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Photos by Dean Moses
From left Councilman Robert Holden and Mike Papa address the crowd at a rally against the proposed homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue.

The Glendale Middle Village Coalition (GMVC) rallied with opponents of the proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale Friday morning after the group received word that its selected service provider Westhab was having a job fair on the same day.

Shelter critic Mike Papa led the rally, claiming that it would be illegal to turn the building to turn the factory into a transient lodging house, and suggesting to the crowd that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push for the shelter constitutes participation in a racketeering scheme.

“What is being organized here is nothing short of organized crime and Mayor de Blasio is the head of the family,” said Papa. “They have illegally converted this abandoned contaminated former industrial manufacturing site into what they hope will be $62.5 million cash cow via a proposed five-year contract from the Department of Homeless Services.”

The contract’s value was previously reported at $61.8 million. QNS reached out to the Department of Homeless Services for clarification on the amount, and is awaiting a response.

Papa then suggested that Westhab and construction firm Liberty One were holding a job fair  because the contractors know that the “the fix is in.” At one point, several protesters heckled potential applicants as they filed into the facility for the job fair.

DHS has not yet made a final decision on whether to approve the five-year contract for the facility, but a spokesperson did chime in on Friday’s protest, claiming that their goal with the job fair was to hire locally.

“We’re all for debate and dialogue — which is why we participate in public meetings and solicit feedback, including for this site and community — but protesting a job fair for folks in need is a profoundly disappointing new low. We remain focused on empowering, not stigmatizing, those we serve, and will continue to provide shelter and employment services to hard-working New Yorkers experiencing homelessness from Queens to help them get back on their feet.”

Meanwhile, GMVC has filed two legal appeals against the proposal based on its zoning and construction, according to member Kathy Masi, who said that the coalition filed a legal appeal alleging that the city failed to follow proper procedures in doing construction on the building. 

Councilman Holden’s Education Director Charlie Vavruska leads a chant against the shelter.

They also have filed objections with the Department of Buildings, that housing 200 people inside the building would exceed its zoning requirements. The group is still waiting on a denial letter from the DOB after applying last year, and followed up by filing again more recently with a different attorney.

Masi said that she has been encouraged by a recent judge’s ruling on a homeless shelter down in Rockaway Park, which was stopped in its tracks after a state Supreme Court justice issued a temporary restraining order halting all construction work at the facility. 

Torey Schnupp, an opponent of the Rockaway shelter came to the rally to encourage both communities to unite over their fight against the city. 

“All these communities have to stick together fighting the DHS and the mayor and what this city wants to dish on us,” Schnupp said.

Both Councilman Robert Holden and state Senator Joe Addabbo attended the rally in order to assure the angry residents that they would keep up the political pressure on the city. 

In addition to those two electeds, Jenifer Rajkumar — a candidate challenging Assemblyman Mike Miller — showed up to the protest and appealed to the the Glendalers who make up the northern part of Assembly District 38. 

“We need strong leadership that stands up for our community in the face of inappropriate development like this right here,” said Rajkumar addressing the crowd. “It will drive down property values. It’s not good for this community.”

Assemblyman Miller has also previously stated his opposition to the proposal.

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