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Nonprofit Pulls Out, For Now, Of Project To House Seniors, Mentally Ill In Bronx

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TWC News: Nonprofit Pulls Out, For Now, Of Project To House Seniors, Mentally Ill In Bronx
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Last week, NY1 told viewers about a project in Riverdale to build affordable living for seniors and the mentally ill, and while opponents to the project announced an apparent blow on Friday, plans for the development slated to open in 2015 aren't completely off the table. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

Elected officials are calling it a victory. A nonprofit that wanted to house 26 formerly homeless men and women with a history of mental illness in an apartment complex with seniors has pulled out of the project.

"I think today, we sent a very important, clear message to those who think they can come in, work in secret and plan a massive taxpayer-funded project," said state Senator Jeff Klein of the Bronx. "I think it's wrong."

The nonprofit, known as Communilife, said it pulled out because of what it called very serious challenges, presumably the community opposition.

Residents felt they had gotten too little information from Selfhelp, the main partner in the project, and raised concerns about the proposed facility's environmental impact, size, parking and security.

"They never had a development or never will in this city of anyone who has senior citizens and the mentally disabled, especially the severely mentally disabled, living side by side," Klein said. "So I think Selfhelp really has to go back to the drawing board. They have to come back to us."

The project has only hit a road block. Selfhelp still owns the property and wants to go forward with the project."

To do that, though, Selfhelp says it will have to partner with another mental health provider. That's because its funding comes through a state initiative to provide housing to high-needs individuals.

In a statement, Selfhelp says, "We are continuing discussions with elected officials and others involved and remain committed to helping develop constructive solutions to affordable housing needs in the Bronx and New York City."

It's unclear, however, whether residents will support any additional housing in the area that includes a mental health component.

"We would have to sit down and learn about a program," said Laura Spalter of the Broadway Community Alliance. "I really can't comment on a program that doesn't exist and that I don't know about."

Selfhelp said it's been in touch with other potential agencies to partner with, but nothing's come of that yet. So for now, the project is stalled.

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