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Planned Supportive Housing on Gates Avenue Draws Ire of Bed-Stuy Residents

By Camille Bautista | February 4, 2016 4:12pm
 A 5-story, 68-unit apartment supportive housing residence is planned for a parking lot on Gates Avenue near Tompkins Avenue.
A 5-story, 68-unit apartment supportive housing residence is planned for a parking lot on Gates Avenue near Tompkins Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Safety concerns were cited by a group of Bed-Stuy residents opposing an “oversaturation” of programs for homeless individuals and those with special needs.

The Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, which provides affordable housing for people with mental illness, is looking to build a 5-story, 68-apartment residence at 500 Gates Ave. near Tompkins Avenue.

The plan for the current parking lot would bring 50 studios for homeless, special needs adults and another 18 studios for low-income community residents, according to PCMH representatives speaking before Community Board 3 on Monday.

Tenants would have rent-stabilized leases and pay 30 percent of their income for rent, with those with special needs receiving assistance through the Section 8 program, said Peter Bittle, PCMH’s director of residential development.

The building would offer social services to all its residents, with specific resources required for tenants under program-based vouchers, representatives said.

“The social services we provide are 24/7, there’s somebody there every minute of the day,” Edna Sams, regional director for residential services for PCMH, told Bed-Stuy residents at a recent community meeting.

But locals worried about loitering and the planned building’s proximity to similar resources on the block, including the DOE Fund which assists those with histories of homelessness, incarceration and substance abuse, and the Paul J. Cooper Center for Human Services.

“You’re not going to see any activity out of our building,” Bittle said.

“If they want to hang out outside, they’ll have a backyard that’s fully landscaped with benches and chairs… I don’t feel like we’re contributing to any of what you’re concerned about.”

Others called attention to an elementary school a block away and raised questions about the individuals who would be living in the residence.

“You mentioned that these are chronically mentally ill people. My concern, of course with the school nearby, what kind of chronic illness are we speaking of?” one woman asked.

“Do we need to be concerned these people will be out for the day and just grab and stab someone?”

Fifty of the tenants would be selected through referrals from area shelters, PCMH reps said, and would be “highly functioning” people who take their medication and would be closely monitored.

“When they have a home to go home to, there’s no reason for them to do anything that would jeopardize their housing,” Bittle said.

Joshua Brown, a local resident, was concerned about sex offenders being close to the school, but Sams stressed that all 68 units would be “screened rigorously to ensure that there are no sex offenders or arsonists.”

Unease from some community board members and attendees included worries about an "overflow” of supportive housing units in Bed-Stuy, but PCMH reps said the chosen location was a matter of property availability.

The organization operates six sites in Brooklyn, as well as dozens of other residences in the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens.

The proposed Gates Avenue residence would have around-the-clock security staff and cameras, along with on-site laundry, community and activity rooms, a backyard and 15 employment positions for the community, according to PCMH.

The group said it would give preference to veterans and is working with Bed-Stuy group Black Veterans for Social Justice.

The PCMH was denied a letter of support from CB3 with an 11-16 vote against the plan.