By Luca Powell
Animal Care Center CEO Risa Weinstock wants to build an animal shelter in Queens Community District 5, but she needed to win over the local community board.
CB5 members and other residents peppered her with questions in the auditorium of the Knockdown Center in Maspeth on Sept. 4.
“We’re not trying to steal any business from the community,” Weinstock told the attendees, who had a litany of concerns about a $60 million facility designed to house more than 150 animals.
Who would supervise the shelter’s development? Would it displace local veterinarians? Could they really contain the noise of nearly 70 stray dogs? Would it provide enough parking?
“We know there are areas of Queens that are underserved. We want to serve them,” she said, adding that her nonprofit would be eager to hire from the community.
In the end, Weinstock seemed to have appealed to the community, and residents nodded along by the end of the question-and-answer session. Some said they looked forward to the complex.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said CB5 Housing Services Committee Chairperson Kathy Masi. “I mean, c’mon, Queens has 2.5 million people. And we need a shelter. At least this one won’t be an eyesore.”
Weinstock may have expected a tougher crowd.
In 2016, a CB5 meeting attracted nearly 1,000 residents who came out to protest a proposed homeless shelter. The shelter would have housed 200 adults from across the five boroughs.
“We want to do our fair share,” said Maspeth resident Walter Sanchez. “But we don’t want to be burdened by too many services that other districts don’t have.”
Despite community protests, the city announced it plan to build two homeless shelters in the community district, which currently has no homeless shelters, by 2020. A community board hearing for those projects is set to take place on Oct. 7.
The Sept. 4 meeting was small potatoes compared to what’s in store at the next hearing, said CB5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri Jr.
“This was alright. The one on Oct. 7th, that’s the big one,” Arcuri said. “It’s going to be a mob.”