A plan to build a 60-unit mid-rise for the severely mentally ill and those with drug dependencies, was met with fierce opposition on Saturday, January 28.
‘We Are Mott Haven,’ a coalition of local property owners and tenants, banded together to black the project’s start.
“We are not opposed to programs for those in need,” Maxi Rivera, a resident, said, while speaking on behalf of the group. “We are opposed to the location, and the over saturation of residential and outpatient treatment programs. The initiators of the project and the elected officials failed to notify the community.”
Some of the concerns of the community group were the approval of the project without any community input, the hyper saturation of similar housing and support services in a small geographic area, the concentration of residents with different mental illnesses with their individual stress points in one building, the location is near schools, the proximity to the area of small 1- to 2-family private homes, and the safety of all the residents of the neighborhood.
In a letter addressed to Governor Cuomo, the group voiced their concerns and questions why there are so many government and private programs for people with mental illness and drug or alcohol dependency in community boards 1 through 6 and so few in community boards 7 through 12.
The residents also believe that not all of the people utilizing the facilities are from the neighborhood, but migrate there to be closer to the services they need.
“Although many of these programs are listed as local, they are in reality, regional, in that they draw persons from other areas of the city, borough and state as well as New Jersey and Connecticut,” the letter stated. “Twenty-five percent of all the chemically dependent individuals served in the Bronx use the services located in Community Board 1. Many of the methadone treatment clinics are within a block or two of a school.”
The residents also voiced their concern about school-aged children walking by as many as 50 people in line near “dispensing areas”, waiting to receive clean hyperdermic needles.
“The negative influence this is having on our children should be obvious,” the letter said.
The group said their argument is not based on the “typical not in my backyard argument”, but on the fact that their area is overflowing with this type of housing and programs, and they are experiencing the consequences in real time.
“We want to make it clear that we are not against permanent housing for persons with mental illness,” the letter said. “We are, however, seriously questioning the need for the size of and the location of such a facility at the proposed site.”
The group as whole is asking for a moratorium on the funding of this and all similar projects and programs and their accompanying support services until a thorough needs and impact analysis of existing programs is performed.
“This is a good opportunity for various state and city agencies to show a good faith effort to work cooperatively with one another to resolve these issues at a government level and produce a win-win solution for both Association for Rehabilitative Case Management and Housing and our community,” the group said.