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Editorial October 9, 2014  RSS feed

Times Newsweekly EDITORIAL

Why They Fight The Shelter

Glendale and Middle Village residents have been placed in the awkward position of fighting city government over a homeless shelter proposed for a site on the communities’ border.

Both neighborhoods neither sought nor wanted this battle. This isn’t a matter of NIMBY-ism or selfishness, either, as residents in these communities demonstrated time and again in previous crises their willingness to help those in need, regardless of who they are.

It’s a fight against a bad city policy of warehousing hundreds of disadvantaged people in shelters at a time, and offering those residents few paths out of that system and back into normal housing.

It’s a fight against adding hundreds of residents to the community at one time, adding students to already overcrowded schools and further straining inadequate infrastructure across the area.

It’s a fight against a tone-deaf, careless city agency that’s willing to place homeless people just about anywhere—in Glendale’s case, in the heart of an industrial area immediately adjacent to a chemical plant.

It’s a fight against shelter operators who all too often neglect these facilities, failing to provide proper security and maintain the physical structure, subjecting residents to squalid conditions and crime.

It’s a fight against advantageous property owners who exploit the city’s homelessness problem for every nickel they can, selling or leasing properties to the city at above-market rates.

It’s a fight against the city trying to forcefeed all of this to these neighborhoods, and other areas across this borough, simply because this administration seems to think Queens hasn’t received its “fair share” of burdens and bad ideas.

Fearful of the repercussions the proposed shelter might bring— including, yes, reduced property values—Glendale and Middle Village residents must dig into their own pockets and invest thousands on attorneys to stop it. The Glendale Middle Village Coalition, a civic group formed to fight this legal battle, set a goal of $100,000 toward commencing various legal proceedings in earnest; it already secured $30,000, enough to get one challenge off the ground.

How much good could that $100,000 do for the homeless people of New York City? The contributors could very easily give these funds to the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the Coalition for the Homeless or any other charitable organization that offers services for the homeless. Instead, this money is used for litigation deemed necessary to protect the city from itself.

How much good could the $27 million the city plans to give Samaritan Village—the nonprofit group behind the Glendale homeless shelter proposal—do for the homeless people of New York City? These funds could very easily be provided to homeless families in the form of monthly rental vouchers, enabling them to live independently in real homes anywhere they wish in the five boroughs.

More than 56,000 people in New York City are homeless today, and the city isn’t doing them any favors by moving forward with its Glendale shelter plan. Even though it bucks Mayor Bill de Blasio’s own housing policy, the city continues to insist on building this shelter, the feelings of nearby residents and business owners be damned.

This nonsense must stop. Glendale and Middle Village aren’t the problem; New York City’s homeless policy is the problem. The system is broken, and it must be fixed in the best interests of both homeless people and communities—not property owners or shelter operators.

Reinstate and expand rental vouchers so homeless families can find affordable housing. Build more housing units where appropriate to adequately address demand. Place a residency requirement on public assistance so homeless New Yorkers, not individuals from out of town, receive first priority.

Let’s come together as a city to help the homeless without destroying entire communities.