Community Board 5 met Wednesday night at Christ the King High School and voted unanimously against the proposed Glendale homeless shelter, but not without some drama.
The meeting’s public comment period was filled with a litany of complaints about how the board handled the volatile hearing on the facility last week.
CB5 voted 34-0 on Oct. 16 for a recommendation that would seek to substitute the city’s proposed plan at 78-16 Cooper Ave. with smaller shelter sites for 20 to 25 residents, citing problems with the size, zoning, traffic, transportation options and sewage system of the proposed site.
At the heart of the board’s objections was fundamental disagreement over Mayor de Blasio’s policy on addressing homelessness. De Blasio has vowed to reduce cluster sites, which house the homeless in privately owned apartments that are subsidized by the city. The board’s recommendation stated that the subsidized apartments are preferable to a 200-person shelter.
“While members of Community Board 5, along with members of our district, are very concerned about the homeless crisis we believe there are other locations in CB5, which are smaller in size and seamlessly would create a shelter residence in need who come from Board 5,” said Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the leader of CB5’s Special Committee on Homeless Issues.
Although the crowd had diminished from the 1,000-person attendance of last week’s hearing, tensions still ran high. The majority of public speakers aired grievances during the hearing and residents — both for and against the shelter — showed up to attack the board’s leadership.
Several residents affiliated with Ridgewood Tenants Union argued that the board caters to the interests of middle-class homeowners and allowed racist and violent remarks at the hearing to go unchallenged. Organizer Raquel Namuche also took issue after CB5’s Chair Vince Arcuri referred to her group as “plantees” who are not from the district.
“You all know that the Ridgewood Tenants Union has existed since 2014. And instead of commending us for trying to be part of the solution, you paint us as outsiders,” said Raquel Namuche.
Mike Papa, an advocate against the shelter, attacked the board on the grounds that they do not represent the community.
“Neither of you gentleman conduct yourselves as public servants who put forth the voice of this community. You instead act as if you are a governing body who instruct the community on how things will be,” said Papa, addressing Arcuri and District Manager Gary Giordano.
A chairperson’s official responsibilities include conducting public hearings, mediating disputes between board members and acting as a liaison between members of the public and city agencies.
In his monthly report, Giordano defended his character by describing his service with the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, which increased its programs in predominantly minority schools under his tenure. Arcuri also denied prejudice by referring to challenges he’s faced as an Italian-American.
“When you say racists, we’ve been subjects of racism. I spent 40 years in the construction industry … I couldn’t get a job in the industry because of my heritage,” said Arcuri.
As the meeting drew to a close after the board’s vote on the shelter, one board member raised the concern that the recommendation makes reference to alternative shelter locations that could substitute for Cooper Avenue, but fails to provide a concrete list of examples.
Arcuri responded that the board’s executive committee and the homeless committee would collaborate to work on a set of alternative locations to send to the Department of Homeless Services in the near future.