But the mayor recently told me he knew nothing about the plan. I’m sick of playing this game with City Hall, so now I will fight back the best way I know how, with my neighbors by my side.”

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza told him in June at the state Assembly that there would be a school coming to the site but “everything’s on hold.”

However, a source with the DOE told the Chronicle “the Chancellor didn’t indicate to Assembly Member Miller that the City was planning to build a school at this site.”

Miller, a Glendale resident, has been outspoken against the plan.

“It’s a contaminated warehouse,” he said, citing longtime concerns about the site. “How is that acceptable to any of us?”

Miller said the city should concentrate on building supportive housing and the Home Stability Support program, proposed by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills), should be the way to go.

“I don’t think the city cares about the homeless that they’re trying to help and the community they’re putting these in,” he said.

Similar to Holden, Miller doesn’t appreciate the way the city handled the situation.

“I don’t like how they dictate, ‘This is what we’re doing,’” Miller said.

The DHS noted that there are zero shelters in the community district and “the need for new, high-quality, borough-based capacity could not be greater.”

“Homeless New Yorkers come from every community across the five boroughs, so we need every community to come together to address homelessness,” said spokesman Isaac McGinn. “With zero shelters in Queens Community District 5, these sites will give individuals and families with children the opportunity to get back on their feet closer to their anchors of life. Working together with neighbors and not-for-profit service provider partners, we’re confident that these New Yorkers will be warmly welcomed — and through collaborative support and compassion, we will make this the best experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet.”

For security purposes, a minimum of two security officers will be stationed at the entrance to control building access and monitor security cameras; six security staff per shift and two supervisors will oversee security staff; a 24-hour open line for the community to ask questions, raise concerns and provide feedback so the DHS can collaboratively address any concerns that may arise will be established; and 75 security cameras will be installed throughout the building and across shelter grounds.

“While the narrative is that communities oppose shelters, the reality is that most communities have accepted the opening of shelters because we’re providing the ability to shelter people from that area,” Social Services Commissioner Steve Banks told the Daily News.

But state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) also spoke out against the Cooper Avenue site.

“With my district on the verge of having Mayor de Blasio place a fourth of a large population of homeless men within its boundaries, most recently proposed for Glendale, I will continue to oppose larger scaled shelters with limited services and inadequate transportation, while advocating for smaller, more community-appropriate sites that would better serve the homeless individuals in need. Where is the major progress being made to address the homeless crisis after the more than $2 billion overhaul of the Department of Homeless Services? Where are the affordable housing projects that were promised? Where is the cooperative working relationship with the local elected officials and community residents to help find real credible solutions for the homeless? Are we really ‘Turning the Tide’ on solving the homeless crisis as the mayor planned?

“Where is the creative thinking to seriously address the severe homeless situation in our city? What about utilizing city-owned sites and properties for cost-efficient modular housing as done in other states? What about developing abandoned zombie homes and providing a better living environment for homeless families, especially the children? I guess after witnessing five years of the de Blasio administration’s treatment of the homeless crisis, we may never know the answers.”

In March, a spokesman for Holden told the Chronicle that the SCA was working out a deal with the property owner and that they expected to receive confirmation in the near future that a school would be built at the site.

Plans to use the factory as a shelter date back to 2012.

Ridgewood will also receive a shelter at 1616 Summerfield St. for 132 families with children, slated to open in late 2020.

Operated by CORE, the shelter will provide on-site services including case management, housing placement assistance, after school-programming for children, recreation space for kids, child care services, health and mental services, and employment counseling. There will also be connections to off-site service such as primary healthcare, substance abuse treatment, vocational training, employment placement, GED instruction, veterans’ services, conflict meditation, child care and legal services.

“We all have to do our part in this city when it comes to the crisis we have related to housing and the shelters,” Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens) told the Daily News.

“You would never hear me or see me speak negatively about the need for shelters in the city of New York.”

Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said the board intends to conduct separate public hearings about the shelters and is looking for a possible date in late September or early October.

He said the job of the board is to give the public an opportunity to comment and for the board to add comments for the best possible recommendations. But is that difficult when the community has been loudly against the Cooper Avenue shelter?

“Of course,” Giordano said. “That’s why I stress we intend to have a public hearing and we need to promote respect at that public hearing. And thoughtfulness.”

He said he hopes the hearing will show respect for the community, for those who might be living there, for DHS and the provider of the shelter.

Giordano did say that the number of men the shelter would house is “quite overwhelming, at least physically, for the surrounding community” and added “blending that many people in the community is not easy.”

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Buster57 posted at 10:08 am on Fri, Aug 30, 2019.

    Buster57 Posts: 79

    They should turn Gracie Mansion into a men's homeless shelter!

  • evaevaeva posted at 11:13 pm on Thu, Aug 29, 2019.

    evaevaeva Posts: 14

    There goes the nabe....[sad]