Councilman seeks to clear the air on shelter rumors at Maspeth public school

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Rumors of P.S. 9 in Maspeth being converted into a homeless shelter were very premature, according to Councilman Robert Holden, who will be speaking at a town hall meeting regarding this topic on Thursday evening.

Holden said he has been fighting since March to get students at P.S. 9 on 57th Street in Maspeth into a better facility since many of children attending that location deal with disabilities ranging from autism to Down’s syndrome.

But if the school is to become a homeless shelter, it would need to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) approval process with the City Planning Commission. It would also need recommendations from Community Board 5 and the Queens borough president.

“The reason why P.S. 9 might be available is because I have been fighting since March to get a District 75 school out of there,” Holden said. “It was built for all boys in 1905 and it’s very inadequate for the student population. There’s only one bathroom per floor, yet they have both male and female students. They have changing tables, and I have photographs of this, in front of urinals. So I was determined since the springtime to find a locations to build a state-of-the-art school in my district.”

The available space at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale has piqued the interest of the School Construction Authority (SCA). The city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) has revived unpopular plans to build a homeless shelter at the Glendale site, but Holden said he offered help finding an alternative location.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan issued a release on Oct. 11 responding to rumors that a homeless shelter would be places somewhere on the two block corridor that is 57th Street in Maspeth and opposed DHS using the school.

“I don’t want to see a homeless shelter on 57th Street, it’s an absolutely terrible location,” Nolan said on Friday. “The city hasn’t [followed through] on anything they said and we have homeless people in all the hotels in Long Island City on a small rotating basis. How many more are we going to take? I want to work with Councilman Holden, Assemblymen Barnwell and Miller … and I’m hoping we can all work together.”

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection conducted a study of the Cooper Avenue site and found there to be asbestos in the roof and a cleanup order was made for asbestos found on the first floor. But it is still unclear as to whether or not the SCA would be even use the building or construct a new one, Holden said.

“Once DHS said the School Construction Authority wants [the Cooper Avenue site], we have to find a new location for a homeless shelter, and that’s where we are now, trying to find other locations,” Holden said. “Of course, one site that was mentioned, if District 75 moves out of P.S. 9, then P.S. 9 would obviously become available. And that was only one of the sites mentioned in only one discussion as a possible location for a homeless shelter.”

What particularly piqued the SCA’s interest in the Cooper Avenue site, Holden noted, was the amount of land with space to park school buses off the street.

P.S. 9 was built before the surrounding area turned into a more industrial setting, and now 18-wheelers pass by the school while reaching adjacent buildings.

In Maspeth, 57th Street only runs for about a block and a half between Flushing and Grand Avenues and is mostly lined with warehouses, about five row-houses as well as P.S. 9.

Holden has urged DHS to place a homeless shelter away from residential areas and in commercial districts.

The Thursday town hall will be hosted by the Juniper Park Civic Association at Our Lady of Hope starting at 7:30 p.m.