By Tom Momberg
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration is in discussions with the state’s chief economic development agency over the possibility of using one or more abandoned buildings for a homeless shelter at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens Village.
Cuomo’s office would only confirm that the idea for a shelter on the state-owned campus was discussed among other options.
City Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), who represents the neighborhoods surrounding Creedmoor, said he spoke to the governor after the idea was leaked and was assured it would not happen.
The governor and the Empire State Development Corporation are interested in the site and are committed to working with the community on its future. Grodenchik said he was told further discussions will happen with the borough president and the state agency about what to do with some of the vacant space at Creedmoor.
“We understand the longstanding significance of the Creedmoor site to the surrounding community and we will guarantee full input and robust dialogue with the public relating to any future decisions regarding the site,” Cuomo and Borough President Melinda Katz said in a joint statement. Tuesday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office and state Sen. Leroy Comrie’s (D-Hollis) office have said they would be open to the establishment of a homeless shelter at Creedmoor.
“Given the dimensions of the problem that has built up over many years, any additional state resources are welcome and we look forward to hearing more about the plan, which will hopefully help address the needs of the New Yorkers on the streets for both short-term safe havens and long-term supportive housing and services,” Karen Hinton, de Blasio’s press secretary, said in a statement.
Comrie said the campus already has some resources to help increase homeless families’ chances of being successful and that he would look forward to learning more about the plan.
The city used a building at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, 79-25 Winchester Blvd., as a men’s shelter in the mid-80s, but it was shut down due to neighborhood concerns at a very violent time in the city’s history.
The City Council unanimously approved the construction of elementary, middle and high schools on the Creedmoor campus in 2000. The city ultimately took part of the Creedmoor campus within the boundaries of Glen Oaks and developed it into a public school campus in 2004, including the Queens High School of Teaching.
Several other parts of the campus were sold off in 2006, but of the roughly 25 buildings that are still a part of the hospital’s grounds, several remain vacant. Most proposed new developments since then have faced heavy resistance from the surrounding neighborhoods.
A Native American civic group proposed putting senior housing and a cultural center on the campus in 2011. That proposal met with strong community opposition and never went through.
The main building at the Creedmoor campus is still home to at least 300 psychiatric hospital beds.
Proponents of the governor’s idea to turn empty buildings on the campus into housing for the homeless like the fact that the site already has high fences, security and is relatively isolated from the surrounding neighborhoods.
But local civic groups were calling for tighter security at the hospital after a convicted murderer who was transferred to Creedmoor after serving a 15-year prison sentence escaped in 2014.
“I have been here for several years, and I was shocked to learn that this was even being considered,” Community Board 13 Chairman Bryan Block said. “We sympathize with the city’s needs and that we are all one city, but we don’t even know the mental condition of the people who the city is considering housing there.”
Block said the state police patrolling the campus currently cannot control the patients who are treated there—noting a few escapes in recent history.
Of the 22 shelters located in the borough, over half of them are within the boundaries of Community Boards 12 and 13. Block said the area is already oversaturated with shelters.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb