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CB 5 forms committee to analyze shelter plan

Photo by Bianca Fortis
By Sarina Trangle

Glendale has escalated its fight against a proposed homeless shelter now that a new administration runs City Hall.

Community Board 5 has established a special committee to review the city Department of Homeless Service’s bid to open a 125-family, temporary housing facility at 78-16 Cooper Ave., which once housed a sewing mill and airplane part manufacturing plant.

DHS said it would invest in environmental studies if it reaches an agreement with Samaritan Village, a Queens-based human services organization, to open and operate a shelter for five years on the site for no more than $27.5 million. The department would present the contract to the city comptroller for approval if such tests prove the shelter could function in Glendale, according to Lisa Black, the DHS assistant commissioner of government and community relations.

Several elected officials sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and new DHS Commissioner Gilbert Taylor Jan. 8 outlining their opposition to the proposal. The note, signed by City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), state Assemblymen Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), contended it would be wiser to invest in a location closer to subway lines, social services and jobs. The vacant factory is about 1.3 miles from the M train.

“If one of the primary criteria for evaluating a particular proposal’s cost-effectiveness correlates to the ability of the facility’s residents to quickly transition to permanent housing, we fail to see how developing a program at a location that is not conveniently accessible to basic public resources needed for a family’s success can be classified in such a manner,” the letter said, adding that the shelter stay lengths have grown 16 percent in the past year. “We hope that, as a new administration, you will look to address that particular problem by undertaking a comprehensive analysis of how all DHS operations have combined to create that very unfortunate increase in turnaround time for families in need.”

City officials and Samaritan Village have previously argued the neighborhood does not have a shelter and more facilities are needed in Queens as families struggle to find affordable housing and battle foreclosures.

De Blasio’s team had not responded to the politicians by press time nor had the mayor’s office responded to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. said the special committee plans to analyze how a shelter in Glendale would affect public transportation, safety and local health-care services.

“We need to analyze the whole situation — the need for it, the site selection, everything,” Arcuri said. “It’s the veracity and the need — is warehousing families in large shelters the real way to take care of the homeless family problem?”

The committee comprises about a dozen community board members with representation from nine committee chairs and members of the executive committee, Arcuri said.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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