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Shelter Rumor Rages

But No Plans Final For Glendale

Rumors that a homeless shelter may be coming to the site of a long-vacant industrial building in Glendale have angst among community activists over the last week, and a local lawmaker has already come out in opposition of any such plan.

This long-inactive industrial building on Cooper Avenue in Glendale is rumored to be under consideration for a new homeless shelter, an idea opposed by local residents and legislators alike. The city’s Department of Homeless Services, however, indicated that no such proposal has been presented at this time.

The site in question, located at 78- 16 Cooper Ave., is a nearly three-acre property zoned for manufacturing purposes, though according to area residents, the location has been inactive for an extended period of time. The property was listed on a real estate site as being nearly three acres in size and on the market for over $12 million.

Speculation about the site’s future use grew over the last week among Glendale residents through the social media website Facebook. One such posting to the Glendale Civic Assocaition’s (GCA) page stated that a deal was near to create “a 140 apartment shelter for evicted tenants and just released prisoners. They are looking to put this building with armed guards and security on Cooper Avenue- where the underpass is.”

The rumor was investigated by the office of City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, who addressed it in an email sent last Thursday, Aug. 9, to constituents and forwarded to the Times Newsweekly.

Crowley stated that she reached out to the owner of the Cooper Avenue site-Michael Wilner of Wilner Realty Management LLC-and learned that “he had indeed been in contact with a not-for-profit agency that runs homeless shelters.” The identity of the organization was not disclosed by Wilner, she noted.

No agreement has been reached as of press time and the property remains available “to interested buyers,” the lawmaker pointed out. The Department of Homeless Services (DHS), which oversees shelters for homeless individuals in New York City, also indicated that it has not received any kind of proposal for such a shelter at the Glendale location.

On Tuesday, Aug. 14, Crowley’s chief-of-staff, Lydon Sleeper, issued a follow-up statement reiterating that “No group looking to build a homeless shelter has contacted any city agency, including our office.”

“We know a group that runs other shelters in the city has reached out to the owner, but I want to be clear, the Council member does not support any attempt to put a multiple dwelling shelter on Cooper Avenue and will do everything in her power to prevent it from opening,” Sleeper stated. He added that Crowley “has been pushing for that space to be a recreation and community center that serves the public and we will keep pursuing that with the city and the community.”

The defunct warehouse, which was previously a textile mill, is zoned under M1-1 regulations, restricting its use for industrial and manufacturing purposes. Any proposed residential uses for the property will require a zoning change, which is subject to the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process that comes before Board 5, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

“However, the land use law for hotels in this zone, and unfortunately, the city has allowed the use of shelters for this zone before,” Crowley added in her original email. “But to give an occupancy certificate to a shelter in this location would be an inaccurate manipulation of the law and should be stopped.”

Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri told the Times Newsweekly last Thursday that there are concerns among local business and property owners about the potential impact a homeless shelter would have upon the area. The former factory is located adjacent to the Artistic Stitch sports and recreation center, which is set to open later this summer, and is less than a half-mile from The Shops and Atlas Park.

Gary Giordano, Board 5 district manager, told this paper in a phone interview last Friday, Aug. 10, that “In my opinion, any location as big as” the Cooper Avenue site “for a homeless shelter is just too overwhelming for a community. It’s just too much for a neighborhood.”

He also noted that there are environmental questions about the location since it is located in what was once a heavily-industrial part of the neighborhood. Remediation measures had been enacted over the years to remove underground contamination from other nearby properties in the area, including the former Kliegman Brothers dry cleaning business located at 76-01 77th Ave.

It is not known if the Cooper Avenue location is contaminated, but the site would be subject to an environmental review if development is proposed for the location.

Kathy Masi, president of the GCA, told the Times Newsweekly that she and other community activists were taken aback by the rumor.

“As upset as we are about the thought of this type of facility being built, I’m equally upset that we didn’t get advanced notification from a single elected official,” she said. “They had to know about it. They all seem to have an opinion on the man that owns the property. Obviously he’s not a stranger.”

Masi stated that she is organizing a petition drive calling on local lawmakers to be vigilant regarding the situation with the Cooper Avenue site while also making it clear that the community is opposed to any homeless shelter plan for the location.

“What needs to be done is that all the electeds and the civics have to join together,” she added. “The communities have to watch out, open their eyes and be vigilant.”

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