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Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Representatives from Animal Care Centers of NYC and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene speak at a Board 5 meeting on April 11.

Some concerned residents voiced their opinions about a proposed animal intake site in Middle Village during Wednesday night’s Community Board 5 meeting at Christ the King High School.

The board held a public hearing about the proposal submitted by the Department of Health (DOH) to open a pet admission center operated by the nonprofit Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) at 66-78 69th St. It was a necessary step in the city’s land use review procedure, and the board will have until May 21 to submit a recommendation based on the public input.

Representatives from the ACC and DOH began the hearing with a presentation about the nonprofit and a detailed explanation about the proposal. The 69th Street site would serve as a replacement for the current Queens Admission Center in Rego Park, which is only 750 square feet. The new space is 1,400 square feet inside of a three-story building, with residential units above it and a deli next door.

The site would serve as a pet admission center, not a shelter. All of the animals brought to the facility would be transported to a full-service shelter at the end of each day, according to ACC officials.

Aleah Simpson, manager of admissions and surrender prevention programs for ACC, said that the main goal of the proposed move is to add additional services for Queens such as a food pantry for pet owners who struggle to pay for pet food, a vaccine clinic and dog walking seminars.

“We want to be able to bring that to Queens as well, because right now our current Queens location is too small,” Simpson said to the audience. “If we can expand it and have more space to store these supplies, we can do more for the community of Queens.”

The ACC has been operating animal shelters and intake sites funded by the city since 1995, and the DOH spokesperson at the meeting confirmed that the department will lease the 69th Street space from the building’s owner.

The first question asked by Board 5 member Michael O’Kane was about the euthanasia policy of ACC, which is one of the issues many people in the community have expressed concern about.

According to Simpson, animals are euthanized by ACC but it is “truly a last resort” after a thorough exam of the animal’s condition and behavior. In 2017, ACC found placement for 93 percent of the animals that came through its doors, Simpson said.

Alex Silver, community advocacy and outreach manager for ACC, added that one of the reasons for some euthanasia at ACC shelters is the fact that they have an open admission policy, meaning that all animals brought to them will be taken in.

When the attention was turned to community members who signed up to speak at the meeting, another common theme was the desire for a full-service shelter in Queens. ACC operates a full-service shelter in Staten Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn, and a proposal was recently approved for a full-service shelter to be established in the Bronx. Since Queens is the second-most populated borough in the city, several speakers said a bigger pet admission center is simply not enough.

“We’re grateful for this, but it’s not enough,” said one local volunteer animal rescuer about the admission center. “The animals need more. Maybe if the animals could vote then we would get something.”

Others were more critical of the plan, and parking issues emerged as another common complaint. One speaker suggested that the location’s close proximity to Christ the King High School and the M train stop on Metropolitan Avenue would “create havoc for the traffic situation.” Another speaker said that with four lanes of traffic on Metropolitan Avenue and buses that turn at 69th Street, those bringing animals to the center will have nowhere to park.

There is a small parking lot next to the building, and the ACC will have two dedicated spaces for their vans. Even so, Walter Sanchez of Board 5’s Land Use Committee, added that the committee has “real concerns” about the parking.

Still, others expressed their full support for the proposal. Ellen Mann, a representative for the building’s owner, said they were “very, very excited” for the admission center to open.

“We did our research and found out that this is really necessary for the community,” Mann said. “We actually looked at the location in Rego Park and were pleased with the way it’s handled and cleaned.”

The proposal will now be turned over to the Land Use Committee for further review at its next meeting.

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