Sept. 20, 2019 By Allie Griffin
An estimated 700 to 800 people filled a town hall meeting on the planned homeless shelter in Glendale last night, as local elected officials and community members discussed how to fight its opening.
A line wrapped around the block with concerned community members piling into the standing-room only auditorium at P.S./I.S. 119 in Glendale to hear from local politicians and vocalize their qualms with the City’s proposed 200-men homeless shelter.
City Council Member Robert Holden organized the meeting and has been an outspoken critic of the proposed 78-16 Cooper Ave. shelter ever since the City put forward the idea.
Holden was joined by State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi, Assembly Member Mike Miller and representatives of the Glendale-Middle Village Coalition.
“We are going to fight and we’re going to fight hard,” Holden said to a cheering crowd. “We will not accept City Hall dictating what our neighborhood should have.”
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) first eyed 78-16 Cooper Ave in 2013, but after opposition, a lawsuit and delays, the city instead opted to house the homeless at a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth.
Last month, the homeless were removed from the hotel and soon after DHS announced it was returning to its original plan of creating a shelter at the Cooper Avenue location.
The shelter will house 200 single men experiencing homelessness who are currently employed or actively seeking employment, according to the DHS. A Westchester-based nonprofit called Westhab will run the shelter and provide on-site employment case managers for residents.
The shelter is proposed to open in the first quarter of 2020, with 20 residents moving in per week until it reaches its capacity of 200 men, Holden said.
At the town hall meeting, Holden, Addabbo and community members denounced Mayor Bill de Blasio for forcing the shelter upon the community, stating that Glendale doesn’t have the infrastructure to support a sudden influx of 200 men.
Community members said they were worried that the men placed in the shelter would be living close to schools such as P.S./I.S. 119 and an incoming daycare center about two doors down. They were concerned about safety and crime.
Holden, citing DHS figures, noted that there are about 250 homeless people in Community Board 5 district, which covers Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and Ridgewood. However, he said, DHS hasn’t provided him with the demographic breakdown of that number, such as how many single homeless men the district has.
Representatives of the Glendale Middle Village Coalition, who led the opposition against the shelter in past years, urged meeting attendees to continue to show up at protests in large numbers — and to reach into their pockets to fight the shelter.
Kathy Masi of the coalition encouraged community members to donate to the group to pay for an attorney to launch a lawsuit against the city’s plan.
She introduced Christopher Murray, who represented the coalition in a lawsuit against the Cooper Avenue shelter in 2014. Masi pointed out that although the coalition ultimately lost the case, it successfully delayed its opening. The case was filed on the grounds that the City’s Environment Review was flawed.
She said that while the shelter may well open, she was hopeful that another lawsuit would at least delay its opening.
“What we’re hoping is [that] we can buy another three years or at least until this mayor is gone,” Masi said.
Addabbo also said a lawsuit would help slow the process down and could potentially stop it.
“I think there are enough legal reasons why we should not have a shelter at that site…and I firmly support and approve a lawsuit to stop this homeless shelter,” he said.
Like Addabbo, Assembly Member Miller said he took issue with the city’s process.
“I don’t like the way the city comes in [and says] ‘we’re going to put it there, you have 30 days, that’s it, it’s done.’ I don’t like the way they operate,” Miller said. “They’re not good to the community.
In 2014, the Glendale Middle Village Coalition raised about $80,000 for legal fees to fight the shelter, according to QNS. This time the group aims to raise $100,000 to fight the city’s plan.
By the end of the last night’s meeting, Mike Papa, a member and past protest leader, was holding a wad of cash from attendees who donated.
Murray told the packed hall that the city takes shortcuts and hasn’t followed the procedures required by state and city laws to build the shelter at the Cooper Avenue location.
“What I can do as a lawyer is to hold the city’s feet to the fire to make sure that they follow the procedures that they’re required to follow,” Murray said, adding he that he believed that they will be able to delay the city’s plan.
Masi urged everyone in the room to attend the next public hearing on the shelter plan on Oct. 7 at Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village and to bring their neighbors.
“We have to be united…and not give them an inch or a reason to doubt we will back down ever.”