Tag Archives: Samaritan Village

Pan Am homeless shelter violates laws, says opponent


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

One Elmhurst grassroots organization is claiming the conditions at the proposed permanent homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel are breaking the law.

Elmhurst United, a grassroots organization that has been voicing its opposition to the homeless shelter at 7900 Queens Blvd. since day one, released a statement arguing that conditions at the homeless shelter violate city laws. The statement was released after a Queens Courier report that the city is seeking approval for a $42 million contract to operate the site as a permanent shelter.

The Department of Homeless Services did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The group claims the shelter violates the NYC Administrative Code, which states, “No homeless family shelter shall be established which does not provide a bathroom, a refrigerator and cooking facilities and an adequate sleeping area within each unit within the shelter and which otherwise complies with state and local laws.”

According to the organization, the site does not have kitchens in every unit, which was why initially DHS did not consider the site to be a “permanent family shelter.”

Other conditions include “inadequate sleeping quarters” with four to five people living in a single room with bunk beds pushed up against windows, according to Elmhurst United.

“These units simply cannot be converted to be used for permanent housing with minimal structural change,” said Jennifer Chu, spokeswoman for Elmhurst United. “The Pan Am would require major renovation in order for it to lawfully meet NYC standards for Tier II homeless shelters. The Samaritan Village draft contract shows that there is no money in the line item budget to do renovations for the next 4.5 years.”

DHS is proposing a five-year, $42 million contract with Samaritan Village Inc. for the shelter at the Pan Am Hotel, The Courier previously reported.

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Backpacks donated to children of Pan American Hotel homeless shelter


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilman Daniel Dromm’s office

School-aged children living at the Boulevard Family Center in the former Pan American Hotel are all set for their first day of school.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, Queens Center and the Department of Homeless Services came together on Aug. 19 to distribute 200 backpacks, notebooks and water bottles to the children living at the homeless shelter located at 7900 Queens Blvd.

“The homeless children that moved into the former Pan Am Hotel in June are some of our newest neighbors and they need our support,” said Dromm, who believes it is appropriate to donate these backpacks to his “newest constituents.” “As a former teacher of 25 years, I know firsthand how important it is for students to come to school prepared to learn. These backpacks will help the children start the school year right.”

DHS and nonprofit Samaritan Village turned the Pan American Hotel into a homeless shelter for families in June. Since then the surrounding community has protested and rallied against the move, which happened without residents and elected officials being given prior notice.

Community members have voiced their concerns over community safety, increased in property taxes and crime, and overcrowding of nearby schools.

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Families at Pan American homeless shelter reportedly bused to movies during third protest


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

Residents of the controversial Pan American Hotel homeless shelter were kept away from protestors during another rally against the opening of the site, according to a published report.

About 550 residents gathered Tuesday to hold another protest in front of the hotel located on Queens Boulevard and prior to the rally, the Department of Homeless Services arranged to have 230 children and adults from the shelter bused to the movies, DNAinfo reported.

The residents were taken to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2” paid for by the agency at a theater in Jamaica in order to remove the children from any hatred that “potentially could be exhibited” during the July 22 rally, according to DNAinfo.

Last night’s rally is the third held by residents opposing the shelter which currently houses more than 180 families. The community has said that the hotel was turned into the shelter, by nonprofit Samaritan Village, without residents and elected officials being given prior notice.

The last protest, which coincided with Community Board 4’s meeting with the DHS and residents, was filled with hundreds of protestors shouting criticisms back and forth with shelter residents.

Two weeks ago, just a neighborhood away, DHS approved the conversion of the 121-room Westway Motor Inn in East Elmhurst into a permanent homeless shelter as well.

Community members and elected officials in that area also say they were not told or asked about the decision.

The hotel previously was used as an emergency overnight site for homeless families, but two years ago the DHS has said it would not turn the motel into a permanent homeless shelter.

An emergency town hall meeting and public protest against the East Elmhurst homeless shelter is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

 

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Elmhurst residents confront homeless families over controversial hotel shelter


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirao

A face-to-face confrontation erupted between homeless families and protestors Monday night over a controversial shelter at an Elmhurst hotel.

After thousands gathered in front of the Pan American hotel during a June 17 protest, Community Board 4 called a meeting at the Elks Lodge on Queens Boulevard on June 30 to discuss the issue of the hotel being turned into a homeless shelter without residents and elected officials given prior notice.

Outside, hundreds of protestors exchanged comments back and forth with shelter occupants yelling at them to “get out,” “get a job,” and calling them “lazy” and “bums.”

Lale West, who recently moved in to the hotel with her son, daughter and husband, said the protestors made her upset, especially seeing little children shouting and holding signs.

“I’m upset because they don’t understand what is going on,” said West, who works as a chef. “Just how they have kids, we all have kids and we’re trying to make ourselves better. It doesn’t mean we’re bums. Today you have a job and tomorrow you’ll wake up and not have one.”

Nonprofit Samaritan Village proposed the Pan American Hotel, located at 7900 Queens Blvd., as a shelter to house 200 homeless people. Currently about 90 are already residing there.

“This is outrageous,” said Emmanuel Escoto, who protested outside the Elks Lodge alongside his 10–year-old daughter Jona. “If the city is so concerned for the homeless, why don’t they provide services for them? This should not be a dumping ground. It’s a shame the city isn’t doing more to help them, they are just sweeping it under the rug — our rug.”

The meeting was open to people who had pre-registered and included representatives from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), Executive Vice President for Samaritan Village Douglas Apple, community board members and elected officials.

“It is our intention and our plan to work closely with you, to ensure that the program we run at the PanAm serves residents and as part of the community,” Apple said to the audience. “We are not here to add problems, we are not here to create issues.”

Residents who signed up to speak during the meeting, which went on for more than two hours, raised concerns over community safety, overcrowding of schools, increase in property taxes and crime.

“I am not against homeless people, I am not against providing support for needy folks who need it. What I am against, and I think that everyone here is in agreement with me, is the process that [Samaritan Village] took to put the shelter in our community,” said Jenny Shao, a science teacher at the International High School for Health Sciences in Elmhurst. “For you to say this is an emergency plan to put into Elmhurst, a community of immigrants who often don’t have a voice, you think you can take advantage of us.”

According to Lorraine Stephens, first deputy commissioner for DHS, the “emergency declaration” to move the families comes from a recent “crisis situation” with a large increase in homeless families.

“In New York City we have a right to shelter, what that means is that we need to make sure there are no homeless children and families on the street,” Stephens said. “Part of that is what caused this emergency declaration that we’re in right now today.”

The politicians present promised the community they would work with Samaritan Village and DHS officials in regards to the hotel.

At the end, the community board unanimously voted on a motion to have the shelter removed from the hotel, but CB 4 chair Louis Walker said the decision is just advisory.

 

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Glendale residents fume over proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Residents and politicians in Glendale banded together for one last hoorah against a proposed homeless shelter in the neighborhood.

For over a year now, the community wrestled with the non-profit Samaritan Village’s proposal to convert an abandoned factory on 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale into a homeless shelter for 125 families, with a proposed $27-million contract with the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS). For the residents who attended the meeting at the Christ the King High School, the shelter posed a threat to the community’s welfare. The meeting was hosted by Community Board 5 and members of the Samaritan Village and the DHS were invited to hear out residents’ thoughts on the proposed homeless shelter.

“These facilities have drunks, drug addicts, the mentally ill and pedophiles,” one Glendale resident said. “It would be inappropriate for them to be around our women and children.”

All 33 residents who signed up to speak were against putting a homeless shelter in their area. Residents’ concerns ranged from the lack of public transportation in the area and the strain that an additional 125 families with children under 18 would put on the area’s infrastructure.

“I don’t think they should be placed in our schools,” a local schoolteacher said and she then went on to say that homeless children are more troublesome. “One hundred and twenty five children, if that’s to be expected, with behavioral problems are going to destroy our children and our neighborhood.”

Politicians representing the area also attended the meeting. Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Mike Miller all echoed residents’ desire to not have a homeless shelter in the neighborhood.

After a formal proposal was submitted by Samaritan Village in May, 2011, the homeless services department began investigating the site. They have analyzed 70 locations, 16 in Queens, and 54 in other boroughs since then.

Chris Miller, a spokesman for the department, said that they are still in the selection process and that they haven’t settled on any particular location.

“This is nowhere near a done deal,” he said.

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Frustrated community board members wait for more details on Glendale homeless shelter


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

JEFF STONE

Queens leaders said they are frustrated that there has been no date set for a community meeting on a controversial Glendale homeless shelter proposal.

Community board members, along with the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), said Monday they have yet to hear from Samaritan Village about when the homeless advocacy group will be ready with a presentation on the proposal to convert the abandoned manufacturing plant at 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a home for 125 families.

Politicians and Glendale residents alike have previously expressed reservations over the sudden population influx, the building’s distance from the subway and possible contamination at the site in question.

Since the DHS announced that it would support the Samaritan Village effort, though, elected officials in Queens have worried about whether the two political groups are on the same page.

“It’s a very difficult process that seems to be all too standard,” said Gary Giordano, District Manager of Community Board 5, which includes Glendale. “It’s my impression that the Department of Homeless Services is talking to the applicant long before they’re talking to either the community board or the council person in the community.”

The frustration stretches back to December of last year, when the DHS sent a letter to the mayor’s office recommending the former airplane manufacturing plant be converted into a living space for displaced New Yorkers. Along with unanimously disagreeing with the letter, board members complained about being given too little notice that meetings had been scheduled and implied that the DHS might be trying to rush through the process.

Asked if the Department of Homeless Services needed a community board’s permission to build a new shelter, Giordano said, “Their policy is that they tell the applicant that they have to reach out to the local community board and let them know what they are intending and to give the community board an opportunity to conduct a public meeting on the matter.”

DHS spokesman Christopher Miller said the agency has been trying to find a time that works for all three parties.

“We are waiting for the provider to come up with a presentation date,” he said.

Samaritan Village did not return repeated requests for comment.

How soon the tension will simmer is anyone’s guess. Mr. Giordano refused to speculate on whether anything in the to-be-scheduled presentation was likely change his mind or the minds of any other board members, although he did say a meeting could soon be slated for a weeknight in May.

“I expect them to tell us as much as possible, or as much as we can get out of them, about the specifics of what’s in their application, some of which we know and some of which we don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t heard anybody say this is a reasonable site and that this is a reasonable way to be living.”

 

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Glendale pols appeal to Mayor de Blasio over proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

A new mayor, but the same old homeless shelter issue.

Representatives for Glendale penned a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop the proposed homeless shelter on 78-16 Cooper Ave.

Assemblymembers Mike Miller and Andrew Hevesi, Congressmember Grace Meng and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley criticized the analysis by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) in the letter and the agencies support for the shelter. The city is seeking a five-year $27 million contract with non-profit Samaritan Village, which would operate the facility.

“The reality is that the vast majority of the arguments made in the letter for building this facility were so generic and broad that they may be used to justify the building of transitional housing facilities anywhere in the City of New York,” the letter said.

Last year, Samaritan Village announced to Community Board 5 that it proposed the site for transitional housing for 125-families.

The letter by public officials points out that city shelter stay lengths have increased within the past year by 16 percent and it also highlights that the building is about 1.3 miles away from the nearest subway train and “not accessible to residents of the facility, who will need public transportation to commute to off-site linkage services, educational institutions, stores, and workplaces.”

The homeless shelter proposal is currently in its second phase of review, an environmental assessment. Some feel that the proposal could lose in that phase, because the building sits on contaminated ground.

The third and final review phase will be conducted in a financial analysis by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

 

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Environmental assessment to be done on proposed Glendale homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The fight over the unpopular Glendale homeless shelter is heading to round two.

An environmental assessment study will be done on the site for the second phase of review to decide whether to transform the vacant factory on 78-16 Cooper Ave. into a homeless shelter, after it recently received support from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

Some elected officials are confident they’ll have a chance for a knockout punch in this round.

“That’s another shot we have,” Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi said at a recent Community Board 5 meeting. “I believe from anecdotal evidence that the site may be contaminated. They are not allowed to build on a contaminated site.”

DHS penned a letter to the mayor’s office last week in support for nonprofit Samaritan Village’s proposal to transform the defunct factory into a shelter for 125 families, with a contract valued at $27 million.

Elected officials and Glendale residents attended a public hearing on Thursday in Manhattan to reiterate their opposition to the possible shelter, because of the contamination on the site and congestion to local schools, among other reasons.

“The building was never intended for residential use. Changing this site to a residential use would require intensive remediation and expansive renovations,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said at the hearing. “Think of how much further we could use $27 million. 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.”

The homeless shelter was first suggested to the city by Samaritan Village in 2011. A formal proposal was sent to the DHS earlier this year.

If the proposal passes the environmental assessment round, then it will go to the Office of the City Comptroller for financial review for the third and final phase.

 

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Controversial Glendale homeless shelter one step closer to reality


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Once it was a rumor. Now it’s almost reality.

The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) sent a 22-page letter to the mayor’s office in favor of a proposal by non-profit Samaritan Village to transform the abandoned factory on 78-16 Cooper Avenue in Glendale into a homeless shelter for 125 families, with a 27-million contract, despite strong objections from community residents, The Courier first learned  on Monday after noon.

Members of the community and all elected officials have been protesting against the homeless shelter saying that the site doesn’t make sense for the incoming struggling residents, because of the lack of transportation in the neighborhood and also because the abandoned factory, which used to make plane parts, sits on very contaminated ground.

“It’s surrounded by brownfields. Would you want your mother to be housed there?” said Community Board 5 (CB 5) chair Vincent Arcuri Jr. “I can’t understand why they are pursuing this site.”

After a formal proposal was submitted by Samaritan Village in May, 2011, the DHS began investigating the site. They have analyzed 70 locations, 16 in Queens, and 54 in other boroughs since then.

DHS provided a list of reasons why they believed the site was appropriate. Among them was the compatibility of the site, since it similar to buildings in the neighborhood and because they feel there will be no negative effects on the community as a result of inserting the shelter. Also, DHS noted it will add a commodity that the area is lacking since there are no homeless shelters in the community.

“In proposing the building as a site for temporary, emergency housing for homeless families with children, the DHS has carefully considered and balanced such factors as effects of the facility on neighborhood character, the concentration of similar facilities in the community district, the efficient and cost-effective delivery of services, alternative sites elsewhere in Brooklyn and the other boroughs, and the need for the proposed shelter,” the letter said.

Members of the community have already begun to express their disappointment with the DHS’s decision.

“I am utterly disgusted by the initial reaction one year ago that it was a rumor, and I say to those people now that their negligence has caused this to occur,” said Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association, which collected more than 4,000 signatures against the shelter.  “If they were vigilant this would have never come to this point. Now let’s see what they can do to stop if pass this stage. Obviously they were wrong about it not getting out of stage one. Shame on all of them for not listening to the community.”

Elected officials have sounded off against DHS favoring the possible shelter as well.

“I have said from the beginning that this location is not a suitable site for a homeless shelter, and nothing in the Department of Homeless Services’ initial review has changed my mind,” Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley said. “It would be irresponsible for the city to spend more than $27 million to rehabilitate a site that was never meant for residential use.”

A public hearing on the proposed homeless shelter is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the headquarters of the Department of City Planning on Thursday, December 12.

 

 

Fair Share Analysis_Cooper Family Residence_12 6 13 by The Queens Courier


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Residents once again protest proposed Glendale homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

No means no.

More than a hundred residents once again protested a proposed homeless shelter at an abandoned Glendale factory on Saturday.

Area residents have rejected the shelter, but since nonprofit Samaritan Village is not backing away from its proposal to the Department of Homeless Service (DHS) to transform the site at 78-16 Cooper Avenue into housing for 125 struggling families, the residents returned with posters and petitions.

“I would say that we are definitely determined,” said Middle Village resident Heather Truberg, who organized the rally. “Because if it is approved, and they start building it, it’ll be out of our hands.”

Residents feel the factory would not be a good location for the shelter because it is contaminated and therefore not suitable as a residence, and will require millions of dollars to clean up. They also believe it will force many new children into crowded surrounding public schools, and because the area is built without much transportation, commuting would be troublesome for the homeless families.

Samaritian Village recently answered a joint letter by elected officials to address community concerns. The organization confirmed that the facility wouldn’t deny housing to sex offenders and convicted criminals. This further outraged community members and elected officials.

Many residents feel that officials haven’t been doing enough to stop the proposal.

“It seems like it could happen. They said we’re not for it, but they are not doing anything,” Middle Village resident John Hegener said.

While the opposition against the shelter is strong, not everyone is up in arms.

“I know that they [the protesters] are thinking, ‘if it’s a guy from jail he might rob again,’” said Fran Malave, a Glendale resident walking past the rally. “But what about women that need help, or children?”

 

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Proposed Glendale homeless shelter could house sex offenders


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Glendale residents are outraged to learn that a proposed homeless shelter could house criminals and sex offenders.

The revelation came after the would-be shelter’s operators, Samaritan Village, penned a letter in response to local elected officials’ concerns. The nonprofit group is proposing the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) turn an abandoned factory at 78-16 Cooper Avenue into transitional housing for 125 families.

“DHS has both a mandate and an obligation to provide shelter to any eligible homeless person or family, regardless of criminal background,” the letter said. “The Sex Offender Registration Act does not restrict where a registered sex offender may live.”

There has already been a collective opposition from business owners, civic and political leaders and residents since last year when the shelter was just a rumor, and this latest response didn’t sit well with the community.

“The fact that they are mixing families with sex offenders should be a red flag to this community and an eye-opener to all those officials who want to tread gently,” said Kathy Masi, chair of the Glendale Civic Association. “Samaritan Village could never be a good neighbor. Their response to us is flawed with hidden innuendoes and unreasonable projections.”

Samaritan Village is seeking a five-year contract with a four year renewal if the DHS approves their proposal, according to the letter.

“I am against this proposal because I believe the site, on a number of levels, is not suited to accommodate and serve the intended purpose,” said Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi.

There will be on-site security 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 75 cameras will be installed inside and around the site and there will be a 9 p.m. curfew, according to the letter.

The organization wants to establish a community advisory board with neighborhood representatives, civic leaders and NYPD community affairs. They will also provide job training, GED instruction, homework assistance and other services.

To address the lack of subways in the area, two vans will be provided to transport residents to appointments and public transportation.

DHS is currently reviewing Samaritan Village’s proposal.

Samaritan Village Response

 

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Glendale rallies against proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

A senior center, a school, maybe even a park is fine, but residents in Glendale want to shut the door on a proposed homeless shelter.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. led a protest on Friday in front a defunct factory at 78-16 Cooper Avenue, which nonprofit Samaritan Village plans to transform into transitional housing if its proposal is approved by the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

“We are against a 125-unit homeless shelter that the city is planning to ram down this community’s throat,” said Vallone, who is running to be the next borough president. “This is the wrong location and it’s the wrong size.”

The community has been against this proposal since last year when rumors started. But recently Samaritan Village negotiated with Michael Wilner, the owner of the property, and submitted a proposal to the DHS. The nonprofit also sent a letter to Community Board 5 and local leaders to officially notify them of the plans.

Wilner could not be reached for comment as of press time. And when The Courier contacted Samaritan Village, which operates multiple shelters around the city, the group said that it would not comment as the proposal is still being reviewed.

The nonprofit said it plans to insert 125 families in the building and it will have security.

Community members are worried that adding that number of people in the neighborhood would inundate already overcrowded schools.

Residents also believe that Glendale isn’t a good fit for the shelter, because transportation is limited since there are no subway lines.

The factory, which used to manufacture plane parts, is contaminated, according to multiple sources, and the building would need millions in tax dollars to repair.

So instead of a homeless shelter, residents said they would prefer to see a school, a park for local kids or a senior center for the many elderly in the area.

“Right now I’m looking for someplace for my mother,” said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

“I’m looking for something that I’d feel is appropriate, but I have to look upstate. So we need something in our neighborhood.”

They aren’t completely sure what the site should become, but there is a unified belief that a homeless shelter will damage the community so they don’t want it.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Augie Trinchese. “I’ve lived here for 41 years and I don’t want to see my property value go down.”

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Glendale community to fight proposed homeless shelter


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Not in my backyard.

That’s the sentiment of residents, business owners, politicians and civic leaders about a proposed homeless shelter in an empty, rundown Glendale factory.

The community is planning to prevent nonprofit Samaritan Village from buying the property at 78-16 Cooper Avenue and transforming it into transitional housing if the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) gives its approval.

“They [Samaritan Village] need to be reasonable about it and do what is in the best interest of the community and the people that would reside there,” said Kathy Masi, president of the Glendale Civic Association. “It wouldn’t make sense to put them in area where there is no transportation.”

Last week, Samaritan Village told Community Board 5 in a letter that the nonprofit has submitted a proposal to DHS requesting to convert the site in question. There are no shelters in CB 5, according to DHS, so it would be the first in the area if the plan comes to fruition.

The nonprofit wants to house 125 families on the property, but opponents of the homeless shelter believe that would overwhelm the schools in Glendale, which many say are already overcrowded.

The site, which was a factory devoted to making airplane parts more than a decade ago, rests on toxic and contaminated land, according to Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, who has toured the area a number of times.

Crowley, who also plans to fight the proposal, said the building is in dire need of repairs that would cost taxpayers “tens of millions of dollars.”

“It looks like the plan is not economically feasible and would be a waste,” she said.

Last year, when rumors surfaced that Samaritan Village wanted to buy the property from owner Michael Wilner of Wilner Realty Management LLC., the Glendale Civic Association quickly voiced its opposition.

Masi conceded the shelter is a good cause, but said it would be better for Samaritan Village to pick a different location. She suggested the shuttered Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica or St. John’s Hospital in Elmhurst.

Samaritan Village declined to comment on the pressure from the community against its proposal and why it choose that site.

“Our proposal is under review,” a spokesperson for the organization said.

For the moment, no meetings have been scheduled with CB 5. The board is waiting to see the full proposal and the Department of Homeless Services’ assessment, which will be “carefully reviewed,” according to a DHS official.

“What we need to do right now is to communicate that this is an inappropriate site to the applicant and to the Department of Homeless Services,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of CB 5.

Samaritan Village: Glendale Homeless Shelter Notification Letter

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