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Elected officials slam proposed Glendale shelter

An organization that provides services or the homeless has proposed turning a vacant building on Cooper Avenue into transitional housing. Photo by Bianca Fortis
TimesLedger Newspapers

Western Queens leaders are staunchly opposing a homeless shelter proposed for Glendale.

On Aug. 6, Community Board 5 received a letter from Samaritan Village, an organization that provides shelter and services to the homeless, which outlines a proposed transitional housing shelter for 125 families.

The organization submitted its proposal to the city Department of Homeless Services, and should DHS accept it, a dilapidated building, at 78-16 Cooper Ave., will be turned into a temporary housing facility.

According to the letter from Samaritan Village, the facility would offer on-site services, including administration, case management and housing and employment counseling. Samaritan Village would also connect residents to other off-site services, such as vocational training, employment placement, GED instruction and veterans’ services.

On-site security would be provided 24 hours, seven days a week, the letter states.

Samaritan Village is headquartered in Briarwood and operates a number of facilities throughout the city. Its Queens facilities include a senior center in Woodside, a substance abuse treatment facility for veterans in Richmond Hill and an outpatient treatment program in Jamaica.

The letter says Samaritan Village helps more than 800 New Yorkers leave the programs and find permanent, affordable places to live.

Hernandez in the letter also asks to set up a meeting with the community board to discuss the program and Samaritan Village’s relationship to the community.

But neighborhood leaders believe the site is an inappropriate location for a shelter.

Representatives from Samaritan Village declined to comment. The landlord of the property could not be reached.

Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5, said the site, which has been vacant for at least 15 years, would cost an exorbitant amount to renovate. Because Good Samaritan would contract with the city Department of Homeless Services, that cost will be covered by taxpayers.

City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) echoed that concern. The site has previously been used as both a sewing mill and a facility for manufacturing airplane parts, and would require both serious renovations as well as environmental remediation, she said.

“There is an immediate need for housing for the homeless in the city,” she said. “An immediate need. It would take more than a year and tens of millions of dollars to get that building ready for residency.”

She expects the Bloomberg administration to reject the application because the site would be better used for a business, Crowley said in an interview.

“Our mayor is pro-development,” she said. “He wants jobs and businesses. Business always get priority.”

State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) is also against it.

“I am against the proposal because I believe the site, on a number of levels, is not suited to accommodate and serve the intended purpose of helping families transition out of the program and into permanent housing,” Hevesi said in an e-mail. “However, I also recognize that Article XVII of the state Constitution, and years of precedent set by cases in New York State Courts, ensures the right to shelter and has created a process designed to limit the role of elected officials in siting these facilities.”

Hevesi said his office will reach out to both DHS and Good Samaritan for more information about the proposal.

Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi has opposed the shelter since last year, when a petition began circulating.

She said the location is a bad one because it is not near a subway station.

“If you’re trying to help people that are homeless and get them back on their feet and get them jobs, it makes more sense to put this near trains,” she said. “It’s disingenuous.”

She said the local schools cannot absorb more students and do not have the proper resources to address those students’ needs.

Giordano said the board responded to Samaritan Village in writing and asked the organization to withdraw its application for the housing facility.

If Samaritan Village declines to withdraw it, the board will then meet with the organization.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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