A vacant factory at 78-16 Cooper Avenue in Glendale is the potential site of a new homeless shelter. Eagle Photo by David Brand

Glendale Residents Raise Money To Fight Shelter For Poorest New Yorkers

By Dylan Campbell
Queens Daily Eagle

Glendale and Middle Village residents are raising money to block a potential homeless shelter for the city’s poorest residents — even before the city has issued an official proposal.

A group of residents calling themselves the Glendale Middle Village Coalition has raised more than $8,500 through a GoFundMe page in a mission they say is not aimed at opposing homeless people but is designed to denounce Mayor Bill de Blasio’s strategy for housing the homeless.

“People have to understand it’s not about a homeless shelter, it’s about the size of the shelter and the location of the shelter,” said Kathy Masi, a resident who has led the fight. “We’re a community that has done faith-based help always, forever. We raised our children to volunteer in them. So this is totally against what we believe in. Now we believe in helping the homeless. There are ways to do it. Not warehousing 200 men … amidst 3 elementary schools.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 15, 59,507 — including nearly 22,000 children — stayed in a New York City homeless shelter. Community District 5, which includes Glendale and Middle Village, does not have a shelter aside from one commercial hotel that contracts with the Department of Homeless Services.

DHS initially proposed building a shelter in a vacant warehouse in Glendale, but backed off the plan after facing backlash from the community. Last month, City Council Member Robert Holden confirmed rumors that the city is eyeing 78-16 Cooper Avenue — again.

Holden confirmed reports of activity at the building in a July 27 statement.

“After sending numerous inquiries to various Department of Housing officials over a 24-hour period, and speaking with [DHS] Commissioner Steven Banks, these reports have validity, and I am extremely concerned,” he said.

Homelessness in the city has been increasing for years. In 2017, the mayor said he would build 90 shelters across the city over 5 years and phase out the use of hotels for sheltering the city’s homeless as part of his strategy to tackle the crisis. According to DHS, this new borough-based shelter system would save the city $100 million per year by cutting out the hotel costs and giving homeless individuals the chance to stay in their communities and in touch with their networks.

New York City has opened only half of the 20 shelters that de Blasio set as a target for 2017, the New York Times reported. The Glendale shelter, if approved, would move the city closer to fulfilling its goal.

In order to build a new shelter, not-for-profits approach DHS with a proposal that the city then evaluates. If the city approves the shelter, it notifies the community. Thus DHS does not select the locations. They approve them.

“We provide notification to communities when a viable proposal from a not-for-profit service provider has been fully evaluated—and communities will be the first to know as locations are identified for use as shelter,” a DHS spokesperson said. According to the city regulations, they cannot discuss proposals that are still in the procurement process.

DHS said no final determinations have been made regarding a site at 78-16 Cooper Avenue, but Holden’s statement has energized some residents.

Dozens of people have been spreading the word about the potential shelter plan by handing out fliers, sharing on social media and plugging the GoFundMe page to pay for the expenses to fight the shelter including “legal fees for a lawyer” and “buses for trips to protests.”

This is not the first time Queens residents have challenged a shelter proposal.

In 2014, Elmhurst residents protested before the Pan American Hotel was converted for shelter use. Earlier this month an Ozone Park resident began a hunger strike to protest shelter for a 113 mentally ill homeless men. Long Island City residents protested several times after the proposal of a third homeless shelter in the area. And Maspeth residents have also protested the construction of a permanent shelter in their community as well.

There are more than 8,100 homeless New Yorkers from Queens in shelters citywide and approximately 9,900 homeless New Yorkers sheltered in Queens, according to DHS. About 46 percent of the people sheltered in Queens are stuck in commercial hotels, which the mayor has committed to phasing out completely.

Without these hotels, Queens could house just 5,300 homeless people.

According to DHS, there are 287 individuals from Community District 5 in shelters across the city, but the community only shelters 104 people, all in a hotel. When the city phases out the use of hotels, there will be zero shelter capacity in the community.

Masi and others rallying against it say the proposed shelter is not the right place or even the right way to tackle the city’s homelessness problem.

“All they can do is roam the streets, and that’s not helping them,” said Masi. “It’s a dump and run. It’s dump and abandon.”

“The system is broken and throwing up more of these warehouse shelters is not going to fix it,” she said.

Masi said she thinks more faith-based groups should take in homeless people. There would need to be a lot of church basements to provide a place to stay for roughly 60,000 homeless people, including more than 20,000 children.

Several residents say they oppose the idea of placing a shelter near schools and far from subway stations.

“Find another place where there isn’t a school where there isn’t a gymnastic building that works with hundreds of kids a pizzeria where kids hang out after school, I mean,” added resident John Schad.

Other people said the space could be better used for the community.

“Did none of the bigwigs actually canvas the surrounding area to see who and what will be impacted with this inane idea,” said Arlene LoMastro.*  “The city needs to figure out how to fix the problem not enable it. Our community needs a new high school, a new larger police precinct, even services for veterans. But they want to ship 200 homeless men into an area where they will not have access to services.”

“They should be providing them with the assistance to get back on their feet instead,” she continued. “It is disgusting how these organizations work.”

But not everyone agrees that the shelter will doom the community. Some took to social media to call out the irony of raising money to fight a shelter for the city’s poorest people.

“That’s because in nearly every circumstance, communities dig in and fight instead of taking the time and effort to work with the City and homeless families to make it work,” one commenter wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Why not take this $7k that you’ve raise and try switching up your strategy? Has that possibility been explored, or is this purely an anti-homeless person initiative?”

“Raising money to fight *against* poor NYers who have no money to afford housing?! The disgust with which my Queens neighbors oppose helping poor (often black & brown) people & families saddens me (but I see it all the time & can’t say it surprises me),” another woman wrote on Twitter.

Advocates say the shelter would be a positive development for homeless individuals and would not affect the safety of the community.

Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless, said there are several reasons why local shelters are important — though they are no substitute for stable, permanent housing.

Local shelters minimize displacement, keep people in the neighborhoods they know, preserve their connections and accommodate families fleeing crimes like domestic violence who cannot risk staying in their neighborhood, she said.

She said the city has a legal obligation to provide shelter, “but, perhaps more importantly, it has a moral obligation to do so. Without the provision of emergency shelter, there would be far more individuals and families on our streets.”

Routhier says the fear of crime is unwarranted.

“There is no documented negative impact of shelters on a surrounding neighborhood,” she said in an email. “Most opposition is fueled by negative and erroneous stereotypes about who homeless people are. In NYC, the vast majority of people who are homeless are families and most New Yorkers become homeless for the simple fact of not being able to afford the rent.”

*A previous version of this story misidentified the source of this quote.

10 thoughts on “Glendale Residents Raise Money To Fight Shelter For Poorest New Yorkers

  • August 18, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Victoria Merlino , the quote, “did none of the big wigs, etc., was said by myself, not Doreen-Pratt Maloney. Also, a true HOMELESS shelter should not throw their residents out into the streets from morning until evening. If you really want to help the homeless, let them stay inside. Give them chores to do, like cleaning up the place. Teach them to cook, so they can provide the meals. Let them clean the grounds – gardening. Any job to help them feel they have purpose and worth. We’re providing you with shelter, you work in return. The city won’t have to hire cleaning services, (if they do) less food service workers. A garden could provide fresh vegetables and maybe fruit. To give them just a place to lay their heads, is not a home! You can lay your head down anywhere, it doesn’t make it home.

  • August 18, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    What a horrible and biased article, incorrect on so many points. The city tried to use this site, which happens to be highly polluted, 5 years ago. In its environmental impact study, it listed the cemetery as a park to meet one of the criteria. During the day, all residents are forced to leave the shelter, presumably to work or get services. Unfortunately, there is no public transportation near this site, only the Atlas Mall, where they will undoubtedly hang out. Community Board 5 is huge, and most of the homeless are from Ridgewood, which is far, far away on the other side of the area defined by CB5. Our local politicians have offered several alternatives that would be much less expensive, and smaller, and provide needed services. But the city has not explored them. Simple reason. They make HUGE profits working with these nonprofits, many of whom are former city employees and friends. Also check into how crime rises when these large shelters are placed in neighborhoods.

    • August 20, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      I’m the managing editor for the Queens Daily Eagle? What is biased about this story?

  • August 20, 2018 at 9:11 am

    Dylan, your article is a disappointment to many, including myself. It looks much like, if not identical to the one written by Victoria Merlino on the same subject! Isn’t that called plagerism????? Your headline, much like or identical to Victoria’s is insulting! Blame the city for “the poorest of the poor, “ not us! We are protesting the fact that there will be 200 , god knows what kind of men in an area surrounded by several schools, children’s venues, etc. not the fact that they may be poor! I worked for a newspaper for many years before joining the Department of Education, and I know how things work, reporters tend to put their own spin on things, but the truth is the truth. If you’re going to be that kind of reporter, please do t reach out to me again!

    • August 20, 2018 at 12:26 pm

      My name is David Brand and I’m the managing editor at the Queens Daily Eagle. This article was well researched and well sourced. Opponents of the shelter were given significant space to express their opposition. If you have more questions or issues, please email me at david@queenspublicmedia.com

      • August 20, 2018 at 1:05 pm

        Hi David,

        If your writer thinks the community is trying to hurt the poorest New Yorkers you’ve missed the point of anyone you interviewed, that is the main issue I have with this article. I’ve donated to this fundraisers and will continue to donate, but my fight isn’t against the poorest New Yorker’s. It’s against a Mayor that is destroying this city. Allowing the rampant overdevelopment of costly apartments and failures in maintaining the NYCHA buildings continues to add to the homeless numbers. Building so called affordable units that are 2,000+ a month at minimum income levels that the “poorest new yorkers” will never reach. Overdeveloping for the rich and pushing out low income tenants. Billions of funding into these shelters that do not help – please show me proof of how these shelters help those in them. They help the pockets of greedy landlords and so called non profits. Why is it okay to put this shelter into a primarily single family residential neighborhood? Why do those that will have to live with the effects not have the right to fight this. There is no background checks for these facilities, the city offers the community no guarantees for increased security. People everywhere are fighting these shelter plans… it’s not just Glendale, the only fault is that Glendale residents will donate to help the community. “Local shelters minimize displacement, keep people in the neighborhoods they know, preserve their connections” why don’t you research how many of the homeless are actually from Glendale or middle village. I’d bet there isn’t 200. These men are most likely coming from out of state / prison / highly gentrified neighborhoods / mental facilities. It’s just an available space.. it offers nothing to these 200 men – there are no job opportunities or programs the neighborhood has in place for these men. We have a good community, tell me how this shelter will help the community thrive and not bring it down.

        • August 20, 2018 at 2:23 pm

          It sounds like the issue you have is with the headline and not the content of the article. The information on the number of people experiencing homelessness from Community District 5, which includes Glendale and Middle Village, is included in the article:

          “According to DHS, there are 287 individuals from Community District 5 in shelters across the city, but the community only shelters 104 people, all in a hotel. When the city phases out the use of hotels, there will be zero shelter capacity in the community.”

          • August 20, 2018 at 3:05 pm

            Community Board 5 covers a large zone- and most likely these numbers would be coming from the gentrified Ridgewood. Glendale shouldn’t have to adsorb over 2/3 of the total number. I don’t think anyone would be opposed to smaller scaled housing – rather than having to absorb a huge number into any neighborhood. I also doubt the city is going to only the place the 200 residents who used a CB5 address on their forms into this location. You want to stand by your writer, but your writer also wanted to get a reaction by adding the “poorest New Yorker” line to make the community look bad- the headline could have just stopped at shelter. This has nothing to do with rich or poor. This shelter is not going to add any value to the neighborhood. The shelter system needs to offer the communities transparency – at a minimum background checks should be required considering where this location is – near multiple schools and children complexes. The city doesn’t want to work with the communities they want to steamroll over them.

          • August 20, 2018 at 4:48 pm

            Does the GMV Coalition want to write an op-ed for us to run?

          • August 20, 2018 at 3:49 pm

            The first line of the article mentions the “poorest New Yorkers” as well as the headline.

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