Plans to develop residential housing for veterans and seniors got a boost from Community Board 12 at its meeting on Thursday, November 16.
The board granted a waiver to The Doe Fund to build housing in a manufacturing zone, converting the former Sgt. Joseph Muller U.S. Army Reserve Center in Wakefield into long-term affordable housing.
“We worked with The Doe Fund and they presented a project of 90 studio apartments of permanent residential housing,” said CB 12 district manager George Torres.
When the board met on November 16, The Doe Fund made a commitment that a portion of the center’s units, at 555 Nereid Avenue, would be set aside for formerly homeless veterans.
Plans also call for a parking lot at 4449 Bronx Boulevard that can accommodate 23 cars.
“When it was first proposed as a 200-men bed shelter, (The Doe Fund) was just making minor renovations to the building, since it was already used barracks-style,” Torres said.
The Doe Fund told the board that it was 60 percent complete when they put the brakes on that project.
Now they have to go back and reconfigure the space to construct the studio apartments.
The Doe Fund requested that CB 12 recommend that the Board of Standards and Appeals grant a variance of the current use regulations.
The reasons for the variance included: that the building will have 90 studio apartments covered by rent stabilization; that 54 of the units will be supportive housing, with on-site support services; that 36 units will be rented to the general population, provided their income is no more than 60 percent of the Area Median Income.
As rent-stabilized tenants, the residents will be permanent members of the community, with an interest in being good neighbors, according to a statement by The Doe Fund.
The building will have an extensive security system with 24-hour front door coverage, and the ground floor will have a 123-seat auditorium with a separate street entrance.
The auditorium will be made available to the community for events, classes and other activities.
Elected officials, especially Councilman Andrew Cohen, worked closely with the Mayor’s office after the 200-men bed-style shelter was opposed by CB 12.
The community board is the first step, then the matter goes to Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., then the city council, and finally, the BSA.
“I would imagine that this is probably not going to happen for another year or two,” Torres said. “It’s going to be a lengthly process.”
The NYC Department of Health defines supportive housing on its website as a “combination of affordable housing and support services designed to help individuals and families use housing as a platform for health and recovery following a period of homelessness, hospitalization or incarceration or for youth aging out of foster care.”
The 55,000-square-foot facility, which overlooks the Bronx River Parkway, was closed in 2011 after many years of use by the U.S. Army Reserve.
In 2013 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sought approval from the Local Redevelopment Authority to convert the reserve center into a 200-bed homeless shelter for men. The contract to operate that shelter was also with The Doe Fund.