The Bronx is last in New York state when it comes to health outcomes, and no region of the borough has wider health disparities than the South Bronx. Hoping to bridge health gaps in the borough’s southern corridor, Community Healthcare Network (CHN) is set to expand services — which include no-cost dental, mental and physical health services — to a new 8,000-foot facility in September 2024.
The move from its 975 Westchester Ave. location to the vacant 1000 Westchester Ave. lot is just across the street in Longwood’s main thoroughfare Southern Boulevard. The proximity of the ground-up construction and relocation efforts, CHN’s president and CEO Bob Hayes told the Bronx Times, allows patients to receive care without disrupted services.
“It’s pretty well-established that health outcomes are 20 percent what happens in the exam room, and 80 percent everything else. Our patients in the South Bronx need more than just a good doctor,” said Hayes. “So we want to provide a good doctor. We also want to provide care management, nutrition and wellness counseling. Then also provide tools to meet social needs in the area like food insecurity and housing.”
NYC’s poorest neighborhoods, which have the highest proportion of Black and Hispanic residents, have mortality rates which are 30% higher than those in wealthier neighborhoods. In the South Bronx, the poorest urban congressional district in the country, residents grapple with high rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, asthma, HIV/AIDS and infant mortality.
CHN — which has two other Bronx facilities in the Tremont and Williamsbridge sections in their 14-facility NYC portfolio — signed a 35-year lease for its new Longwood location. The length of the lease, CHN says, allows South Bronx patients — many who lack convenient health care access — consistent care.
The center touts itself as a judgment-free health care organization that doesn’t turn away patients based on their identity, immigration status or otherwise.
The Longwood lease is part of a series of recent initiatives to update and expand CHN’s facilities, including the Dr. Betty Shabazz Health Center, located in Brooklyn, which underwent redevelopment in 2021. CHN also secured a new vehicle storage facility, which they say has improved mobile health services, in addition to a new Lower East Side location at 255 E. Houston St.
Hayes told the Bronx Times that changes will soon be in store for its Tremont location, as CHN aims to construct a large facility at the base of a supportive housing project in the area.
Christopher Turner, principal and managing director of Transaction Services at real estate consultant Denham Wolf, noted that while Southern Boulevard isn’t teeming with open real estate options, it was a priority to keep CHN’s health care services close to avoid services from going dark or moving service from the area entirely.
“The (975 Westchester) building was nearing the end of its lifespan and it was smaller than they really needed, especially as they wanted to expand and provide a wider range of services,” said Turner. “If the move had been further away, their service may have had to go offline in the current building while they waited for big renovations … I think this is best option because services aren’t going to be affected.”
Turner said modernization of health care facilities need to reflect patient space, upgrades in high-end medical technology and adapt to rising trends in patient flow. According to developers, Community Healthcare’s lease is a “synthetic condominium” lease, a type of deal that exempts a nonprofit from paying real estate taxes.