Civic Mulls Shelter Vs. School At Site
Local residents and elected officials gathered at St. Pancras Pfeifer Hall last Thursday, Sept. 4, for the first Glendale Property Owners Association (GPOA) meeting since the summer recess, focusing much of their attention on the proposed homeless shelter and the fight to instead build a school at the location.
“This homeless shelter is the most important issue facing Glendale,” declared State Sen. Joseph Addabbo as he addressed the group, echoing their concerns. “I will continue to fight the site,” he vowed, “as well as the size of the site.”
Other local leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to battle construction of Samaritan Village, the 125-unit homeless shelter slated for 78-16 Cooper Ave. in the heart of Glendale. Assemblyman Mike Miller promised his constituents that he “didn’t give up” and is “still fighting.”
State Senatorial candidate and Addabbo opponent Michael Conigliaro also promised to “fight and get things done.” If elected in November, Conigliaro vowed to sit down with the mayor and try to find viable options to the shelter, adding that he would not allow the city to “dump on our neighborhood and our district.”
Katherine Mooney, deputy chief of staff for City Ciouncil member Elizabeth Crowley, said that the lawmaker “hopes for a school on the site” and conveyed her office’s desire to work with the DOE regarding the growing need for schools here.
Time is of the essence
However, as Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano warned, “the clock is ticking.”
“The Department of Homeless Services is facing a near emergency situation to house people,” he explained. While homeless rates have dropped nationwide, Giordano was quick to point out that the homeless population of New York City “has risen dramatically.”
According to Addabbo, City Comptroller Scott Stringer voiced his concerns about the spike in the city’s homeless rates to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) commissioner, Gilbert Taylor. Addabbo charged that the Comptroller’s audit of Samaritan Village was “basically ignored” by DHS. Instead, government funds were outsourced to Samaritan Village in the hopes of dealing with the homeless issue.
“It’s just not a cost efficient way,” Addabbo added.
Giordano agreed, citing the now-defunct Advantage Program, cut three years ago, which would have subsidized rents at a lower cost to taxpayers while allowing those in danger of becoming homeless to remain in their apartments.
Glendale resident Dawn Scala echoed these sentiments. “Why pay $4,000 per month in rent to house a family in a shelter,” she questioned, “and not $700 per month so they can keep their apartments?”
Mapping out concerns
Familiar concerns regarding the shelter’s impact on local resources and quality of life were also raised at the meeting.
“Taxpayer resources are stretched to the limit,” Addabbo explained, citing the community’s need for more police officers and modes of transportation, including city buses, should the shelter plan go through.
According to Giordano, the 104th Precinct has already experienced a decrease in the number of officers by one-third in the past decade.
“In 2003, there were 203 officers stationed at the precinct,” he explained, “There are only 150 now.”
Giordano is requesting an additional 20 officers for the 104 as part of the upcoming Board 5 budget proposal.
“Glendale is increasingly on the radar,” he added. “We need to get our share of the resources.” Many voiced concerns regarding overcrowding in local schools, as well as the possible influx of drugs and crime into the community as a result of the shelter.
“You don’t resolve one issue and create bigger issues elsewhere,” Addabbo explained. “We’ll just have to put out additional fires.”
To further illustrate the impact the shelter would have on the local community, a map of Glendale was given out detailing the 4, 8 and 12 block zones that would be affected the most. Residents and those seeking shelter at Samaritan Village would be free to roam surrounding streets.
As Scala observed, many schools, private homes and businesses would be in “walkable distance” from the shelter.
GPOA President Brian Dooley explained that they “would like to mobilize local business owners, residents and the Myrtle Avenue BID around this issue.”
According to the map, the homes and businesses in closest radius to the shelter would bear the greater impact, both in the form of increased foot traffic and activity, as well as possible decreases in property values.
Uniting to stop the plan
Giordano and Dooley announced the formation of the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition in an effort to fight the creation of the Samaritan Village shelter. (Editor’s note: See Page 1 for further details).
“A coalition has been formed,” Giordano declared, “and is now raising money for advocacy for our communities.”
This new coalition has been created in partnership with the Juniper Park Civic Association, and will encompass the communities of Glendale and Middle Village.
“We are currently in the fundraising phase,” Dooley explained, adding “it’s time to put our money where our mouth is.”
While no definitive plans have been announced yet, it is possible that funds raised by the coalition may go toward hiring an advocate or attorney. Dooley urged all residents to spread the word about the coalition and to donate if they can.
“We still have a window of opportunity to fight,” urged Addabbo.
The next Glendale Property Owners Association meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday night, Oct. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Pancras Pfeifer Hall, located at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and 68th Street.