March 18, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Council Member Robert Holden is calling for the immediate closure of the Glendale homeless shelter amid the spread of the novel coronavirus in New York City.
The 200-bed single men shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. opened last month on Feb. 14 after years of protest from community members — including Holden.
The Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center has dormitories for up to 12 men, which the Council Member says is unsafe for residents and employees as the City attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The living situation inside 78-16 is not at all conducive with the guidelines being set forth by health professionals to stop the spread of Coronavirus,” Holden said.
He said the shelter should be immediately shuttered and the current residents should be moved into individual hotel rooms.
However most shelters in the city have eight to 12 beds per dormitory and there are about 58,000 New Yorkers living in city shelters — including more than 20,000 children. The Department of Homeless Services is working to implement social distancing in its shelters, a spokesperson told The City.
Thus far, there is one confirmed case of a homeless shelter resident with COVID-19 in New York City, according to The City — that case is not at the Glendale shelter.
The woman who tested positive is now hospitalized in isolation and her eight dorm-mates have been transferred to a seperate quarantine location that DHS established in the wake of the pandemic. The dorm and the entire shelter has undergone a comprehensive cleaning, according to the publication.
Holden is adamant that the Glendale shelter be shuttered.
He noted that the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) opened the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center without following the proper requirements of the City Charter.
The City Charter requires that City agencies must register contracts with outside providers with the New York City Comptroller prior to implementation.
DHS didn’t submit its contract with Westhab, a Westchester-based nonprofit that is running the shelter, to the Comptroller’s office before it opened the Glendale shelter — and Holden says its contract has still not been approved by the office.
The Comptroller’s office confirmed that the contract is still pending approval.
“The Comptroller’s office returned the contract to allow DHS additional time to answer our questions,” said Hazel Crampton-Hays, press secretary to the Comptroller.
While returning the contract doesn’t mean Stringer rejected it, Holden said the shelter should still be shut down due to the combination of health concerns and the lack of a registered contract.
“Coupled with the Comptroller electing to not register the contract, it is imperative that this facility be discontinued in order to protect the health and wellbeing of all persons inside,” he said.
He added that the Cooper Avenue building could potentially be used as a triage center for coronavirus treatment if the need arises.
“This public health crisis seems likely to continue for many weeks, and our city needs to be considering all options when it comes to adding hospital beds to our current capacity,” he said. “Closing this facility could simultaneously protect the health of the residents and staff, help future Coronavirus patients as our health system is pushed to the limit, and boost the hotel industry at a time of financial instability.”
DHS didn’t immediately return a request for comment.