Vet use for Pelham Grand stalled

It looks like it’s a no-go for bringing veterans’ housing to a long dormant former hospital building on Pelham Parkway.

Community support had been building for the idea of populating the Pelham Grand building at 1870 Pelham Parkway South.

It had been Pelham Bay General Hospital for years, the Durso Pavilion of former Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center, and most recently, a temporary residence for people with mental disabilities who had been displaced from their Rockaway, Queens building by Superstorm Sandy.

The organization that ran the Queens program, Services for the Underserved, had been in discussions with Joe Oddo, treasurer of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers & Community Association, who was trying to bring veterans housing to the building.
Oddo was joined by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, the chairman of the Assembly Veterans Services committee, and local veterans who expressed interest in a program that either provided rehabilitation for injured vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, or a combination of veterans housing and apartments for low-income seniors.

Talks stall

Oddo said that financing could not be obtained to buy or remodel the building, something that SUS would need to serve a larger variety of occupants.

After discussions, Oddo said he believes “the only way they are going to get any assistance from the city is if they have a mix including homeless, mental health, veterans, and low income.”

In the Pelham Bay community, he called such a mixture a non-starter, noting that the community has opposed similar plans over the years.

“Everyone I spoke to has been against it,” he noted, “and there has been no wiggle-room.”

SUS only develops mixed-use housing, said Dr. Yves Ades, SUS senior vice-president, and the financing programs follow that model.

“The thing is that there is no way for SUS to finance,” an exclusively veterans housing building, he said.

Backing Away

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said he would not support mixed-use housing at the site because of community opposition.

“We cannot sponsor something that we know the community is not going to want,” said Benedetto’s chief of staff Ben Randazzo. “We are not going to do that.”

Randazzo said the assemblyman would continue to push for a good fit for the building, something Oddo echoed, saying that he would look for veterans housing, a medical facility or some kind of school or educational facility.

Anita Valenti, PBTCA president, called the vacant building a “soft spot” in the community.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.