The issue dominated the Community Board 5 hearing held in Middle Village the night before, as dozens of residents flooded Christ the King High School, accusing their local elected officials of not doing enough to block the 125-family, 51,000-square-foot facility.
“This was dropped upon us right now, right after the election,” said nearby business owner and CB5 member Richard Huber, causing uproar from the concerned audience. “This is our Christmas present. Merry Christmas and have a happy and safe New Year.”
While a majority of the fingers at the meeting were pointed at Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, she assured that she has done all she could to find alternative uses for the building at 78-16 Cooper Ave., and that she would continue to fight a homeless shelter.
The next day, Crowley joined other elected officials and residents in a long line to testify in opposition to the shelter at the public hearing in Manhattan.
“Think of how much further we could use $27 million,” Crowley told the panel. “This money could be spent repairing buildings that already have the infrastructure in place, and money would likely still be left over for improvements in current shelters and providing job placement and permanent housing services.”
CB5 district manager Gary Giordano brought a pre-approved letter of disapproval to the hearing, voted on unanimously the night before.
“Where we live, where there are mostly one or two-family homes, this would be the equivalent of adding two or three entire blocks of residents to the community,” Giordano testified. “While our board sympathizes with the need to house the homeless, this proposal is severely out of scale with the surrounding community.”
Giordano said the board also had environmental concerns, as the building is an old factory with a manufacturing history, as well as the possibility of housing sex offenders on site with families.
“The location of the site is completely unsuitable for the proposed residential use because the site is located in an industrial location,” he said.
Giordano added that he felt as though the board was not properly notified of the hearing, suggesting that DHS was pushing through to the second phase of the proposal.
“It was not even directed to us,” he said. “We didn’t find out about this hearing until Monday (Dec. 9) morning.”
“If the board did their job, they would have reviewed the City Record that is public and reviews every procurement for the City of New York,” responded DHS assistant commissioner Lisa Black, noting the decision to accept Samaritan Village proposal was published on Nov. 29.
Following the hearing, DHS will begin budget negotiations and prepare for the environmental impact phase.
“We’ve heard a lot about the environmental issues,” acknowledged Black. “We will look at whether we will be a burden on the infrastructure there, the sewer system, the utilities and if the site needs remediation.”
Black said DHS would send out a contract to bid for environmental analysis of the property.
“We will bring back all of the concerns that were brought to us today, and we will review every single one of them,” she said. “We’re not going to put anybody in harm's way, and we’re not going to house any individual where it is unhealthy and unsafe.”
Black added that while sex offenders are legally allowed to reside in any homeless shelter in the city, she is skeptical that there would be any problems, as this particular family-based shelter only permits applicants with children under 18.
“This is mainly an issue in our single's system,” she said. “I have not had an incident in the last five years, since I’ve been here, where the member of a family was a sex offender and committed a crime.”