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By Gabriel Rom

A judge has denied a petition filed by a group of homeowners’ associations in the Middle Village area that contended the environmental assessment for a proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale was fundamentally flawed.

State Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter, in an Oct. 22 decision, argued that the city Department of Buildings sufficiently considered environmental factors in its planning and review.

“It didn’t surprise me,”said Robert Holder, presidentof the Juniper Valley Civic Association. “We’re used to this. Usually judges tend to go along with the city.

In June, the city Department of Homeless Services commissioned a private firm to conduct an environmental assessment study on the property. The firm, Aecom Inc., produced a report that found that the proposed 125-unit shelter would not have a significant environmental impact and should not be subject to an environmental impact statement, which is far more extensive than the environmental assessment study. DHS agreed with the study.

In response, a group of community organizations petitioned the city with an Article 78, a proceeding used to challenge administrative decisions, requesting a new study and alleging that DHS had essentially rubber-stamped a study that was based on factual errors and unfounded assumptions.

“Certainly, the project will have an impact on the community,” Schecter wrote in her decision, but added, “the record demonstrates that the EAS was prepared in accordance with the manual’s guidelines, [and] that a ‘hard look’ was given to areas of environmental concern.”

Holder said he plans to appeal the decision.

“An impact study is very much warranted and we feel that we will get a fairer decision in the appellate courts,” he said.

Schecter’s decision is the latest chapter in a protracted battle between community leaders, area politicians and the DOB, dating back to March 2013, when the DOB approved permits to turn an empty factory into transitional housing.

Angry residents quickly organized into the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition. The group points to what it believes is a litany of issues with the proposed site, including the fact that the property was originally zoned for manufacturing use, the building permit for which was originally denied by the DOB.

In August, the DOB revoked the floor plans for the proposed shelter, which effectively stalled any further construction progress at the property.

According to DOB spokesman Alex Schnell, a city audit found that the shelter’s building plans were not up to full code compliance and that the building application could be revoked.

“We know we’re right, but we think we will win because of all the problems with the site and location,” Holder said. “The judge doesn’t have a clue. I don’t think she really even looked at our petition.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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