2011-10-05 / Features

Development For Mentally Challenged, Homeless Opposed

Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr. is urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to fight a 50-unit housing development for the mentally challenged and homeless New Yorkers that the Urban Pathways organization has proposed for Astoria.

Construction is already underway at the site on 27th Avenue and 2nd Street, despite prior overwhelming opposition from the surrounding community.

Vallone and residents of the Astoria Houses, who neighbor the new development, are now sending yet another message to the state that Astoria does not want the new development to be used as a homeless shelter.

According to Vallone, the area does not possess supermarkets or banks, let alone community centers or treatment programs. The neighborhood also lacks in public transportation causing residents to often complain of irregular service on the one bus line.

“For years I have advocated for better resources in this community. A supermarket, grocery store, bank or even bookstore would have been appropriate and helpful. We can’t sustain the additional strain of a 50-unit development for homeless people with special needs. Astoria’s waterfront is one of the most beautiful stretches in the five boroughs; we should be helping our existing residents with more facilities rather than using state funds for a new development that will only hinder the community,” Vallone said.

In 2008, when Urban Pathways originally selected the site for the development, Vallone and Astoria Houses residents expressed opposition by writing to then Governor David Paterson and state Department of Mental Health Commissioner Michael Hogan.

Typically these developments only accommodate 14 or 15 people. The proposed building is more than three times that size.

Astoria’s waterfront is already home to several nonprofit organizations that help homeless individuals, including Goodwill Industries and the Phoenix House.

“As the state prepares for massive layoffs, millions of dollars are now being used for a massive unwanted project consisting of 50 individual units in a struggling neighborhood. We attempted to discuss a compromise with them, a 15-person community-living residence similar to those that exist everywhere else in Queens, but the state refused to even respond.”

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