By Sarina Trangle
In its haste to ease a homeless shelter into Glendale, the city misclassified some 150 acres of private cemetery as open to the public, overlooked an error in school enrollment calculations and ignored potential burdens on the FDNY, a lawsuit from opponents to the project alleges.
The Glendale/Middle Village Coalition filed a suit last week seeking to overturn the city Department of Homeless Services’ assessment that allowing Samaritan Village to open a 125-family shelter in Glendale would have no significant adverse impact on nearby communities and therefore does not merit a more lengthy review.
The court papers argue DHS “rubber stamped” a study it commissioned and should be compelled to do an environmental impact statement, a more robust inquiry required under state law when a prelimimary enviromental assessment statement known as an EAS suggests a government project may trigger a serious issue.
“Instead of taking a serious look at the impact on the community of inserting 125 families and staff onto a property that currently is occupied by an abandoned factory, the EAS is full of conclusory statements and inaccurate factual discussions, and was clearly designed to avoid the review of a controversial proejct required by [the State Environmental Quality Review Act], including public comments,” the lawsuit said of the related state law.
DHS said it could not comment on pending litigation, but it stood behind its report.
The city hired AECOM, a private engineering company, to examine properties within a 400-foot radius of the planned shelter, at 78-16 Cooper Ave.
AECOM released its report June 12, the same day DHS Assistant Commissioner Todd Hamilton signed off on it.
Soon various civic groups, business organizations and residents formmed the Glendale/Middle Village Coalition to raise money, hire attorney Christopher Murray and fight the shelter.
On Oct. 9, Murray filed an Article 78 proceeding, which allows government agency decisions to be reviewed in court.
In the court papers, the coalition argues AECOM mistakenly determined 500 new neighbors at the shelter would increase demand for the area’s 170.8 acres of open space by less than 5 percent. However, 153 of these acres are graveyards not open to the public, according to the suit.
Similarly, the coalition contends AECOM failed to check its math when calculating that 150 more potential pupils would be sent to the zoned school, PS 87, and increase its population by less than 2 percent, from 607 to 757. The accurate growth rate is 25 percent. State law would require a more in-depth review if school size was slated to grow by more than 5 percent.
The suit alleges AECOM’s work relies on factually unsound assumptions about what the project would mean for the 104th Precinct and FDNY,
“The utter absurdity of the report is reflected in its determination that since the project would be ‘subject to the requirements of the city’s fire and building codes … [it] would not add to the Fire Department’s workload,’” the suit said.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.