Glendale homeless shelter site should be used for industry, community board chair tells Mayor de Blasio

A water main leak occurred at this factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale , the site of a controversial homeless shelter proposal.
File photo/QNS

It was once a hub of industry, and it can be again.

That was the message Community Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio last week regarding the site of a proposed homeless shelter in Glendale.

In the April 1 letter to the mayor that QNS obtained, Arcuri said the property at 78-16 Cooper Ave., a long-dormant factory, provides 50,000 square feet of manufacturing and industrial space that could be easily transformed into a business incubator.

The city’s Department of Homeless Services previously approved a contract with the nonprofit Samaritan Village to build the shelter on the former industrial site. After previous rejections of building plans, the Department of Buildings recently approved plans by the owners to have the site renovated as a “transient hotel” with up to 85 units.

“This existing, approximately 50,000-square-foot building that once housed aircraft manufacturers, cabinet makers and knitting mills could, with relatively little investment, become a major incubator site,” Arcuri wrote to de Blasio. “Instead, this building is being pushed off the rolls of industrial sites by what appears to be a clear example of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.”

Arcuri also noted that plans to use the transient hotel as a homeless family residence runs “contrary to the usage permitted” under existing zoning regulations. He called on de Blasio to therefore “rescind the approval” of the building permits and direct the city’s Economic Development Corporation “to immediately commence negotiation” with the property owners to reuse the site for industrial purposes.

“Here’s an almost perfect site and they want to take it off the rolls,” Arcuri told QNS in an interview. “It doesn’t make sense.”

In his letter, Arcuri applauded the mayor’s “commitment to the development and redevelopment” of the city’s industrial properties, including the Maspeth and South of Myrtle Avenue (Ridgewood) Industrial Business Zones. He suggested preserving the Glendale site would fit in with the city’s objective of protecting and boosting industrial development across the five boroughs.

Residents in Glendale and Middle Village have opposed the shelter plan since it was first made public in the summer of 2013. Business owners and community activists formed the Glendale Middle Village Coalition, an organization formed to file legal action in the hope of blocking the proposal.

The coalition filed a lawsuit in July 2014 protesting the findings of an environmental report that deemed the former factory safe for re-use. After being initially rejected by a judge, the coalition is now appealing the case, according to Robert Holden, Juniper Park Civic Association president and coalition member.

The building plans are currently on hold, Holden noted, due to the pending litigation.

QNS reached out to the Mayor’s Office for comment and is awaiting a response.