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Queens Chronicle

Concerns raised over supportive housing

Trio voices opposition but CB 5 voted 33-2 in favor last December

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Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2019 10:30 am

During last Wednesday’s meeting of Community Board 5, a trio of area residents voiced their concerns over the plan to build supportive housing at 80-97 Cypress Ave.

The board voted 33-2 in favor of the project in December. There would be 66 units serving between 88 and 104 people.

The 66-unit residence would provide 20 apartments for homeless or at-risk individuals, young adults or families with children, when one adult household member has serious mental illness or another disabling condition; 20 apartments for senior citizens who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and also have a disabling condition; and 26 apartments designated for individuals from the community who meet low-income eligibility criteria.

The units would consist of 40 studios, 14 two-bedroom apartments and 12 one-bedroom apartments.

Judy Valerio acknowledged WellLife Network runs other units but that those are “near tall buildings, near transportation, near shopping. So [the Cypress Avenue project is] being placed in an area where there’s nothing for anyone who’s going to live there.”

She is also worried that, because the organization is grant-supported, if the money runs out, budgets will be cut.

“The residents suffer and at the end of the day the community will suffer because we’re going to have a poorly run facility and we’re going to have to deal with repercussions and all of that that comes with it,” Valerio said.

Kelli Scarr, a resident on nearby 59th Street, said traffic is a “huge issue” in the area and added that “Cypress Avenue is a s--- show.”

She believes the proposed development would increase the traffic burden. Scarr said she was worried about parking along 59th Street as well as safety.

“I have a 12-year-old son,” she said. “There are a lot of my neighbors who have kids. We really, honestly, feel like it’s not a good situation for a neighborhood.”

Scarr said the address is not a proper location for the housing with no nearby subway or grocery stores, asking “How can these people live there?”

The Rev. Marianne Riggiola-Martens, an area resident for 27 years, also voiced concerns with the parking.

“The parking is horrendous on our block because everybody seems to use it,” Riggiola-Martens said.

“Building this 66-unit huge facility is going to exasperate all our problems,” she added.

“I have compassion,” Riggiola-Martens said. “I understand. I’m a reverend. I believe in helping people. But we also have to help the people that we’re living with as well.”

When CB 5 approved the project in December “It was a no-brainer,” board member Brian Dooley said. “There’s been nothing there for years, and to have an assisted living facility seems like a huge step-up.”

“This is part of our community board’s commitment to doing our part for the homeless population in New York City,” said Walter Sanchez, the chairman of the board’s Zoning and Land Use Committee.

WellLife Network CEO Sherry Tucker calmed concerns last November during a presentation explaining that the building is designed “to house the most independent of those that have special needs,” and that there would be nine full-time staff members at all times.

Welcome to the discussion.