For more than 30 years, Urban Pathways has successfully provided supportive housing and other individualized services for homeless and formerly homeless adults, including those with a diagnosed mental illness. During that time, we have helped more than 100,000 men and women move toward stability, independence and recovery.
Urban Pathways is proposing the development of a 50-unit supportive housing residence for adults recovering from mental illness at the northwest corner of 27th Avenue and 2nd Street in Astoria. City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. opposes the creation of supportive housing at this location, in large part because, he has said in a press release, the consequences of this development "could be dire for a neighborhood that has long been struggling to improve itself".
I'm sure that Councilmember Vallone Jr.'s opposition is motivated by well-meaning concern for his district. However, his claim is based on a false premise and is simply wrong. This kind of unfounded fear and anxiety about property values and negative neighborhood impacts has been addressed in a just-released study by New York University's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.
The Furman study codifies what we at Urban Pathways have known from our experience for years—supportive housing and formerly homeless adults can be very good neighbors. Our Manhattan residence, Ivan Shapiro House, a 50-unit supportive housing residence, has operated successfully for more than a decade without negatively impacting the community or surrounding property values.
As a veteran advocate for the homeless, I'm certainly not surprised by Councilmember Vallone's statement that "no community can be thrilled about such a project". As you can imagine, I've heard this concern expressed many times. However, this apprehension is based on stereotypes that are simply not borne out by the facts.
Urban Pathways is proud of our record of seamlessly integrating our residences into the neighborhoods where they are located. No one in the community will be able to distinguish the new residence from any other quality development in the area. In fact, the Furman study concludes that supportive housing, because it is often built on an empty lot or replaces a broken down building in terrible disrepair, actually has a positive impact on surrounding property values.
Councilmember Vallone has also asserted that he opposes the Astoria location chosen by Urban Pathways because it is not well served by public transportation or basic retail. However, there is a bus stop on the corner, the subway is within walking distance or is accessible via transfer, and a convenience store and pharmacy are located a block from the proposed site. In addition, the neighborhood provides easy access to a broad range of service organizations, including Goodwill Industries, Phoenix House, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital Center and many others. A van will be available to take residents to and from whatever additional services they may need to access.
The residents of the proposed building in Astoria have been deemed ready by mental health professionals to live on their own with limited support and to work toward living a more stable and productive life, assisted by the supportive services Urban Pathways provides. These services include a program director, case managers, a director of social services, a consulting psychiatrist, nurse and maintenance staff. In addition there will be 24/7 security.
I am proud of our record of achievement at Urban Pathways in caring for and rehabilitating individuals who have nowhere else to turn, while at the same time not impairing the neighborhood social fabric or local property values. Hopefully, the results of the Furman study will reduce resistance to efforts by all the dedicated organizations working to provide services for these individuals who are among society's most vulnerable.
Frederick Shack, LMSW is executive director of Urban Pathways.