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Proposed Mental Health Facility Plans to Move to Port Richmond

By Nicholas Rizzi | July 1, 2015 10:07am
 Saint Joseph's Medical Center plans to buy 108-110 Port Richmond Ave. to build a mental health and affordable housing facility.
Saint Joseph's Medical Center plans to buy 108-110 Port Richmond Ave. to build a mental health and affordable housing facility.
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DNAinfo/Nicholas Rizzi

PORT RICHMOND — A planned mental health facility that drew the ire of St. George residents may be moved to a building on Port Richmond Avenue, according to a letter of intent shared with DNAinfo New York.

Managers of Saint Joseph's Medical Center plan to sell property at 78 Fort Place — which will be developed into more than 30 apartments — and purchase 108-110 Port Richmond Ave. where they plan to put the facility, according to the letter sent on June 26.

The building will include 77 apartments, with 50 set aside for Staten Islanders suffering from mental illnesses and the remainder being used for affordable housing, the letter reads.

For some residents, the proposed Port Richmond building poses the same problems it did when proposed for St. George.

The building is a block away from a school and a park and the neighborhood is already inundated with social services, said Beryl Thurman, president of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy who lives blocks from the proposed site.

"It’s wrong for the neighborhood, we already have at least 33 facilities here," she said.

"This is a neighborhood that has lots of children, a park that's right here, a library. All the things that attract young children."

Thurman said the neighborhood has dealt with many issues caused by facilities already there and residents constantly have to call 911 for problems caused by the people using them. 

"After you've seen the people who are coming into our neighborhood and they have this look on their face as if there in a daze, it's just too much," she said.

Saint Joseph's did not respond to questions about the facility. A spokesman for Councilwoman Debi Rose said she looks forward to hearing more about the proposal and the community's reaction.

In Saint Joseph's letter, sent to Community Board 1 and elected officials in the neighborhood, managers said they've had great success running similar programs around the borough and the facility could help improve the neighborhood.

"Our supportive housing has been recognized by the Supportable Housing Network of New York for excellence for the quality of supportive care as well as the upkeep and design of our building," the letter reads.

Saint Joseph's plans to have a worker at the front desk 24-hours-a-day, vocational training, recreational activities, care management services and on-site building maintenance, according to the letter. It will also partner with community-based groups to offer medical and psychiatric services to residents.

The proposed facility was originally set to be at 78 Fort Place by St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center, the Staten Island Advance reported.

The proposal was met with heavy resistance from elected officials and residents, but the state approved the plans and the building was eventually bought in 2008 using $3 million from the Office of Mental Health, the Advance reported.

In 2011 David Goldfarb, on behalf of the St. George Civic Association and several other groups, sued the state and Saint Joseph's to block the plans.

Earlier this month, developer George Christo announced he was in the process of buying 78 Fort Place to build market rate rental units.

The community has 75 days to respond to Saint Joseph's plans for Port Richmond before they're approved by the state, according to the letter.