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Editorial November 14, 2013  RSS feed


When all things are considered, the plan to create a homeless shelter for up to 125 families on a former industrial site in Glendale is probably the worst idea to come before the community in at least a generation.

There can be no debate that the people of this neighborhood are generous and want to help those who need it, but this proposal helps no one and hurts everyone— including the unfortunate souls who would be housed within the shelter.

Without question, there will be people outside of the community who will look at the tremendous opposition to the shelter and think of it as merely a number of people crying, “Not in my back yard!” Drawing such a conclusion in this instance is foolhardy and ignorant.

This is not merely about a neighborhood not wanting to be inconvenienced; it’s about “location, location, location”—and no matter how you slice it, it’s a bad site for a good intention.

For starters, the former factory where this shelter is planned—78-16 Cooper Ave.—has been industrial from the get-go and vacant for the better part of the last two decades. Lawmakers who have toured the premises have said it is dilapidated, and transforming the building for residential use would cost millions to complete.

Samaritan Village—which submitted the homeless shelter proposal to the Department of Homeless Services—is a nonprofit organization, and it most certainly does not have the millions needed for such a major project. The city and its taxpayers would be asked to foot the bill for it.

We can’t help but believe the city could build a homeless shelter elsewhere from scratch and pay just a fraction of the cost it would take to rebuild 78-16 Cooper Ave.

Then there are questions about the safety of the former industrial site itself. Many have speculated it is likely contaminated with heavy metals and chemicals undoubtedly used at the factory generations ago. Such contamination would need to be remediated before a shelter could be built—and that process would not only take years, but also substantially add to the cost of the project.

The Coalition for the Homeless indicates that there are presently over 60,000 homeless people sleeping on the streets of New York City every night. There is a definite and immediate need for housing for these folks, but they can’t wait years to get off the street—and it would be immoral to place any of them in a shelter built on toxic grounds.

Public transportation is also an issue, as the Department of Homeless Services takes that into account in determining locations for new homeless shelters. The Cooper Avenue site is more than a mile from the nearest subway station and several blocks away from the Q29 bus line on 80th Street. In short, there isn’t much in the way of public transit for potential shelter residents to use.

Factor it all in and the decision should be a no-brainer: 78-16 Cooper Ave. is no place for a large homeless shelter. It’s more trouble than it’s worth, and the residents of this community are loudly urging the city to do away with this plan.

We hope Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio—and whomever he taps to be Homeless Services commissioner—will listen to them.