On June 12, 2014, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) issued a negative declaration on the Environmental Assessment Study (EAS) regarding the proposed homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave, Glendale. A negative declaration on the EAS means DHS is asserting that the proposed shelter will not have any potential negative impact on the surrounding community. In November 2014, an Article 78 was filed to annul the negative declaration, as the EAS was rife with factual errors, did not give the required “hard look” and therefore could not reasonably conclude that the shelter would not have any potential negative impact on the surrounding community.
The Article 78 was initially assigned to Judge Moulton, an experienced jurist who had presided over similar article 78 cases and had made favorable decisions, and therefore, parallels to his prior decisions would have been helpful to this case. However, prior to oral arguments, Judge Moulton was promoted Chief Administrative Judge and Judge Schecter was transferred to preside over Judge Moulton’s existing cases. Oral arguments were then heard on April 29, 2015.
A Decision Without Justification
On October 22, 2015, Judge Schecter denied the Article 78 stating that NYC and DHS “have established satisfaction with SEQR(1), (State Environmental Quality Review) procedurally and substantively.” However, the judge’s decision failed to discuss or give reasoning to various issues raised in the Article 78, some of which are as follows; incorrect inclusion of 153 acres of graveyards in the open space calculation, effect on character of the neighborhood by insertion of a very large scale multifamily residence (125 units, 500+ individuals) in an area comprised of one and two family homes, errors regarding the impact to the already severely overcrowded schools, ignoring the potential hazards based on prior use of the building and proximity to contaminated sites based on the absurdity that converting an old dilapidated factory to residential use would only require “limited” renovations, no meaningful analysis of the impact to police and fire departments, existing health care facilities, sewer and water use, traffic, air quality, and a lack of analysis of potential alternate use as required by SEQR.
In reading the (limited) rationale as set forth by Judge Schecter for the denial, it would appear the denial is based on form, rather than substance…in other words, DHS checked all the boxes on the EAS, and even if the data was inaccurate or the analysis was flawed, it was good enough.
Although the Article 78 has initially been denied, it has successfully, at a minimum, stalled progression of the project for approximately one year. This additional time has allowed further research and investigation of other possible avenues to pursue, including time to voice concerns through various channels and ensure more widespread awareness of the systemic problems with DHS and Samaritan Village, as well as time to review and raise issues regarding the building plans submitted to the Department of Buildings.
Next Steps: The Appeal
An appeal of the denial is being explored at this time. An appeal can take at least 6 months, if not longer. In the interim, the Glendale Middle Village Coalition (GMVC) are continuing to explore other options, including following up on prior challenges filed with the Department of Buildings, as well as escalating to the Board of Standards and Appeals, if necessary. Please continue to raise your concerns to the elected officials as well as the NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer. If you would like to help, please email the GMVC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. In New York State, most projects or activities proposed by a state agency or unit of local government, and all discretionary approvals (permits) from a NYS agency or unit of local government, require an environmental impact assessment as prescribed by 6 NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR). SEQR requires the sponsoring or approving governmental body to identify and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the activity it is proposing or permitting. The Legislature has made SEQR self-enforcing; that is, each agency of government is responsible to see that it meets its own obligations to comply. If an agency makes an improper decision or allows a project that is subject to SEQR to start, and fails to undertake a proper review, citizens or groups who can demonstrate that they may be harmed by this failure may take legal action against the agency under Article 78 of the New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules.