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Councilman reignites call to shutter men’s shelter in Glendale after death of 25-year-old denizen

Aug. 23, 2023 By Anthony Medina

Glendale residents who live only blocks away from the men’s shelter on Cooper Avenue are well-informed on the recurring issues emanating from shelter inhabitants.

A local business owner who spoke with QNS, who wished not to be identified, said although they’ve been fortunate enough not to have any problems with the shelter occupants, locals continue to complain about overall safety and trespassing on private property.

Residents who spoke with QNS emphasized more concerns over shelter residents seen walking into their backyards, asking for money and loitering in front of storefronts.

The recent death of a 25-year-old man inside the Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center, located at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale, amplified concerns from residents and Councilman Robert Holden, who is continuing to fight against the housing facility.

On Wednesday, Aug. 16, officers from the 104th Precinct responded to a 911 call of an unconscious person inside the Cooper Avenue shelter. When officers arrived, they were told a 25-year-old man was found unconscious and unresponsive. EMS responded and pronounced the man dead at the scene. Police have yet to release the name of the deceased.

According to information shared with Holden’s office, the deceased allegedly overdosed on drugs, but neither the NYPD nor the city’s Department of Homeless Services could confirm the cause of death when contacted by QNS.

“Protecting the health and safety of our clients is our top priority. We work to ensure that we are providing quality care and comprehensive security at our sites, and our provider-partner staff work closely with clients to help them stabilize their lives, a DHS spokesperson told QNS in a statement. “When we learn of any fatalities at our sites, even in cases of natural causes, we absolutely cannot make any immediate determinations and must defer to a medical examiner’s report to determine the cause of death. We have necessary processes and protocols in place to ensure we are doing our due diligence,”

Holden continues to hold former Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steve Banks responsible for the shelter’s ongoing issues in the Glendale area. Holden once again called on the city to close the homeless shelter for good.

“Former Mayor de Blasio and the ‘Grim Reaper,’ former DHS Commissioner Banks, recklessly pushed this shelter, fully aware of its impact on my constituents’ lives,” said Holden. “WestHab’s involvement, driven by questionable affiliations, has only exacerbated the problems. Another overdose death underscores the urgency of shutting down this ill-conceived shelter — a decision that should have been made years ago.”

Holden also claims first responders have been dispatched to the shelter location over 1,700 times and 180 arrests stemmed from shelter-related incidents.

Numbers shared exclusively with QNS last year from the mayor’s office reported 808 911 calls and 71 arrests made since its doors opened in 2020. There were 183 men residing in the homeless shelter, with 52% of clients employed and about 64% unable to work, according to the numbers shared last year.

Holden was among one of the most ardent opponents of the Cooper Avenue shelter before he was a City Council member. Glendale residents insisted on shuttering the shelter back in 2020, but after a lawsuit aimed at halting construction at the shelter was dismissed, it opened later that same week.

Additionally, talks of beds being made available for migrants, amidst the year-long crisis, reached Holden’s office through a phone call from Mayor Eric Adams in July, according to his post on Facebook.

Information shared by DHS proves the shelter has added 30 beds to the facility to accommodate the rise in asylum seekers in need across the city. DHS hasn’t opened any emergency sites in the community to house migrants, contrary to the 200 other emergency sites already added to parts of the city. 

The Cooper Avenue shelter also serves as the only support for single adults facing homelessness in Holden’s district. 

“Most all communities have stepped up to support the city’s critical need for emergency shelter capacity as 100,000 asylum seekers have come through our care since Spring 2022. The city has opened more than 200 emergency sites to address this need citywide, but zero such sites in this community,” a DHS spokesperson told QNS in a statement. “We know New Yorkers always lead with compassion when it comes to supporting our most vulnerable neighbors, so it is truly disheartening to see any attempts to use a tragedy and humanitarian crisis to threaten the only shelter resource in this community offering long-term single adult New Yorkers experiencing homelessness the incredibly critical opportunity to get back on their feet.”

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