The deafening sounds of whistle blows and chanting broke the Sunday morning silence in Brooklyn as members of the Glendale Middle Village Coalition and residents protested outside of the home of an alleged employee of Liberty One Group, a Brooklyn-based real-estate investment company.
“We are not here to protest the homeless,” Mike Papa, one of the protester’s organizers, told residents on a packed charter bus in Forest Park before the bus headed to Brooklyn. “We are going after greedy real estate developers.”
Last week, Glendale Civic Association President Kathy Masi invited residents via a Facebook post to participate in the Sept. 23 rally against the conversion of a defunct factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave., on the Glendale/Middle Village border, into a homeless shelter for 200 men.
Councilman Robert Holden announced in July that DHS was working on a plan to create a shelter at the former factory months after the agency announced the original homeless shelter plan had been rescinded.
At 9 a.m. on Sept. 23, two charter buses waited for protestors in the Forest Park Bandshell parking lot to white banners with the words “No Homeless Cellters” hung on their fronts. The word “cellters” implied that homeless persons in the shelter would be treated more like prisoners than people, a viewpoint shared by a number of attendees.
Just before the buses left at 10 a.m. toward their destination in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, state Senator Joe Addabbo boarded one of the buses and spoke to the protesters.
“We need the mayor to listen to our credible arguments about our safety and the future of our children,” said Addabbo.
Although not all of the almost 100 Glendale and Middle Village residents that boarded the buses knew all of the details about the proposed homeless shelter or the relationship between One Liberty Group and DHS, all were dissatisfied with the city’s effort to “turn the tide” on homelessness and vehemently opposed to the proposed shelter’s opening and development corruption.
Many protestors felt ignored by city and viewed the proposed shelter an example of how city agencies are only concerned with the bottom line.
“These guys are making millions and millions of dollars on city contracts while helping no one,” said Papa.
As shouts on the Brooklyn block grew louder, neighbors opened doors and peered out windows to watch the line of sign-carrying protestors march in front of the well-manicured lawns of the neighborhood. Cellphone-wielding teenagers filmed as parents and small children watched the spectacle. Old men stood huddled on the sidewalk and laughed.
Protestors shouted and blew whistles at what turned out to be an empty home. The Liberty One employee was nowhere to be found.
“We know that he isn’t here,” said Papa. But that did not matter to the protesters from Queens.
Glendale and Middle Village residents were there to make their point to the families of this community that they were not going to be ignored and, according to Papa, would come back every Sunday if necessary until they were heard.