Neighborhood rallies against area shelter 1

Councilman Bob Holden, left, and Mike Papa of the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition rallied against a proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. last Friday.

As Westhab interviewed potential workers for a proposed homeless shelter for 200 single men at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, community residents again rallied against the site last Friday.

“We all know it’s not a homeless shelter,” said Mike Papa of the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition. “We know that it’s a halfway house for people that are coming out of incarceration. We don’t need these 200 ex-convicts and sexual offenders … living in our community, next to our children.”

He added, “These people are not our problem and they don’t belong in the community.”

Westhab would operate the shelter, which would be located in an old factory. The city’s plan to house men there has been on-again, off-again for several years.

Protesters carried signs criticizing the city and the shelter. During the hourlong event, passing drivers honked in a display of encouragement.

The rally was scheduled to coincide with a job fair hosted by Westhab, as the company looked to hire a security manager, shift supervisors and security guards for the site.

Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) said he was told the site would become a school for special needs children before learning the shelter plan was back on after years of back and forth between the city and the community. The lawmaker criticized Mayor de Blasio and Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks.

“Here’s what they said: ‘To heck with them, we’re going to give it to the so-called not-for-profit guys who are making millions on the backs of the homeless,’” Holden said.

Holden said the shelter, at a former factory site, doesn’t fit in with the area consisting of mostly one- and two-story homes.

“Work with the community, Mr. Mayor. Work with us,” he said.

Holden added, “They can interview all the security guards they want but it’s not going to open right away. And if it does open, we will still be here.”

The proposed shelter site has been on-again and off-again for years.

“Here we are, once again, forced to come together to defend our community against attacks that are brought upon us by none other than the worst mayor that New York City has ever seen,” Papa said, adding, “What is happening here is also nothing short of organized crime and Mayor de Blasio is the head of the family.”

Isabella Cicchinelli, who said during a public hearing last October she hopes the shelter is burned down, also spoke. “They don’t care about our kids, they don’t care about our safety, they don’t care about our property. They only care about money,” she said.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) criticized the process of shelters being placed into neighborhoods.

“Not only are the homeless individuals victimized by this mayor’s ineptness, but we are victimized, too,” he said.

Near the end of the rally, Papa, who said “This facility will single-handedly destroy this neighborhood,” spotted Jim Coughlin, Westhab’s senior vice president of services, walking out of the building and down the street. Papa offered him the microphone but Coughlin walked away.

Coughlin did not respond to a Chronicle email asking for comment.


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