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Shelter rumor draws retort from Board 5

Community board chairman Vincent Arcuri says there are no plans for this facility on Cooper Avenue to become a homeless shelter. Photo by Yinghao Luo
TimesLedger Newspapers

Community leaders in Glendale think residents should avoid the rumor mill.

Residents in the western Queens neighborhood were up in arms after chatter about the construction of a homeless shelter spread on the Internet last week. Now local leaders are trying to spread the message that any such structure would face an array of major obstacles.

Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. said the board has yet to receive any proposal about a homeless facility at 78-16 Cooper Ave. Arcuri also noted the site does not meet building code requirements for residential occupancy and, due to the age, condition and previous occupancies, would be an environmental nightmare.

“The building, which currently has several active [city] Department of Building violations, may contain lead paint, asbestos and various PCB contaminants,” Arcuri said. “The cost and time to convert this structure to a residential facility would be extensive, and possibly twice as much as new construction.”

PCB — or polychlorinated biphenyl — contaminants are a toxic pollutant banned by Congress in 1979. The chemical was used as a coolant and insulating fluid. The Glendale facility previously housed aircraft parts manufacturing, knitting mills, machine shops and Eastern Cabinet Co. — which manufactured cabinetry that included lacquers, paints and other environmentally sensitive products, according to Arcuri.

“The building had an internal railroad spur, which over the years saw coal-fired steam engines and then diesel-powered engines haul trains into the building on ballasted track that was sprayed with petroleum-based products to keep the dust down,” Arcuri said. “The site is located adjacent to a known Brownfield site and, due to its low elevation and location, may contain underground pockets of PERC [a dry cleaning fluid] from the many defunct knitting mills in the area.”

Rumors began circulating last week the owner of the property, Michael Wilner, was in talks with a nonprofit that could potentially use the site for a homeless shelter. Wilner could not be reached for comment.

According to the city Department of Homeless Services, no property owners have submitted an application for a homeless shelter at the Cooper Avenue location.

While there are no definitive plans for the site, Arcuri did note that the community board had identified the property as a potential economic development site to bring tech jobs to the community.

Public outrage against any type of shelter at the site began on the Glendale Civic Association’s Facebook page last week, with members now encouraging residents to sign petitions against plans for the site.

But not everyone in Glendale is buying into the hype. Frank Kotnik Jr., president of the Glendale Civil Observation Patrol, said he thinks the rumors have created an unnecessary fear in the neighborhood. “Fear is a terrible thing. There are people insinuating that is will happen, when nothing has been brought before the community board,” he said. “I think people need to calm down. Common sense will prevail here.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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