BY LUIS GRONDA
Residents continued to express their dismay about the potential homeless shelter opening in Glendale on Wednesday night.
Community Education Council 24 hosted a public meeting at PS/IS 128 in Middle Village to discuss the impact of homeless shelters on schools within District 24. D24’s school district includes the proposed shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave in Glendale and the shelter at the Pan Am Hotel in Elmhurst.
With the meeting taking place near the proposed Glendale site, the discussion centered around a back and forth between residents and elected officials on how to stop the proposed shelter before it is built.
Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) said the City should use eminent domain on the site to take it over and build a school there.
She said the City cannot pass up the opportunity to acquire land that can be used to help an overcrowded school district like District 24.
“If you put 500 families into the school district, you are going to have well over 1,000 more kids overburdening a system that’s already overburdened,” she said.
Eminent domain allows the State to take over private property without the owner’s permission. Typically, this is used to seize property for a public facility like a school.
Mary Leas, the Director of External Affairs at the School Construction Authority, said the agency is interested in the site as a school, but only if it can acquire two adjacent properties next to 78-16 Cooper Ave, the Hansel and Gretel deli manufacturer and the Independent Chemical Corporation that surround that vacant building.
Leas said the deli manufacturer allowed the SCA to conduct an initial environmental review of their property while they consider it for purchase, but the chemical company has denied them access so far. She said they were interested in just the abandoned building at first, but now would like to purchase the other two properties, in addition to the 78-16 Cooper Ave site, to build a school.
“Without three pieces of property, or [just] the Hansel and Gretel site, we’re not going to want to build there, we don’t want to build next to an existing property that might be a homeless residence and a chemical company,” Leas said. “We would be hard pressed to convince parents to send their children there.”
Both Independent Chemical and Hansel and Gretel did not immediately return phone calls inquiring about their sites.
Residents lined up to express their continued concern for the proposed shelter to CEC 24 and the elected officials that attended the meeting, Crowley, State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D- Middle Village) and Assembly member Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), listened in from the audience.
“It’s really crowded and it’s hard for us to learn,” said nine-year-old Joseph Trapani, describing the conditions at the school he goes to. Trapani attends PS/IS 87 in Middle Village.
Charles Vavruska, a Maspeth resident, said residents have to come together if they want to stop the shelter from coming to Glendale.
“Our community are the ones that are the most important that can get this done and stop this homeless shelter,” he said.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.