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Photo by Michael Shain
A building contested between the city Dept. of Homeless Services and activists is more likely to become a school than a homeless shelter, according to City Councilman Robert Holden.
By Mark Hallum

A location eyed by the city Department of Homeless Services in Glendale is more likely to become a school than a shelter, according to City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village).

Holden claims to have negotiated with the city agency to assist in finding more suitable locations to house the homeless population in his district. He is in talks with the School Construction Authority to possibly use the building at 78-16 Cooper Ave. to accommodate students.

This became an option after DHS Commissioner Steve Banks informed Holden they had conducted an environmental study that proved the property was not contaminated, debunking previous claims, according to Holden.

“We as residents, we might have a lot of volunteers… This could be a model for many communities around the city,” Holden said. “Most of the homeless that regenerate in this community board are domestic violence victims or they got pushed out because of rent… I doubt that we have 200 [homeless] men that regenerate from this area. So it’s looking good that 78-16 Cooper Ave. will be a school.”

Although the roofing materials did not appear to have been disturbed, the city Department of Environmental Protection cautioned that after an antenna was installed, there could be an asbestos hazard which should be inspected.

“Samples taken of disturbed pipe insulation from inside the building, on the first floor, tested positive for asbestos and a clean-up was ordered. The roof also has a Stop Work Order pending the owner bring in a Certified Asbestos Investigator to do an assessment,” a DEP spokesman said.

DHS did respond to repeated requests for comment regarding this development in the story.

Holden slammed the city’s very preliminary proposal to install a shelter at the site back in August by claiming DHS had backed down on considering 78-16 Cooper Ave. as a home for all men.

But DHS argued in August they had never claimed the plan for a shelter “was off the table,” as Holden claimed, and that they “currently have no proposal for this site.”

The background provided by DHS further stated that “We provide notification to communities when a viable proposal from a not-for-profit service provider has been fully evaluated—and communities will be the first to know as locations are identified for use as shelter.”

Holden criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Turning the Tide on Homelessness initiative in August, which aims to address the more than 60,000 people with no place to live in the city by placing a shelter in every community board district. He also said the public engagement period on proposed shelters lack transparency.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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