It has been nearly one year since a plan surfaced to house homeless families at 78-16 Cooper Avenue in Glendale, and now following relentless resistance from the community and local elected officials, the community intends to sue the city over the controversial initiative.
A Community Board 5 (CB5) special committee, convened to review the proposal to convert a former manufacturing site into a homeless shelter, met at the board headquarters on Myrtle Avenue last week to discuss plans to find a lawyer.
“Most of the nature of the meeting was to review correspondence we recently sent out and received - correspondence from DHS back to us - and then to talk about the potential for legal action,” said CB5 district manager Gary Giordano.
Giordano said while plans are tentative on whether a lawsuit is the right approach to refute a recently released Environmental Assessment Study (EAS) of the property, paperwork the board says is riddled with flaws, he did affirm the community and the board’s plan to fight it until operator Samaritan Village opens the doors.
“We’re certainly working with the president of several civic organizations to find an attorney, whether that be pro bono or for a fee for their services, to take legal action if the city of New York continues to pursue this,” he said. “And I have no reason to think they won’t continue to pursue what I consider the worst plan I have seen in the Board 5 area in the 25 years that I’ve been district manager.”
City Comptroller Scott Stringer recently sent a letter of concern to Department of Homeless Services (DHS) commissioner Gilbert Taylor regarding an audit of the department’s current policy on shelters based on the city’s current “significant homelessness crisis.”
Stringer argued that while a recent report from HUD secretary Shaun Donovan suggests homelessness has seen a 9 percent decline nationwide since 2007, a flaw in the city’s plan to address the issue has resulted in a 51 percent “surge” in the same time period.
“The current playbook for dealing with the homelessness in the five boroughs is failing,” Stringer wrote in the letter.
Stringer added his particular concern with the lack of community outreach from DHS and its partners surrounding shelter proposals like the one in Glendale.
“Time and time again, I have seen communities that were traditionally welcoming of shelter facilities and supportive housing react negatively to a rushed DHS placement due to a failure to consider either legitimate potential neighborhood impacts or the health of the families the residences are intended to support,” he wrote.
Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi has joined nearly every local elected official in opposition to the shelter on Cooper Avenue, as well as the current policies that are the driving force behind new facilities from DHS that result in little to no community outreach.
The assemblyman added that he too is in full support of bringing legal action, adding that he plans to “assist the community in their efforts to retain counsel."
A DHS spokesperson responded to negative feedback regarding the study and ongoing efforts by the city to address the homeless crisis, explaining that they plan to continue to address the issue and push for “quality housing.”
“The administration is unconditionally committed to honoring its mandate to provide quality shelter to homeless New Yorkers in need,” the spokesperson said. “Many of them are hard-working parents with children unable to make ends meet in an increasingly unequal economy.”
Meanwhile, Samaritan Village has failed to comment after nearly one month of requests for statement from this media outlet. Likewise, every member of the Samaritan Village Board of Directors has also refused or been unavailable for comment.