By Sarina Trangle
Hundreds poured into Christ the King Regional High School’s auditorium last week to share concerns about how a homeless shelter could strain Glendale: Which sewage system would the facility link into? Would it exacerbate flooding? Could it blend with the area’s mostly single- and two-family homes?
Community Board 5 organized the meeting with the city Department of Homeless Services and Samaritan Village, a Briarwood-based social service provider seeking to open a 125-family shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave.
CB 5, civic groups and elected officials have condemned the city’s plan to enter a five-year contract with Samaritan Village for up to $27.5 million since the proposal surfaced.
But last week’s meeting was called to focus on more nuanced details of what Glendale and the surrounding communities wanted included in an environment assessment underway.
A few inquired about how the influx of 125 families may strain the sewage system and related infrastructure, noting that basements often flooded during storms. Representatives from the Juniper Park Civic and Middle Village Property Owners associations said nearby neighborhoods had fought to keep their areas comprised of mostly one-, two- and three-family homes and the shelter would ignore such endeavors.
Lisa Black, assistant commissioner of government and community relations at DHS, said the environmental study would determine which sewage system the former sewing plant and airplane part manufacturing factory would link into.
She said the review would become public if a shelter was found to be feasible and a contract was prepared for the city comptroller’s review. Black said the city would not pay for remediation work or construction costs.
Putting aside the environmental study, most speakers assailed the proposal as economically extravagant.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) said the roughly $3,000 monthly cost per family was enough to pay for luxury housing and praised the city’s attempts to revive a voucher program that kept families facing eviction in their homes for roughly $1,500 a month.
Several said it would be less expensive to convert the former Pan American Hotel in Elmhurst into a shelter, but Black said its lack of kitchens made it unsuitable for families.
Doug Apple, executive vice president at Samaritan Village, emphasized the proposal covered housing as well as an array of services to help residents with employment, education and other needs.
“The most common reason people come into the homeless system is because they’ve been evicted from their apartment. They’ve lost a job. They’ve struggled with illness,” he said. “We see our job as helping them get through that temporary crisis.”
As a recovering alcoholic who once faced eviction, John Schad said he understood the need for housing help.
But he said Glendale had a history of helping its own.
“When I needed help, I had neighbors help me get clean and sober …. my neighbors rang my doorbell and called me on the phone and gave me work,” Schad said. “If we needed a homeless shelter for our residents, we would have built the homeless shelter.”
Fellow Glendale resident Jeff Kaufman said the community needed to look beyond itself.
“There are 50-plus-thousand homeless people and there are not enough beds for families in need,” he said. “We need to address that.”
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].