West Side Rag » Community Responds to Supportive Housing Program at West 97th Street

Posted on March 1, 2022 at 4:12 p.m. by West Side Rag

Future home of Chateau IV at 258 W. 97th. Photographs by Joy Bergmann.

By Dena Twain

Upper West residents of the 1990s expressed openness — mixed with concern — about the new permanent supportive housing program being created at 258 W. 97th Street, which was previously a illegal hotel.

Among the biggest sources of unease is the “responsibility” of residents’ behavior, as well as the potential negative impact of the new residence on small businesses in neighboring blocks.

These and other topics were discussed Monday evening at an encounter of Community Council 7’s housing committee, which council member Gale Brewer attended. The meeting was held via Zoom and included approximately 14 board members, four members of the Fortune Society – the supplier of the new facility – and several community members.

The Fortune Society presented and defended its plans for the new program. Of the 82 SRO units, 15 will be available to current residents of the old hotel. The rest will be distributed either by lottery to low-income New Yorkers or to Fortune tenants currently living in homeless shelters.

The work should be completed within eighteen months.

Stanley Richards, deputy CEO of the Fortune Society, and Sherry Goldstein, vice president, at Castle Gardens in Harlem.

The Fortune Society has already had great success with its 10-year-old Castle Gardens project in West Harlem. Their plan for this new building comes with strong criteria for excluding certain people from housing, namely most sex offenders and those convicted of arson or producing methamphetamine on the property. Stanley Richards, assistant general manager of Fortune, spoke at length about the assessment procedures for new residents.

Staff will be on site seven days a week supervising residents, and many support services will be available, both in-house and at other Fortune facilities in Harlem and Long Island City. JoAnne Page, CEO of Fortune, said, “We are committed to making the neighborhood safer because of us.

Community members expressed support for the effort as well as some trepidation.

Some feared introducing new sex offenders among them. Commission Member Paul Fischer asked for clarification on the exact level of offenders who would be accepted into the program. Per page, they will only allow individuals at level 1, which means they are at low risk of reoffending. “We will not accept people who pose a risk to the community,” she said.

Local resident Kim Duncan spoke on behalf of “all the small business owners” upset about another facility coming to a block “already with two nearby”. Said Duncan, “You have fourteen vacant stores here, but no one will come to shop in this environment.” She asked that the residents fall back into bad behavior. “We are shocked and worried about what is to come. If there is a problem, we want it addressed immediately.

In response, Page asked Duncan to “consider Fortune’s case” and promised to act on illegal activity, but some residents found Fortune’s lack of clarity on the protocol too vague. “You’re not answering the question,” Duncan countered.

Some local residents seem ready to welcome their new neighbors with an open mind and have praised the new building’s architects, Curtis + Ginsberg LLP, for their skill and artistry. Board member Catherine DeLazzero asked what the Upper West Siders can do to be good neighbors. “Know that our former homeless incarcerated residents have been stigmatized most of their lives,” Page said. “Get to know them as human beings. Invite them to your church.

Council Member Brewer concluded by congratulating the Fortune Society. “Other nonprofits in the city could learn to be transparent and open from this presentation. It would be a great lesson for them.

It’s a step in the right direction, but, Page said, the building on West 97th “will be a drop in the ocean” in meeting all of this city’s housing needs.

Other agenda items discussed at Monday’s meeting included new budget requests, which will be presented over the next three months and considered over the summer. Some additional agenda items, such as discussion of Project FIND, a UWS nonprofit that provides senior support services and housing (coming to West 79th Street), have been postponed.

See the full discussion at Youtube here.

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