Nov. 14, 2019 By Allie Griffin
A group of residents and area civic associations filed a lawsuit against the City of New York and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday.
The plaintiffs argue that the City approved the site of 78-16 Cooper Ave. for the shelter before conducting the legally-required reviews.
The suit states that the Mayor’s process of selecting shelter sites is flawed. The plaintiffs argue that the City chooses sites based on what private developers can offer and fails to take into consideration the impacts a homeless shelter will have on the surrounding community.
The plaintiffs argue that the Cooper Avenue shelter was selected in this way. They argue that the city greenlighted a developer’s proposal to open the shelter before reviewing if the site was appropriate for the area as required by law, the residents allege.
The City, according to the lawsuit, has yet to perform an environmental review required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and has failed to evaluate the site under the New York City Fair Share Rules, a set of policies that aim to ensure fair distribution of potentially burdensome city facilities throughout the five boroughs.
The City is performing these reviews after it’s already chosen the site, the lawsuit alleges.
“Instead, it is only after a site has been approved that the required reviews are done, delegating the reviews to an afterthought and defeating the entire purpose of the relevant statutes,” the lawsuit reads.
The residents argue that the City should have performed the required reviews before sending out a 30-day notice that a shelter will open on Cooper Avenue. The shelter is scheduled to open early 2020.
Accordingly, they said the notice should be vacated and that the development of a homeless shelter at the location should be stalled until the reviews are complete.
“This failure to undertake the required reviews prior to deciding to locate a shelter at the [78-16 Cooper Ave.] has resulted in the ill-advised decision to place a homeless shelter at this location even though it is near schools, lacks emergency services, and the area is underserved open space, healthcare facilities, public transportation and police services,” the suit states.
Without conducting the reviews ahead of time, the City failed to consider impacts the incoming of 200 shelter residents would have on Glendale.
The influx is likely to strain the area’s sewers, water supply, police force, FDNY and other public resources, the residents say. It will change the character of the neighborhood and will worsen the already excessive traffic in the area, the suit alleges.
The City said that it is in the process of completing the environmental review and is acting in accordance to the law.
“The city is taking all the required steps for this project, including conducting an environmental review,” a New York City Law Department spokesperson said. “This initiative is an important component of Turning the Tide and we’ll defend it accordingly.”