Demolition Begins on Parking Garages and Residence to Make Way for New Affordable Housing


Two construction workers in front of Valley Lodge.

By Carol Tannenhauser

Two low-cost parking garages on 108th Street that stored several hundred cars have been closed to prepare for the construction of a new affordable housing development. The process will ultimately create 395 units of permanent affordable housing for low-income seniors, families, and some single women, both on 108th and further downtown.

After years of local opposition, a grueling approval process, and a lawsuit, West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, known as WSFSSH, experienced a “very smooth” start to its ambitious new project on West 108th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, according to Executive Director Paul R. Freitag.

This, despite the fact that the first step involved emptying two parking garages of some 600 cars — one of the central sticking points of the controversy.

“The garages are owned by the city so they oversaw that process,” Freitag explained. “They had a deadline of vacating them by June first, which happened. All the cars moved out. I believe the parking operator made arrangements for people to park in other garages he has, and there were also garages that had signs up advertising spaces. So, it seems that people were able to find alternatives. We got no reports of complaints or issues.”

Meryl Zegarek, a nearby resident who opposed the project, said that the alternative parking spaces are more expensive and that one of the other garages where people moved their cars will also eventually close. Meanwhile, street parking has become even more difficult because of a new program that sets aside parking spaces for car services like Zipcar, she added.

During the first week of June, WSFSSH moved the 92 residents of Valley Lodge, its 30-year-old transitional residence for homeless seniors, located between the two garages, down to the 124-room Brandon Residence for Women at 340 West 85th Street. WSFSSH purchased the Brandon to house them while a new, larger Valley Lodge is being built on 108th Street, along with 194 units of permanent affordable housing. Eighty-one additional units will be built in a second phase.

“With city support, we bought the Brandon from the nonprofit Volunteers of America,” Freitag said. “They had been using it, essentially, as a residence for low-income women. It’s an SRO. In buying it, we were able to preserve it as affordable housing. After Valley Lodge moves back to 108th Street, we will continue to operate it as affordable housing for seniors. VOA relocated most of the women. There were some who chose not to relocate and they actually continue to live in the building happily, as our tenants. Part of the reason we bought it was to allow the women to remain if they chose to.”

With every automobile and person relocated, and every piece of equipment — beds, dressers, desks — “repurposed” for use in other city facilities, “after July 4th, we began interior demolition,” Freitag reported. “The full demolition should begin in the middle of August. The timetable is, between then and the end of the year, we will demolish Valley Lodge and the two garages. New construction will start shortly after the New Year. It is expected to last two or so years.

Zegarek is raising alarms about the demolition work.

“People have expressed concern about the heavy metals buried in the garages and we have told everyone to stay away from that area during demolition,” Zegarek wrote. “I personally am very concerned living just up the block on West 108th Street.”

“We’ve formed a construction advisory group in partnership with Community Board 7,” Freitag added. “Among the members are neighbors on the block adjacent to the construction site. We’ve already had one meeting to brief them on what’s happened so far. Our plan is to meet with them monthly during the entire construction project.”

You can follow the progress of the 108th Street project on a special website created by WSFSSH: wsfsshatwest108.org

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Rob G. says:

      Nice. This is not “affordable housing,” this is yet another shelter in what has become an ocean of shelters and support-type housing north of 86th Street. While we busy ourselves walking around in circles to protest new condo buildings, our community deteriorates and as we continue to be abused by shitty city policies and weak local politicians. Wake up, Upper West Side!

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        it’s permanent housing, thus by definition not a “shelter” — unless Rob g. wants to expand the meaning of the word “shelter” to include any housing where low income people live. this seems to be his grievance.

        this project PROTECTS seniors and other vulnerable populations from ending up on the street. i guess the commenter who is complaining is really, really confident he will never have to worry about that eventuality.

        We’ve created a society with vast income inequality. This means, once again by definition, that an increased percentage of people are just a step or two away from economic catastrophe. and many others have already undergone economic catastrophe. we see this all around us.

        Instead of saying, “why is this happening and what can we do to correct it?” a large section of the higher income people simply want to inoculate their communities from the results of this, particularly homelessness, substance abuse, and other issues. “If i can’t see it, it ain’t there.”

        • Rob G. says:

          I agree that correcting the problem is essential. But so what? It doesn’t change the fact that this is another shelter (or shelter of sorts) and there are far, far too many of them on the Upper West Side. Most are poorly managed, and the problems spill out from inside those buildings right onto our streets, adversely affecting residents and businesses in our community.

          If you really want to be fair in your criticism, I suggest that you direct it toward the Upper East Side and other neighborhoods which have far fewer shelters and supportive housing units than we do.

          • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

            Rob G. keeps insisting that this is a “shelter”. I pointed out it is not. it is permanent housing.

            I guess facts don’t matter to this person.

            • Sherman says:

              “I guess facts don’t matter to this person”.

              Oy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

            • Rob G. says:

              You can wordsmith it all you want but it doesn’t change things. Placing homeless and other transient people from elsewhere into agency or city-run supportive housing units, be it permanent or not, makes them de facto shelters. But I don’t really care what we call it, we both know what it is.

              While our community suffers, the biggest beneficiary is the social services empire, which has made the Upper West Side its capital. And as I read more and more of your posts and responses, I’m beginning to question what your real interests are.

            • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

              It’s ludicrous that you call the distinction between permanent affordable housing and a homeless shelter “wordsmithing.” Yes, they both have people living in them. That is where the similarity ends.

              Thus project DOES include a shelter… a shelter that is ALREADY ON THE SITE, and i assume has been for years. All of the new housing is permanent affordable housing.

              It is for low-income seniors, families, and single women. You have no evidence to say it is for “homeless and other transient people.”

              Rob G. says:

              “While our community suffers, the biggest beneficiary is the social services empire, which has made the Upper West Side its capital.”

              I would be interested in knowing how this project “makes our community suffer”, other than the people who will lose inexpensive parking spots. That is the tradeoff. The seniors on the UWS who can be admitted into the affordable housing will benefit. The wait times for Senior Housing average 10 years. There is a long list of community organizations supporting the project:

              http://wsfsshatwest108.org/

              Finally, it is apparently unimaginable to you that anyone would support affordable housing who does not have some sort of financial interest in what you call “the social services empire.” Like the vast majority if UWSers who support this project, i have none. Have you really never come into contact with people who support affordable housing? I would venture that a large majority of UWSers do so. it seems that you are living in some sort of insulated environment.

            • Rob G. says:

              The existing shelter which you refer to is expanding its capacity, from 92 to 110. And the “permanent housing” component drops almost 200 needy residents into a neighborhood that has been choked by the multitude of supportive housing units that we already can’t handle.

              There are social service agency-run buildings on almost every block in the northern part of District 7. Most are poorly managed. housing hundreds of people with mental, behavioral, and substance abuse issues, as well as sex offenders. Yes, the neighborhood suffers.

              It sounds like you don’t get over to the East Side too much, but I defy you to find the same concentrations over there as we have here.

              What I’ve stated above is obvious to anyone that lives and cares about our neighorhood. And don’t fool yourself – the “vast majority” of Upper West Side residents did not support this project. (Well, maybe the ones who live below 96th Street did.)

              At any rate, when you defend the continued practice of the social service empire having their way with us, of course your motives are to be questioned.

    2. Juan says:

      The article mentions Zipcar. I recognize that some people need cars for work, but for most, it is a luxury. As parking spots become fewer and more expensive, more people should realize that Zipcar is a great alternative that is much less costly, even if you use it frequently. I am a huge fan.

    3. Carlos says:

      There is a large middle school and its expansive play areas across the street from this project, as well as a playground next to it. I hope precautions are taken not to hazard any of these places during demo/construction.

    4. AC says:

      We are in a state of advanced technology and engineering. If the city really wanted to accommodate all parties, the foundation for this new development could be excavated and poured 6 stories deep (60’+). Doing so would allow for hundreds of cars to be parked below ground (as opposed above ground) and still accommodate residents above. Over the next few decades the City could have made some serious profit on these below ground parking spaces.

      Shame on our city for failing to think ‘out of the box.’

      • yourneighbor says:

        Of course if you throw money at any construction project you can get anything done.

        But sorry, that is another 60 feet of solid rock which would probably increase the costs by $50 million or more. What charitable organization could afford to do that? Or perhaps you would like to pay for it with additional city taxes?

        And spending multiple tens of millions of dollars on underground development of parking spaces?

        Your short sited requirement would eliminate anything being constructed there – no doubt your intention.

        • AC says:

          Bedrock at 60′ Feet below ground? $50 million for excavation ??? You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ll hit rock in lower Manhattan, but bedrock is much deeper in upper Manhattan. $50 million ??? LOL

    5. Janet W. says:

      I’ve seen an uptick in homeless people sleeping on the streets, wandering around with shopping carts full of their possessions, and general disarray for those homeless wanderers.
      If you have a home on the UWS, you’re lucky. If you have a car, that’s a privilege. We all need places to live. We can all survive without owning a car. We need to help those without shelter – or has Trump now infected the Notorious Upper West Side (NUWS)we all say we love?

    6. Wendy says:

      Some Senior Citizens probably haven’t liked being moved. How many good S.R.O.s are in UWS , now ? Do the demolition workers speak our English language ? What happened to the residents of Williams House, re the Salvation Army ? n.b. how are the leases of that ‘affordable housing” ? I’ve qualms @ some of BRC. How many illegal aliens in N.Y.C. ?

    7. Christine says:

      My bldg is currently in the midst of enduring the years+ on-going renovation/re-construction of St. Agnes Boys’ School(WEA/87) as well as the demolition of the parking garages on 87 (bet WEA/Bway) to make way for another luxury bldg. — and it is has been hell. The noise, the filth, the constant hideousness.

      Best of luck to the neighbors facing years of similar shit, especially if you work from home, have a pet at home or are around frequently during the day. If your home was your haven it’s about to absolutely SUCK.

    8. Reed says:

      Due to economic-social steering Community Board 7, WSFSSH, and our local political representatives continue to foster segregation within the Manhattan Valley Community. Intentionally or unintentionally this project reinforces segregation in a small impoverished region within the northern part of the Upper West Side.

      It is questionable if CB 7, the local Council Member and our Borough President would allow such a large-scale project within the West 70-80s….but of course why not continue to put people with little opportunity within an already impoverished community with no opportunity?

      The local community is greatly concerned about the toxic wastes within the garages and the adverse effects that it may have on the Manhattan Valley residents. Of course, the project is situated in the middle of Manhattan Valley and here people as well as the students in the adjacent schools seem to have less value than the students and residents of Park West Village at West 97 Street.

      The lack of real concern for public health at the West 108 Street project vs. the Jewish Home project at West 97 demonstrates a classic example of the ‘haves and the haves-nots. Simply look at the people fighting the West 97 project….it is interesting that these same people would not even discuss the environmental concerns of the Manhattan Valley residents. An example of discrimination?

      • Jay says:

        Honestly, the “environmental concerns” are over-wrought at both locations. There are regulations that deal with these situations and they are being followed as far as I can see.

        If you have evidence to the contrary, I’m sure the state DEP would love to hear from you.

    9. Pcnyc says:

      Rob G. has a point. The residents of 85th St. did not get to comment on the VOA sale to WSFSSH before it was made a done deal.
      And the VOA residents were mostly young women needing a safe respite with reasonable rent while they lived in the city for school or work. It fulfilled an important function; sad that it couldn’t continue at this location.
      Quiet and stable 85th St. between Riverside and West End Ave. is not the same as noisy and busy Broadway, which has another WSFSSH location, Euclid Hall, a block away. My trepidation continues.

    10. MTS says:

      I’ve been following the WS Rag and reading the comments to its articles for years and I’ve noticed a distinct and ongoing undertone of assumed privilege and a thinly veiled economic prejudice in the opinions of the readers.

      Nothing has driven this point home more clearly than the bitching and whining that’s ensued over the prospect of losing a parking space that might otherwise be turned into housing for low-income folks and the homeless.

      The fact is– having a car in the city is a luxury, and valuing a personal luxury over the survival and well-being of your neighbors is very telling indeed.

      I suggest you spoiled whiners pack a duffel bag and head out onto the street for a few nights with no $$ in your pocket to get a little perspective. Do it during the polar vortex. I doubt your primary concern will be the preservation of parking garages.

      Then come home to your cushy abode and send your elderly mother out there for a stint. You may begin to realize that the homeless are real people– not just an impediment to your desire for a convenient parking spot and a blight on your vision of a spiffy environment unblemished by “riffraff”.

      Think about that the next time you walk into your chosen house of worship and pat yourself on the back for being such an upstanding and caring member of your community.

      Remember– caring is an “active” verb. it implies a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. And if you sincerely care– from the heart… it won’t even register as a sacrifice. It’ll just be the right thing to do.

      That’s what’s known as a moral imperative. It presupposes an innate understanding of the fact that we are all connected. I reckon that’s easy to forget when you’re living in an ivory tower.

      Your loss.

    11. Peter says:

      when the bullies in city hall decide to do something noone has a chance to alter their plans.

    12. Sonia Garcia says:

      No one should complain…How can we complain? This is what the rest of the city will have to do in order to keep New York City the melting pot it’s intended to be. Where those from different strata and ethnicities can learn from one another and make this city the best in the world. We are now more than ever the haves and have NOTs. How can we grow as a people? How can we set the standard for tolerance and acceptance? Open your land outer boroughs and get on board!!

    13. Been There says:

      This is as simple as it was from day one.

      The idea that the Ciy should prioritize the parking of cars over homes for humans in determining how to use city owned property is just plain nuts.

    14. Confused says:

      What other garage is closing?