After years of community concerns and protests, in January, the Department of Homeless Services withdrew its plans for a proposed homeless shelter in Glendale. More than six months later, however, there are rumblings that the plan might be back from the dead.
On Thursday afternoon, Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, posted on the organization’s Facebook page that, “It’s been confirmed. Men’s homeless shelter at the Cooper Avenue location, details to follow.” The comment resulted in more than 100 comments in just under an hour after it was posted, many of which expressed concern and outrage over the plan.
Masi told QNS in a phone interview that Glendale residents became concerned after seeing an increase in construction activity at the former factory, located at 78-16 Cooper Ave. A green electric fence had been erected along the front of the site by Cooper Avenue, and temporary lights have been installed on the interior for construction work.
According to Masi, she posted about the shelter on July 26 after receiving information from a staff member for City Councilman Robert Holden, who had received details from two other staff members who made a site visit. Construction workers at the site had apparently told those staffers that a men’s homeless shelter was coming to the Cooper Avenue location.
Masi further claimed that she received similar information from “a very reliable source,” not affiliated with Holden, who had informed her and others in the community about the Glendale homeless shelter plan just before it became public back in August 2013. Additionally, she had also heard that the workers on the site were from the same construction company renovating a controversial proposed homeless shelter site in Ozone Park.
When contacted by QNS, however, Holden’s office indicated they could not confirm whether the Glendale shelter plan was back on the table — but that they were very concerned and working to find out the truth.
“There’s nothing confirmed about the homeless shelter,” a spokesperson for Holden’s office told QNS on July 26. The councilman and his staff are contacting a litany of city officials, including Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks, seeking to prove whether there is another shelter plan in place, or whether it’s all hearsay.
So far, according to Holden’s spokesperson, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has not responded to their inquiries — something which only fuels the speculation and suspicion.
While he was president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, Holden opposed the Glendale shelter plan after it surfaced, and helped to form a coalition of civic groups in Glendale and Middle Village to fight the proposal through litigation and other means.
At the time, residents contested the proposed size of the shelter for up to 130 families as well as its close proximity to industrial sites, including a chemical storage facility. There were appeals to have the former factory repurposed for light manufacturing purposes, or perhaps turned into a new public school campus.
There were numerous setbacks to the shelter proposal, including the Department of Buildings repeatedly rejecting renovations plans for the site. The owners submitted plans to convert the factory into a “transient hotel,” but those were eventually withdrawn in favor of new plans to convert the site into office space, according to Department of Buildings records.
Then, in January, both the DHS and Samaritan Village — which had been interested in operating the Glendale shelter — both announced that they were no longer interested in opening the facility.
The current office conversion plan seems to remain in place, according to Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano.
“I don’t really know anything more than it’s supposed to be offices,” Giordano said. “I have no confirmation of this” shelter rumor.
QNS reached out to the DHS for comment and is awaiting a response. We will update this story as soon as we receive anything from them.
Meanwhile, when asked to speculate why the DHS would possibly change its mind less than seven months after announcing it no longer had any interest in the Glendale shelter, Masi indicated that the agency’s past practice of opening homeless shelters with little to no advanced public notice left plenty of room for doubt.
“I could never give you an answer as to their rationale, but don’t forget that they come to you and they ask you for sites,” Masi said. “You give them sites, and they never get back to you. They take a site and they shove it down your throat as a community. They don’t communicate with you.”
After our story was published Thursday afternoon, Masi edited her original Facebook post about the shelter rumor: “CLARIFICATION Homeless Shelter at the Cooper Avenue location is back on the map – details to follow. Working with Councilman Holden to get more details. We are all working together.”
This story was updated on July 26 at 5:30 p.m.