A new concept being introduced in the Bronx of an affordable housing complex for seniors and the mentally ill has some residents in the community feeling uneasy, and they want questions answered before the developer moves forward. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
A site in North Riverdale is slated to become an 11-story joint venture between two nonprofits.
Selfhelp Community Services, which helps seniors maintain their independence, would own and operate the building. Comminlife, a health and housing service provider, would screen and place 26 formerly homeless men and women with a history of mental illness.
It's the latter population that has some residents here questioning the project.
"The community reacted with great suspicion and concerns, and at this point, the community board itself has many questions," said Robert Fanuzzi, chair of Community Board 8.
Selfhelp says the concept is not new and that its clients are no danger.
"They are people who have had difficulty living on their own," said Evelyn Wolff of Selfhelp Community Services. "They've gotten into a system with the help of state agencies and city agencies where they're trying to put their lives back together."
That isn't sitting well with some. The local community board learned just two months ago that the project would include the mentally ill.
Opponents say that the way Selfhelp went about presenting the project is suspicious and they're not willing to trust it yet.
"If this was really a project that these developers and these not-for-profits knew was acceptable to this community, I can't see why they didn't tell them about it months and months and months ago," said state Senator Jeff Klein.
Councilman Oliver Koppell said he didn't recall if he was told the plan included the mentally ill. In any case, he supports it.
"My recollection, and I'm not sure of this, is that they emphasized the senior citizen aspect of it," Koppell said. "I don't recall whether they told me right at the beginning there was going to be some support of housing for formerly homeless, but I don't think that would have changed my mind."
Selfhelp will meet with elected officials on Friday and with the community board next month to discuss their concerns.