For the past year, Councilman Robert Holden has touted a list of ideas for sites that he believes would be an adequate substitute for a proposed homeless shelter proposal in his district, at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale.
On Thursday, the Department of Homeless Services confirmed to QNS that it has found all of his proposals unviable.
Last week, Holden’s spokesman claimed the councilman provided multiple alternative shelter locations to the agency that went ignored. Asked by QNS on Wednesday for specifics about his where recommendations for the Glendale shelter are located, Holden continued to shroud his list of alternates in secrecy.
“Why would I release that?” he responded.
It turns out that the requirements for proposing an alternative site are elaborate, and none of the ones that Holden suggested had met them.
“As part of this administration’s commitment to open and ongoing engagement, we have worked closely with local elected officials to consider additional specific locations they suggested, none of which were ultimately viable for use as shelter,” said DHS. “As a result, we are moving forward with opening these first-of-their-kind, high-quality facilities in this community as soon as possible.”
The agency clarified that its statement applies to Holden’s proposals for the Glendale shelter, which it considered and deemed unrealistic. The spokesperson added that DHS is still open to working with the community and collaboration with agency partners.
To create a viable alternative for a homeless shelter, DHS requires Council members to nail down information about the building’s current use, property owner’s interest, the service providers and the physical viability of a location. The property owner must also formally offer their site to the city for a potential shelter.
According to DHS, this has not occurred in Glendale nor any other neighborhood in the Queens Community Board 5 area.
Holden has claimed to have a backup site that would substitute for the Cooper Avenue warehouse for the past year. After construction at the warehouse ramped up last summer, Holden stated that he had begun talks with the School Construction Authority about building a school for special needs students there.
After the DHS announced in August they would move forward with a vocational center housing 200 homeless men, Holden said the decision had blindsided him.
“I tried to fight against this shelter the right way, by negotiating with city agencies and coming up with reasonable proposals, only to have the rug pulled out from under me,” Holden told QNS at the time. “I was told countless times that DHS and SCA loved my plan to build a new school on Cooper Ave., and the mayor’s approval was all that was needed.”
Now Board 5 is taking a stab where Holden has failed. The board voted 34-0 on Wednesday Oct. 16 for a recommendation that aims to substitute the city’s proposed plan at 78-16 Cooper Ave. with smaller shelter sites for 20-25 residents.
While the recommendation did not include any concrete alternatives, CB5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said that the board was planning to work on a set of alternative locations to send to the Department of Homeless Services in the near future.
Asked about the DHS response to his recommendations on Thursday, Holden alleged in a statement that DHS was being “deceitful.”
“This goes to show that the mayor and Department of Homeless Services are being deceitful when they say they want to work with communities to find the best locations to house the homeless. While they engaged in discussions with me, they ultimately decided to go forward with the plan they had all along.”