Following a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Samaritan Village president Tino Hernandez sent a proposal for a 125-family homeless shelter at the vacant property at 78-16 Cooper Ave.
“As you know, recent years have seen an increase in the number of families requiring transitional housing despite the significant strides that have been made to increase the availability of affordable housing for New Yorkers,” Hernandez wrote in the letter to DHS that was forwarded to Community Board 5 on August 6.
Currently, only 25.6 percent of rentals in the borough go for less than $1,000 per month, according to the letter, a statistic that is 37 percent citywide. The letter also notes that home foreclosures went up in Queens by 24 percent since 2011, as the poverty rate has climbed as well.
It was 12.2 percent in 2006 and reached 15.8 percent in the borough in 2011, according to the proposal.
Samaritan Village currently operates the Woodside Houses, a substance abuse treatment facility in Richmond Hill, as well a treatment facility in Jamaica and the Van Wyck Treatment facility across from Jamaica Hospital.
They also operate transitional housing shelter programs in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan, where they report helping 800 residents find permanent places to live each year.
In response to the letter, Community Board 5 district manager Gary Giordano said the location and possible cost to revitalize the building raises some concern.
“I think it’s a poor choice of a site because of what we know, that the building would need millions of dollars in renovation,” Giordano said.
He added that there are multiple sites nearby that have contamination issues.
“To our knowledge, there are at least two other sites, and three including this one, where there has been a problem with contamination,” he said. “The other issue is that the building has been vacant for 15 years.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has long been in opposition to converting the building into a residential facility after rumors first spread nearly a year ago on the Glendale Civic Association Facebook page.
“The particular site that was chosen would take tens of millions of dollars and months, if not years of renovation before it would be suitable for any type of business, let alone a residential space,” she said. “It’s actually zoned for industry, so it was never meant for residential use.”
The proposal could take several months to go through an approval process, and Crowley said she would fight it.
“When a property owner wants to rent their property to a homeless shelter, independent of any city agencies and reached out to a nonprofit that has services like that, it’s alarming,” Crowley said. “It’s something I didn’t take lightly a year ago, and it’s certainly something I don’t take lightly today.”
Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, first alerted the community to the possibility of a homeless shelter at the site and collected nearly 5,000 signatures in opposition.
“I don’t know if I’m going to rely on those same elected officials that didn’t believe to do anything at this point,” Masi said. “This is going to be millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to clean this up.”
Vincenza Cimino, co-owner of The Tire Place, runs her business across the street from the facility at 69-76 75th Pl.
“I really don’t think it’s a good location,” Cimino said.
She added that she remembers the owner of the vacant lot coming in to buy tires, and said it was never a myth that he was trying to sell his property. Cimino said there are many other options that would benefit the neighborhood.
“We could use more condominiums or co-ops,” she said. “If you can’t afford a house then you’re looking at a rental, and there aren’t any other kinds properties here.”