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Housing for (homeless?) vets proposed for Pelham Grand

Bronx Times

A former Pelham Parkway hospital could soon be housing for America’s heros, but it’s not yet clear if it will be welcome by neighbors.

The former Pelham Bay Hospital building at 1870 Pelham Parkway South, now known as the Pelham Grand, would be converted to housing for veterans, but local Community Board 10 is concerned it would be for homeless veterans with various problems.

The building was most recently used as temporary housing for a group of mentally challenged people displaced by Hurricane Sandy from their Rockaways home, but is now vacant.

Its landlord, telecommunications mogul Moujan Vadhat, has entered into discussions to lease the building to Harlem-based housing group Development Outreach, Inc., for 57-units of veterans housing.

Development Outreach president Ismail Shamsid-Dean told a Community Board 10 Housing and Zoning committee meeting Wednesday, Oct. 2 that the program would be funded mostly through use of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program vouchers, similar to Section 8 vouchers.

“With respect to the presentation, I would say that the byword would be caution,” CB 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns said after the meeting.

The vacant Pelham Bay building has been a concern for quite some time, he noted, undergoing several configurations, both as a hospital and later as a planned assisted living facility and senior housing site.

There was one possibility of a school going in there, but Kearns said the “fair market value” asking price of $20 million proved too much for the city’s School Construction Authority.

“The major stumbling block is sale price for the building, which causes most potential tenants to withdraw the site from consideration,” he said.

The preliminary plan as laid out by Shamsid-Dean calls for the building to be leased, but it remained unclear after about an hour and half of discussions if the veterans could include homeless veterans.

“If they truly want to help veterans, why doesn’t the agency reach out to help single active service members, or those with families, who are about to get out of the service,” asked CB 10 chairman John Marano, adding that there is money set aside out of the soldiers pay for housing and education when they get out of the service.

Local activist Egidio Sementelli suggested that the plan was just another way to slip homeless housing - this time for veterans - into the community.

The community would likely not support the project if that was the case, said Marano, who also expressed concern about the plight of homeless vets.

For his part, Shamsid-Deen proposed having a group of community leaders screen prospective tenants.

He also said that if a prospective veteran could pay the market rate rent, his non-profit housing company, which has managed Manhattan apartment houses and been in the business since 1977, could accept them.

Joe Oddo, Pelham Bay Taxpayers president said he was going to research Development Outreach, and also be in touch with neighbors to gauge their reactions and concerns. He hopes to get a meeting with Development Outreach.

“My concern is that anyway you cut it, twist it, and turn it, the absolute need is great,” he said. “When you have two million veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, you are going to have a very broad representation - from the very bad to the very good. I would like to get the very good, without discriminating or anything like that.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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