UPPER WEST SIDE — A local nonprofit plans to expand its homeless shelter and create 280 affordable units by razing three city-owned parking garages and erecting two new buildings on West 108th Street.
The West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH) wants to construct the new buildings along the north side of West 108th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, with the Anibal Aviles Playground sandwiched in between.
None of the buildings' studio, one- and two-bedroom units would be market-rate, and they'd serve a mix of seniors, singles and families who meet different income thresholds, said WSFSSH Executive Director Paul Freitag. At least one group of applicants would have to make 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), with the income eligibility requirements going down from there, he said.
The project would allow the homeless shelter's capacity to expand from 92 beds to 110 beds, he said.
The specific designs are still a work in progress, but the buildings are expected to be around 11 stories high, with setbacks bringing them down to six stories next to the playground, Freitag explained.
If a zoning change is approved for these lots, WSFSSH could build 90 additional affordable units because the buildings could be taller, he said.
The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development supports the plan as it is in line with the mayor's affordable housing goals, a spokeswoman for the agency said. The project will have to go through a public land use review (ULURP) to get official approval, with construction planned to start in June 2017 and take two years, she said.
The 40-year-old WSFSSH runs housing programs for people with special needs, homeless individuals and low-income seniors across the city, with the majority located on the Upper West Side.
The current shelter at 149 W. 108th St., Valley Lodge, has served as WSFSSH's transitional housing for homeless seniors since 1988.
Valley Lodge is "seen as the best kind of shelter you can have," Freitag said. "Many of the people who come in off the street go on to live in other [WSFSSH] buildings. We have almost zero recidivism for people living in Valley Lodge."
In addition to adding affordable housing to the neighborhood, the project — which would be funded through city loan programs, tax credits and private sources — would provide more air and light for residents on West 109th Street.
Unlike the three garages, the new buildings will "have code-compliant rear yards," Freitag noted.
Moreover, WSFSSH would provide a public bathroom for playground users, said Dan Cohen, a member of the advocacy group Friends of Anibal Aviles Playground.
Restrooms usually cost upward of $1 million to install at playgrounds, Parks Department employees have said, so getting them is a big win, Cohen said.
"We’re really pleased. ... [WSFSSH's] residents are going to need a bathroom. It benefits everybody," he said.
The garages — Yorkshire Garage, E & B Operating Corporation and Ca-Li Auto — are owned by the city and collectively house more than 600 cars, according to staff members.
"The garages are pretty dilapidated. It will re-energize the block to have people living on it," Freitag said.
The garage owners did not respond to requests for comment regarding the city and WSFSSH's plans to demolish them.
WSFSSH collaborated with the city on a study of existing area parking that it will present to Community Board 7 at a meeting March 16, said Freitag, who would not go into the specifics of the study's findings.
"Our ongoing engagement with the local Community Board will continue to offer us the feedback we seek to ensure the project is responsive to community needs," said a spokeswoman for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development.