Forum Photo by Michael V. Cusenza
The former Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church located at 85-15 101st Ave. in Ozone Park is slated to become a homeless shelter for 113 mentally ill men by early 2019.
By Michael V. Cusenza
With the new academic year in full swing, State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach) this week repeated his call to City Hall to reconsider homeless shelter sites in Ozone Park and Glendale due, in large part, to their close proximity to many schools and parks.
The proposed locations are: the former Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church at 85-15 101st Ave. in Ozone Park, which is slated to become a homeless shelter for 113 single adult men with mental illness by early 2019; and a former factory at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale is once again being considered for a City shelter facility.
“Now that schools are open, we can all see the students and parents with strollers passing by a site that in the near future could house over 100 mentally ill men, with limited services,” said Addabbo, an Ozone Park native and resident.
In June, a City official indicated that the Department of Homeless Services had already notified area elected officials and Community Board 9 that “we’re opening a new shelter” on 101st Avenue.
Addabbo, his elected colleagues, and hundreds of concerned Ozone Park residents raged at the de Blasio administration at rallies, press conferences, and town hall meetings.
“I believe DHS thought we would just roll over and play dead,” said Ozone Park Block Association President Sam Esposito, who has organized the demonstrations and even a personal hunger strike. “This is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. This is OUR issue. It is about our quality of life being interrupted by murders, stabbings, shootings, urinating, sitting on our properties. It is about the City’s lack of respect for us and our opinion.”
Addabbo has regularly ripped Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration on the subject.
“They don’t have a vision,” the senator said last month at a press conference announcing the filing of a lawsuit against de Blasio, City Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks, Lantern Community Services (shelter operator), and 101 Realty Group LLC (landlord). “There is a far better way to serve the homeless. Prior administrations were helping homeless people—this administration refuses.”
Addabbo said that he has recently spoken to de Blasio about the Ozone Park and Glendale sites, and while he appreciates Hizzoner’s consideration, Addabbo noted that he intends to follow up on those conversations in the coming weeks.
“As a father with two young girls in the school system, I can relate to these parents’ concerns,” Addabbo added. “Our children’s safety is our utmost concern and sending them to school where homeless men — especially mentally ill men — are being housed is very concerning. I understand that my constituents are aware of the need to assist the homeless, but building large population shelters in such close proximity to several community schools is not the right answer. I look forward to continue working with Mayor de Blasio to find a solution to our city’s homelessness problem that works best for everyone.”