Three new permit requests for 78-16 Cooper Avenue, the site of a proposed transitional housing facility, were filed with the Department of Buildings (DOB) on July 11 moving the proposed shelter one step closer to reality.
The pending permits filed by Cooper Avenue Group, LLC call for major changes to the certificate of occupancy, from a historically industrial facility to residential, with plans for a significant increase in the maximum persons allowable on the site, as well additional requests for plumbing and mechanical work.
Applications in the DOB filings call for a 9,094-square-foot horizontal enlargement of the property and change of use and occupancy.
“These are permits that one would put in if they were hoping to pull permits and do substantial renovations,” said a DOB spokesperson regarding the recent filings.
Meanwhile, much of the opposition to the proposed 125-family homeless shelter still rides on a recent environmental assessment study (EAS) performed by AECOM USA last month.
As members of the community and local leaders continue to refute the legitimacy of the study, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi wrote to the agency this week to request a list of similar EAS analyses by the group in the state, or in any jurisdiction in the last 10 years that resulted “in the cancellation of the proposed projects.”
“The basic power of the legislature to conduct oversight activities is inherent in the law-making power conferred by Article III of the New York State Constitution,” Hevesi wrote to Michael Burke, president and chief executive officer at AECOM USA.
Hevesi continued, “There are also several other constitutional and statutory references that reaffirm this right, which gives the legislature the right to assign new powers and functions to departments in government, and the right to inquire into how those functions are being implemented to determine what functions should be increased, decreased, or otherwise modified.”
Richard Huber, a member of Community Board 5 and a nearby business owner, says he, like many others, remain opposed for a wide range of reasons, including the proximity of a chemical factory, and also question the legitimacy of the study.
“I don’t think you’d buy a house next to a chemical factory,” Huber said.
As the longtime owner of the Superior Interlock Corporation, located just across the street from the site at 73-39 Central Avenue, Huber said he is also worried about the possible impacts of a transitional housing facility with more than 300 residents on the local business community.
“It’s going to affect my property value,” he said. “And we have a reliable staff, but our business will be inundated with people coming in asking for jobs every day.”
In the event that the EAS is in fact an accurate filing, Huber, along with other members of the board and elected officials, have revisited previous plans to convert the property to a school in order to address an overcrowding of the 24th District.
In response to a recent audit of over-utilized schools by Comptroller Scott Stringer, it was found that 46 percent of school buildings in Queens were over capacity, the highest in the city.
“The problem with the shelters is that they’re garnering off the resources of the borough, so we need more resources,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, referencing the importance of utilizing space for school construction.
In District 24 in particular, schools like International High School is 171 percent over capacity, P.S. 28 was reported at 157 percent over capacity and P.S. 28 at 157 percent over capacity.
“What we’re saying is that we want to work with the Department of Education (DOE) to get an appropriate school into that site,” Katz said. “And the condition is that the DOE buys the neighboring site so that it’s not a school and a homeless shelter.