Photo by Ryan Kelley/QNS
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (standing) speaks at a Community Board 5 meeting in Middle Village on Sept. 12 alongside board members John Maier, District Manager Gary Giordano and Chairman Vincent Arcuri (from left to right).

In the first Community Board 5 meeting since the summer recess — during which a possible plan for a homeless shelter in Glendale resurfaced — local elected officials and members of the community finally got the chance to address the topic.

While Councilman Robert Holden and Senator Joseph Addabbo both continued to vocalize their opposition to the shelter, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi also made the trip to Christ the King High School in Middle Village for the Sept. 12 meeting.

Holden, who was the first speaker of the evening, began by offering a glimmer of hope to local residents who fear that the shelter will be a danger to the area.

According to the councilman, there is a possibility that the potential shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. could instead become a new school after speaking with Lorraine Grillo, president of the School Construction Authority (SCA) and commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction (DDC). Grillo visited the site this week and gave a positive report to Holden, he said.

“They love the site. It would make a great location for a school,” Holden said. “What kind of school? I don’t care. Whatever they want to put is fine with me.”

Holden explained that the SCA would have the option of turning the defunct factory at the site into a school or demolishing that building to construct an entirely new school, which the councilman said he would prefer. School buses would have plenty of space to park onsite, Holden added, and an independent chemical company that used to be next to the property is no longer there.

Later in the meeting, Hevesi gave an impassioned speech about his history with this specific site. When the shelter first came to light in 2013, Hevesi said that he joined local residents when they protested at the site and was vocal in his opposition to the shelter. But he then explained why he “will never be on a protest line again.”

Since becoming the chair of the Social Services Committee in the years following the 2013 protests, Hevesi said that he has visited numerous shelters and witnessed the conditions and practices that keep homeless individuals stuck within the system.

First and foremost, he concluded that homeless shelters are in the money-making business.

“Not-for-profits, for-profits, they are a business, and business is good,” Hevesi said, earning a round of applause. “They don’t worry about the services they provide because they get a contract. Once you get a contract it’s a long-term deal; it’s the only way these contracts work.”

That brought Hevesi to the factors that contribute to making people homeless. Skyrocketing rent prices and domestic violence are among the reasons, the assemblyman said, but the biggest problem is the “people who are invested in the system who keep the system going.”

While most residents immediately point the finger at Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Turning the Tide plan, Hevesi said the real culprit resides in the state’s highest office.

“Governor Cuomo refuses to give people a rent supplement to keep them in their homes,” Hevesi said. “The governor and I have been going at it for years. He hates me, I hate him, and I enjoy his hatred. He deserves it.”

Hevesi explained that the Cuomo family runs Help USA, a nonprofit shelter provider, and he said that their shelters on Ward’s Island and Randall’s Island are “abominable.” The assemblyman also alleged that some of Cuomo’s donors are shelter owners.

A statewide rental subsidy program pushed by Hevesi was shot down by Cuomo two years in a row before finally earning a small pilot program in the state budget this year. Instead of joining in a protest, Hevesi said he is “going to solve the damn problem so we don’t need the shelter in the first place.”

Addabbo, on the other hand, arrived at the meeting after first speaking at a protest against a shelter currently being built in Ozone Park. The senator reiterated his recent comments about the dangers of shelters within residential areas with local schools back in session, and he also commended Glendale and Middle Village residents for showing up in Ozone Park and showing solidarity with another community.

Despite the potential good news delivered by Holden, the Glendale Civic Association stands ready to resort to “plan B” with a rally of its own on Sept. 23, said president and board member Kathy Masi.

“We’re all hopeful. We’re all supportive of it, but I don’t want to give anyone the idea that the school is a done deal,” Masi said. “We still need to be vigilant regarding this site, and we just can’t let it go.”

Nevertheless, only one community member signed up to speak about the shelter during the meeting, and she suggested that the shelter site be turned into a full-service animal shelter.


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