A proposal for veterans housing for Pelham Bay’s vacant hospital building now looks like may never come to pass.
But locals are now holding out hope that the closed medical center at 1870 Pelham Parkway South could become rehab for injured soldiers just back from battle.
After a Manhattan-based non-profit housing group made a presentation at Community Board 10 calling for veterans housing and discussed the idea of leasing the building, district manager Kenneth Kearns reached out to the building’s owner, satellite communications mogul Moujan Vadhat. Vadhat said he was looking for a longer-term lease, longer than the one proposed, according to Kearns.
The pitch to CB 10 by Community Outreach Inc. on Wednesday, October 2 had called for building’s conversion to 57-units of housing. That conversation alone stirred fears that homeless vets could soon be living there.
“[Community Outreaches’s] marketing program was to offer the housing to veterans, and they would be able to use VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] vouchers or pay out-of-pocket,” said Kearns. “This is not a shelter situation. This is anything but a shelter situation.”
He also said that the reference to the VASH program as being like Section 8 vouchers, which carry a certain stereotype with them, “inspires a series of statements on the part of people that are inflammatory and often not true.”
The project would be an as-of-right project, and the only time the board could intervene is if and when government money is spent, he said.
“The owner is much more interested in seeing some long-term commitment,” he said, and went onto say that Community Outreach Inc. would have to fundraise to make its veterans housing idea a reality. The organization is undercapitalized, he added.
Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association treasurer Joe Oddo said that community still believes Community Outreach might be able to raise the money, but that local sentiment was shifting to helping veterans with a medical facility at the location.
“The proposal as it was made was incomplete and inconclusive,” said Oddo. “The building was designed as a medical facility, and we think that a rehabilitation facility for veterans should be explored.”
This type of facility would help soldiers just back from war recover from the loss of an arm or a leg, and teach these heros to walk with a prosthesis and perform every day functions, he said.
Aside from a rehabilitation facility for soldiers, the building could also be used for senior housing, and as had been proposed in the past, he added.
The School Construction Authority had been looking at the building for a possible school site, but stopped considering it because the $20 million asking price was too expensive, said Kearns.
Vadhat did not respond to a request for comment.