Protests continue outside former hospital building in Pelham Bay

Protests outside the Pelham Grand continued over the weekend, as elected officials have begun reviewing the building and its permits in search of violations at the soon-to-become low-income housing facility.

An uproar occurred in Pelham Bay after a group called AIDS Service Center of New York (ASCNYC) leased a former hospital building known as the “Pelham Grand.”

ASCNYC is known for working with people with HIV.

Community activist Egidio Sementilli led a second protest outside the building on Saturday, September 6.

“It went very well, we had about a 100 people,” said Sementilli of the protest. “The community is still concerned about it, and we are going to have the more people at the next protest.”

Sementilli said he has another protest planned for early October.

Protestors carried signs reading “Save Pelham Bay” outside the facility, which ASCNYC spokespeople have said would hold housing for 70 people when fully occupied. It is already partially occupied.

Sementilli has expressed concerns that the program would benefit people who were formerly homeless or with addictions, and that this would hurt quality-of-life in the area.

Some signs called on elected officials to intervene.

Senator Jeff Klein and Councilman Jimmy Vacca have both said that they are looking into building code and zoning violations at the site.

“Hearing the concerns of the community, Senator Klein spearheaded an effort with Councilman Vacca and Assemblyman Benedetto to call on city agencies to examine the zoning law in relation to the Pelham Grand,” said Candice Giove, a spokeswoman for Senator Klein. “In his constant fight against this project Senator Klein, wrote letters, signed by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and Councilman Jimmy Vacca, to City Planning, the Department of Buildings and the Department of Health questioning the appropriateness of this organization’s occupancy and legality of this type of use in a low density, residential district.”

Councilman Vacca said that according to his examination of Department of Buildings’ records, it does not appear that the building has a valid Certificate of Occupancy.

“There is no valid Certificate of Occupancy at the building,” said Vacca. “The last Certificate of Occupancy was in 2009. They (the owner) changed the use of the building from a hospital to housing; when you do that, the zoning computations change.”

A review of Department of Buildings documents by the Bronx Times supports Vacca’s assertion that there does not appear to be a current Certificate of Occupancy at the building, at least in any online database.

Joe Oddo, the treasurer of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association, said that he is concerned about the overall reputation of the neighborhood in light of the ongoing protests. The position of his organization remains that they would like to see housing for veterans or seniors at 1870 Pelham Parkway South.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procc‌hio@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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