“We’ve been asked to indicate what we feel about a school there,” said Land Use Committee Chair Walter Sanchez, who noted that District 24 is one of the most overcrowded in the city. “The School Construction Authority has reached out to the owners of the property, who have not really responded. We’ve come up with this resolution.”
The resolution notes that the School Construction Authority has expressed interest in the area before, but found the site unfit for a school due to the low Cooper Avenue overpass and the chemical plant next door.
Now, with the overpass problem resolved, the Land Use Committee of the board believes the city could push eminent domain to take over the contested 78-16 Cooper Ave. shelter, the Independent Chemical Corporation and the building occupied by Hansel & Gretel.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has also recently said she support pursuing a large school campus to help alleviate overcrowding in the district, and says that the willingness of Independent Chemical and Hansel & Gretel to sell their properties presents a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the district.
Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri and members Ted Renz and Jean Tanler voted against the resolution.
Arcuri didn’t give a reason for voting against, but said before the vote, “We were informed by the DOE that they would not look at the 78-16 site because it has a lease,” later adding, “eminent domain takes up to five years. The Samaritan Village contract is for five years. So, we could have a shelter for five years and then have a school.”
Tanler asked if the site wouldn’t be more suited to industrial business.
A central motivator for the resolution, said Sanchez, is that those who drafted it believe the environmental assessment recently completed by an independent contractor to the Department of Homeless Services is “bogus.”
And if the site needs remediation, he said, “Nobody does it better than the SCA.”
Meanwhile a group known as the Glendale Middle Village Coalition announced they have raised over $20,000 in legal fees to “prevent the warehousing of homeless families,” at the proposed site, as stated in a flier handed out at the last board meeting.
The group’s co-founder and president of the Middle Village Chamber of Commerce, Salvatore Crifasi, said the group plans on raising $100,000 through private donations and on their newly formed GoFundMe page.
“Our basic goal is to see what is best suited for that site; number one,” Crifasi said, noting that one focus is to address the community’s, “overcrowded schools.”
Currently the group’s GoFundMe site shows 19 people have raised $1,540 in the past 10 days.