Time to Find Seats for Shelter Children

CEC 24 Braces For Glendale Plan

More than 300 residents packed the P.S./I.S. 128 auditorium in Middle Village last Wednesday, Aug. 6, to quiz elected officials and Community Education Council District 24 (CEC 24) members on the potential impact the proposed Glendale homeless shelter will have on local public schools.

At a meeting held by Community Education Council District 24 to discuss the possible influx of students housed at the proposed Glendale family homeless shelter, nearly 350 residents packed the auditorium at P.S./I.S. 128 in Middle Village last Wednesday, Aug. 6. City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, as shown, answered audience questions.

The meeting was held to specifically address resident’s concerns over the possibility of 125 families moving into the proposed shelter at 78-16 CooperAve., District 24 President Nick Comaianni said. To express their opposition based on overburdened schools, District 24 members wrote a letter that was sent to Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The proposed site of the shelter, a defunct factory next to Independent Chemical Company and adjacent to the recently shuttered Hansel-Nby Gretel deli meat company could be used for a new school, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley suggested at the meeting.

Crowley mentioned using eminent domain powers to possibly take over the sites if the owners were unwilling to sell.

“It’s an injustice to the kids that will be coming into the school,” Crowley said. “These kids need seats in this district. I believe with the right pressure we can get the School Construction Authority to look again at this site.”

“I think it’s irresponsible to put any homeless shelter in District 24,” Comaianni added. “Every school is overcrowded. Where are you going to put all these kids?”

“One of our most severe needs is for seats in Elmhurst and Corona,” according to CEC 24’s letter to Fariña. “The existence of these homeless shelters would prove to be a ‘double edged sword’ for District 24. Two valuable school sites would be lost and the most overcrowded school district in New York City would have to accept the potential challenge of absorbing hundreds of new students into schools that cannot accommodate them.”

Mary Leas, director of external affairs at the School Construction Authority (SCA), stated the site has been considered, as well as the Pan American Hotel.

“We did consider the Pan Am Hotel for a school,” she said, but the proposal was met with community opposition, “so we backed away from that.”

Leas noted that she, Comaianni and Crowley recently looked again at the Glendale sites, but that the SCA is only interested if the land of all three can be included.

“I know this is a very important issue for the community, ” she said.

Of the 39 schools in the district, 31 are already over capacity, and at 110 to 150 percent saturation, according to City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

“I will certainly echo what the president and vice president said in regards to overcrowding,” Leas said .

Many residents lined up to ask how seats in the district would be found for kids living at the shelter, and in what ways the influx would effect schools in the district.

District 24 member Arlenis Morel said that “homeless kids do not have priority” over others living in the district, but many residents remained concerned some seats would be taken away.

“The rules dictate … kids have a right to go to their district school,” she said.

Maspeth resident Charlie Vavruska stated his opposition to the shelter and said he wants to see a “moratorium on all homeless shelters.”

“As a resident of District 24 I have been told many times by the Department of Education there is nothing we can do,” he said. “But we fought. Do we want this homeless shelter? No!”

More from Around New York