Civic Makes Case Against Glendale Proposal At JPCA Meeting
Civic leaders, elected officials and local law enforcement talked about the proposed Glendale homeless shelter and crime matters during the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA) town hall meeting last Thursday night, Sept. 18, at Our Lady of Hope School in Middle Village.
JPCA President Robert Holden announced that the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition has raised $20,000 thus far, including a $5,000 donation from the civic group itself. The coalition’s ultimate goal is $100,000, which would go toward legal fees in fighting the proposed shelter for up to 125 homeless families at 78-16 Cooper Ave., a former factory.
“The coalition has one focus,” Holden explained, “we’re filing an Article 78 and hopefully a lawsuit to stop the shelter in its tracks.”
The coalition also aims to force the city to launch an environmental impact study. Unlike the small environmental assessment study already completed, the larger impact study is a huge, detailed report that can take several years to complete. Access to the land in question is needed to complete such a study, it was noted.
One of the goals of the coalition’s lawsuit would be to legally force the city to grant access to the land so that the study can be conducted.
Holden and various guests also made clear that they are not against helping the homeless, but rather against the warehousing homeless families into a corrupt shelter system.
“We’re not against small homeless facilities,” Holden stated. “We already know large projects don’t work, especially in a one- or two-family neighborhood. By warehousing the homeless, they’re not blending into the community like they should. It’s demeaning.”
Dan Austin, president of All Faiths Cemetery, drew upon his own experiences as a detective and homicide investigator in the South Bronx to further this argument.
“When you put 10,000 people in a 30 story building that all have an issue,” he explained, “it becomes a crime-ridden disaster. … As they would demolish these 12 story housing projects in the Bronx and assimilate people into smaller, more manageable homes, the crime rate dropped. You cram 125 families into a shelter, it’s not going to work.”
As president of All Faiths, one area of particular concern for Austin is the issue of the local cemeteries and their new designation as “open space” by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).
“The DHS hired someone to do an environmental assessment study and they counted both cemeteries, All Faiths and St. John’s, as ‘open space,’ meaning people can go in there, picnic, and do whatever they want,” Holden explained.
The new “open space” designation would place cemeteries on par with local parks as places of recreation and congregation.
“You are now going to attract people in there who have no business being in there,” Holden cautioned.
Jerry Matacotta, co-founder of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) civic association, echoed this sentiment.
“Our message is this,” he argued, “we’re not against the homeless people there. We are against the City of New York, the process and the corruption.”
“We’re looking to help the homeless as well,” he continued, “They’re part of a human community. The enemy in this is the corrupt governments that pushed this through to middle class neighborhoods to satisfy their own power and greed.”
Democrats and Republicans alike had harsh words for the city’s decision to put a shelter in Glendale. According to State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, the city “didn’t ask us for our opinion.”
“They basically said ‘you’re getting it,'” Addabbo said. “We were cut out of the equation, all electeds and all people.”
Addabbo’s Republican challenger in the November election, Michael Conigliaro, argued that Mayor Bill de Blasio “is telling us ‘take it or leave it.'”
“That is not the way we do things in this neighborhood, and not the way we should be doing things in Queens,” he said.
Holden also pointed the finger of blame at de Blasio, noting that he “could care less about protests at this point.”
Editor’s note: The DHS granted preliminary approval to the Glendale homeless shelter in the waning days of the Bloomberg administration last December. Even so, the proposal remains active and moving forward toward approval.
The next chance to voice concerns over the shelter and donate to the legal fund is at a coalition meeting planned for Wednesday night, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Christ the King Regional High School, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village. All civic groups will be in attendance, and residents were encouraged to come as well.
Capt. Christopher Manson and Lt. George Hellmer, the respective commanding officer and special operations coordinator for the 104th Precinct, discussed crime rates, as well as crime prevention programs.
Manson presented the crowd with some impressive precinctwide crime statistics. Auto thefts and break-ins were reduced, with about five major arrests in the area in the past month alone. Robberies dropped nearly 40 percent in the past two years, with Manson calling it the precinct’s “most productive” area of improvement.
He credits the implementation of the precinct’s Robbery Conditions Team, spearheaded by Hellmer, with the sharp reduction in robberies. The team consists of a sergeant and several officers working overnight from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.. Their sole focus is robbery and gun apprehension.
Manson declared that the precinct is witnessing “historic lows” in robbery rates, and credited Hellmer’s team as “one of the major reasons we’re down in robberies.”
Other areas of improvement included burglaries, down 22 percent in the past two years, and felony assaults, including domestic abuse situations as well as baroriented incidents.
“The lieutenant and I put together a program in the precinct where we began attacking the bars we knew were over-serving customers,” Manson explained, “These customers weren’t so much the perpetrators of the crimes, but the victims.”
The captain explained that the inebriated patrons were preyed upon by what he described as “wolf packs” of criminals after leaving local bars.
“So we went after bars that were serving after 4 a.m.,” the captain added.
One area of particular concern for the precinct is grand larceny, which has risen due to an increase in cell phone snatchings and phone call scams. Manson cited many examples of phone scams, including one in which someone claiming to be from the IRS calls threatening the victim with arrest and demanding payment in the form of prepaid cards.
“The IRS doesn’t operate that way,” Manson cautioned. “No entity operates that way.”
Residents were urged not to divulge personal information and to report any suspected scam calls to the precinct.
Hellmer addressed the group to discuss the issue of graffiti and vandalism.
“We have a very aggressive graffiti program,” Hellmer explained. “The way we’re doing it now, we’re getting more people off the streets and into jail.”
One of the successful methods used in apprehending vandals is handwriting analysis.
“We don’t often have witnesses to these crimes,” Hellmer added, “but we have a unit in the department that does handwriting analysis. They can actually say that the person who made this tag also made these other tags on this wall and that.”
The program allows police to ID vandals and helps link them to other acts of vandalism. This is especially helpful in terms of evidence for indictments and prosecution.
The next Juniper Park Civic Association meeting is scheduled to take place on Thursday night, Oct. 30, at 7:45 p.m. at Our Lady of Hope School, located at the corner of Eliot Avenue and 71st Street. For more information, visit www.junipercivic.com or call 1- 718-651-5865.