City Council Speaker Corey Johnson joined Council Member Robert Holden to check out the proposed shelter site on Cooper Ave. in Glendale. Photo courtesy of Robert Holden.

Holden Hunkers Down For Round Two of Shelter Fight

By Victoria Merlino
Queens Daily Eagle

A proposed shelter site in Glendale gives literal meaning to the term “warehousing” the homeless and, for the second time in five years, Council Member Robert Holden is gearing up to fight it.

The Department of Homeless Services has proposed converting a vacant factory and warehouse at 78-16 Cooper Avenue into a shelter for homeless men. On Friday, Holden invited City Council Speaker Corey Johnson to visit the site and voice his opposition.

“Upon learning of a proposal for a men’s shelter in Glendale, I immediately requested a meeting with the Mayor and his administration to express once again my steadfast disapproval of this location, and that it would in no way be an option,” Holden said.

Johnson also accompanied Holden to a Friday meeting with DHS Commissioner Steven Banks, Deputy Commissioner Annabel Palma.

“I cannot emphasize enough how absurd it is to place a shelter at this location,” he said, adding that “it is a nonstarter and I stand ready to fight with the community against it.”

DHS first considered the site for shelter use in 2013, but the proposal was ultimately blocked by residents, led by Holden, the then-president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Holden also organized nightly protests for four months against the conversion of a Maspeth hotel into a shelter in 2016. That anti-shelter activism galvanized his campaign for City Council and propelled him to slim victory over incumbent Elizabeth Crowley last year.

As of late-July, there were 135 households comprised of 287 individuals from Community District 5 in shelters citywide, but only 104 people are staying in shelters within CD5. All temporarily reside in a shelter hotel, DHS told the Eagle last month.

Overall, more than 8,100 people from Queens reside in homeless shelters. Nearly half of the people sheltered in Queens are living in commercial hotels due to the lack of capacity in city’s sprawling shelter system.

That is the highest proportion of homeless residents staying in hotels among the five boroughs.

The Mayor’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan calls for ending the use of hotels and cluster site apartments and assigning homeless New Yorkers to sites located near their home zipcodes.

“Homeless New Yorkers come from every community across the five boroughs, which is why we all must do our part to help our neighbors in need get back on their feet,” DHS spokesperson Isaac McGinn told the Queens Daily Eagle last month. “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.”

McGinn said that with half of homeless people in Queens currently being sheltered in commercial hotels, the city “must identify high-quality, borough-based replacement capacity in Queens in order to finally phase out the use of commercial hotel locations once and for all.”

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