Pol: ‘This shelter is a total disaster’ 1

Community Board 5 Chairman Vinny Arcuri said he’s been telling people from the Cooper Avenue shelter in Glendale to stop panhandling outdoor diners in the area.

During last Wednesday’s community advisory board meeting regarding the homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave., a man knocked on the door of Councilman Bob Holden’s (D-Middle Village) office.

The man, a resident of the shelter, said he was strung out on heroin, according to Daniel Kurzyna, Holden’s chief of staff.

He was previously at a shelter in Brooklyn, where he was provided methadone to fight his addiction.

“He now does drugs, begs on the street, panhandles and harasses residents in the area when they walk past the shelter,” Kurzyna wrote in an email to Amanda Nasner, Queens borough director at the Department of Homeless Services.

Holden blasted the DHS in a statement.

“Placing this shelter in the middle of our community over our objections has done nothing but increase crime, drug use, and calls to the police, while decreasing the quality of life,” he said Monday.

The lawmaker, a longtime critic of the shelter, said DHS Commissioner Steven Banks should be fired and called service provider Westhab “inept” at operating the Glendale site.

“Hundreds of calls to police this year have taken already limited police staff away from the rest of the community,” Holden said. “This shelter is a total disaster for the residents and the surrounding community, as we always knew it would be.”

Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi, speaking during last Wednesday’s Community Board 5 meeting, said photos have been taken of people shooting heroin in the stairwell on Cooper Avenue and that a person photographed was seen going in and out of the shelter. She said DHS said complaints aren’t about residents of the shelter.

“The real issue is their residents attract an undesirable group of people, unfortunately,” Masi said. “So if it’s not their resident, it’s somebody visiting their resident.”

She said she expects things to get worse in a few months when schools in the area open again.

CB 5 member Richard Huber said the gas station owners in the area said the residents have “worn out their welcome.”

Board Chairman Vinny Arcuri also noted disruptions in the community.

“There’s one gentlemen that I had to remove three days in a row from the Zum Stammtisch beer garden because he was begging from the customers inside the gate,” he said.

Arcuri told the Chronicle Monday he and some community members sit there to maintain the peace and “chase them away,” explaining that they should leave the customers alone. The chairman said the people listen to him.

“I think it’s because they’re afraid of getting in trouble,” Arcuri said.

He said about six residents typically leave the shelter at 10 a.m. and walk to Ridgewood and then head back a few hours later.

“There’s one roaming down the street with a bottle of beer in his hand,” Arcuri said while sitting in his car on Myrtle Avenue.

There are still around 100 men at the site, according to Arcuri.

“We have no idea what the mayor’s doing,” he said during the CB 5 meeting.

The DHS said in May that it will be moving the men out of the shelter due to the coronavirus pandemic, but would not say when. The agency did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

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