City plans to open larger center for homeless pets in Middle Village

Officials are still looking for a location to house a permanent, full-service shelter.

Queens is on tap to get a larger facility for its homeless animals even if it is not the full-service shelter that advocates want.

The city is looking to lease property on Metropolitan Avenue and 69th Street in Middle Village for a new pet admissions center. The 1,400-square-foot building would replace the current Rego Park site on Queens Boulevard, which is just 750 square feet.

City Health Department officials said the Middle Village facility will be a temporary setup while they continue to search for a location to house a permanent, full-service shelter. Both will be operated by the nonprofit Animal Care Centers of NYC.

The city is planning to rent the facility for $60,000 a year for the first half of a 10-year lease, and $66,000 a year for the second half, officials said.

Moving to the new digs requires the Health Department to go through the city’s land use review process. Queens Community Board 5 will review the application at a meeting on Wednesday.

If the plan is approved, Animal Care Centers hopes to move in by June 2019.

“This is a positive step, but we still want an actual shelter,” said City Councilman Robert Holden, who represents Middle Village. “Since they announced plans for the Bronx, we are the only borough without a shelter and we probably have the most animals here.”

The admissions center is a facility to hold animals found as strays or surrendered by owners before they are transferred to larger shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island. Those three full-service shelters have medical staff on hand and also serve as adoption centers.

The new Middle Village facility will have a staff of five including a veterinarian or a veterinary technician, according to the city’s application. There is currently no veterinarian on site at the Rego Park facility.

Plans to put full-service shelters in the Bronx and Queens have moved in fits and starts for almost 20 years.

Former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. advocated for a bill that required the city to build full-service shelters in all five boroughs. It passed in 2000 and was signed by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who even allowed puppies into the City Hall Blue Room for the ceremony.

The law’s 2002 deadline was delayed and then repealed during former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Administration. As a concession, the city agreed to boost funds in its contract with Animal Care Centers.

The former speaker’s son, Peter Vallone Jr., argued against the repeal during his time in the City Council. His brother, City Councilman Paul Vallone, has repeatedly introduced legislation that would force the city to build the larger facilities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Administration has pledged to build the two remaining full-service shelters, and in January, announced plans for a $60 million Bronx facility.

Some animal advocates, still concerned those plans may not come to fruition, are planning to pack an April 24 City Council Health Committee hearing on animal shelters in the city.

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