By Dena Twain
Residents of the upper west 90s expressed open-mindedness — laced with worry — about the new permanent supportive housing program being created at 258 W. 97th Street, which previously was an illegal hotel.
Among the greatest sources of unease is “accountability” for residents’ behavior, as well as the new residence’s potential negative impact on small businesses on the neighboring blocks.
These and other topics were discussed Monday night at a meeting of the Community Board 7 Housing Committee, which Council Member Gale Brewer attended. The meeting was held via Zoom and included approximately 14 members of the Board, four members of the Fortune Society — the provider at the new facility — and multiple community members.
The Fortune Society presented and defended their plans for the new program. Of the 82 SRO units, 15 will be available to current residents of the former hotel. The rest will be parceled out either via lottery to low-income New Yorkers, or to Fortune tenants who are currently living in homeless shelters.
The work is slated to be finished within eighteen months.
Fortune Society has already seen great success with their 10-year-old Castle Gardens project in West Harlem. Their plan for this new building comes with solid criteria for excluding certain persons from housing, namely most sex offenders and those convicted of arson or meth production on property. Stanley Richards, Fortune’s Deputy CEO, spoke at length about assessment procedures for incoming residents.
Staff will be on-site seven days a week to supervise residents, and ample support services will be available, both in house as well as at other Fortune facilities in Harlem and Long Island City. Said JoAnne Page, Fortune’s CEO, “We made a commitment to the neighborhood that it will be safer because of us.”
Community members voiced support for the endeavor as well as some trepidation.
Some worried about introducing new sex offenders into their midst. Board member Paul Fischer asked for clarity on exactly what level offenders would be accepted into the program. Per Page, they will only allow individuals in Level 1, meaning they carry a low risk to re-offend. “We will not accept people that pose a risk to the community,” she said.
Local resident Kim Duncan spoke on behalf of “all small business owners” unhappy about the arrival of another facility on a block “already with two nearby.” Said Duncan, “You’ve got fourteen vacant stores right here, but no one will come in to shop in this environment.” She asked for accountability for residents relapsing into bad behavior. “We are upset and anxious about what’s coming. If there is a problem, we want it handled immediately.”
In response, Page asked Duncan to “consider Fortune’s record” and promised action should illegal activity arise, but some residents found Fortune’s lack of specificity on protocol too vague. “You’re not answering the question,” Duncan countered.
Some local residents seem prepared to welcome their new neighbors with open minds, and praised the new building’s architects, Curtis + Ginsberg LLP, for their skill and artistry. Board member Catherine DeLazzero asked what Upper West Siders can do to be good neighbors. “Realize that our former homeless incarcerated residents have been stigmatized most of their lives,” offered Page. “Get to know them as human beings. Invite them into your church.”
Council Member Brewer closed by commending the Fortune Society. “Other nonprofits in the city could learn how to be transparent and open from this presentation. It would be a very good lesson for them.”
It’s a step in the right direction, but, said Page, the building on West 97th “will be a drop in the bucket” for meeting the full housing needs of this city.
Other agenda items addressed at Monday’s meeting included new budget requests, which will be presented in the next three months and considered over the summer. Some additional agenda items, such as discussion of Project FIND, an UWS non-profit organization that provides senior support services and housing (coming to West 79th Street), were postponed.
View the entire discussion on YouTube here.
Step 1: complete sale of building in utter secrecy, creating fait accompli of adding 50+ residents needing on-site support to area with high concentration of supported housing.
Step 2: execute slick PR strategy proclaiming utter transparency.
In light of Step one, why should the neighborhood trust anything said in Step 2?
Exactly! I trust nothing that is done undercover of the night. No one cares about community input, neither Gale or Helen care about the little people. Can we see who the executives of the Fortune society donated too?
“No one cares about community input, neither Gale or Helen care about the little people.”
Simply because an elected official does not do what YOU want them to does not mean they don’t care. Most elected officials do exactly what they are elected to do – weigh the concerns of ALL stakeholders in a given situation, and then make their decisions. They cannot satisfy EVERYONE; SOMEONE is always going to feel that they “weren’t heard.” But it’s not about “not hearing.” It’s about having to make choices and decisions that one feels are right, after hearing all “sides” or voices, even if and when those decisions are unpopular or are unsatisfactory to one or another person or group.
Blanket statements like yours are simply born of annoyance that you, personally (and, yes, others, too), did not get your way. But sometimes it’s the “other guy” (or gal) who did not get THEIR way. That is simply life and politics.
I was strongly opposed to the situation at the Lucerne largely because the people who moved in did not seem to have any supportive resources and there were no consequences for anti-social behavior. Obviously that was during a major crisis but it was still not handled well.
In this situation, it sounds like they are making a good effort to pro-actively avoid those problems so I will keep an open mind and hope for the best. Hopefully this will be a win-win.
“I was strongly opposed to the situation at the Lucerne largely because the people who moved in did not seem to have any supportive resources…”
With respect, this was and continues to be a lie, initially perpetrated by those whose self-proclaimed compassion for the residents was proven bogus.
As you well know, I was one of the few people who was permitted to go in and out of the hotel as I pleased, given my role in coordinating the spiritual services for the residents. And I can tell you that, from Day 1, there were supportive services on site, though admittedly incomplete at first. But within three or four weeks those services grew, both onsite and off, to the point where the Lucerne was probably the best-served facility during that period.
I am surprised this canard has not long since been put to bed.
“Police on Sunday charged a homeless man with attempted murder for the brutal hammer attack…William Blount, 57, was arrested at 57 Wall St., a Radisson Hotel that had been converted to a homeless shelter during the pandemic….The city moved many homeless men to the Financial District shelter from the LUCERNE HOTEL on the UPPER WEST SIDE after complaints from the community that they lowered the quality of life in the neighborhoods with open-air drug use and public urination.This is not Blount’s first arrest. He’s was busted for robbery in 1983, drug possession and petty larceny in 1990 and burglary in 1993, records show.”
Ian, just this week a Nina Rothschild was beaten nearly to death, by a homeless resident of the Radisson, which was set up for Lucerne transplants. “The city moved many homeless men to the Financial District shelter from the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side” “This is not Blount’s first arrest. He’s was busted for robbery in 1983, drug possession and petty larceny in 1990 and burglary in 1993, records show.”
Wow. Just wow. I am pretty much the only one so far who has said anything remotely positive about the new place on 97th yet you choose to nit pick me about the Lucerne. And contradict yourself in doing so. You admit that the services at the Lucerne were insufficient. It made the neighborhood miserable for weeks. The woke folk denied that there was a problem, rather than trying to solve it.
I gather you are some sort of a clergyperson. I am glad that my UWS clergy leader does not distort facts like you and jump to hateful conclusions about anyone who disagrees. This is not constructive. And I am a lot more sympathetic to you than the vast majority of America.
WSR – please do not censor this – I deserve to respond to this and I am being no more “personal” than he is. Thank you (you don’t need to publish this last paragraph).
My kids live next door Ian. Are you moving a family with kids into this facility to live alongside 58 ex cons?
Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?
I agree with West 90’s and add that this most likely will not end well. West 97th Street is saturated with people in need residences as are some of our surrounding blocks. The few recent warm weather days seemed like a bad throwback to the not too distant past and the atmosphere on Broadway. When “The Community” does something, for example, about the youngish couple with stuffed animal who have been living in the doorway on the West side of Broadway between 96th and 97th then I will stand corrected about what that same Community can do and expect from this new problem.
This comes when our community has been experiencing increased crime. Just yesterday, a NYTimes article “Retail Theft Rises, and N.Y.C. Small Business Owners Are Paying the Price” cited the experience of Blue Moon Icecream, directly across Broadway on 97th:
Julia Larock was working at Blue Marble Ice Cream, an ice cream shop on the Upper West Side, in November when a man showed up twice in three days, claiming to have a gun and demanding money. He took a total of $32. Each time, the shop closed for the day as the police swept for fingerprints and interviewed employees.
The suspect, Joshua Tirado, 31, was arrested, and a judge released him without bail on Nov. 11. He came back to the store a few days later. Although he just looked around and left, Ms. Larock felt targeted and quit.
“You don’t know how a situation will escalate,” said Ms. Larock
This supportive housing is a sham. When the people of the Rustin Hotel at 319 West 94st arrived everyone was happy. It’s affordable housing yeah yeah. In reality drug addicts and people with mental problems arrived. Same at the Continental at 330 west 95st.
Currently RiseBoro who arrived at in March 2021 at 315 west 94st has some mentality challenged individuals stored. But the administration is good at kicking out problematics.
308 west 94st was a apart homeless shelter then an illegal Airbnb and currently it has rooms hosting college students. Rooms are available on Street Easy website for $1600 when available.
306 west 94st is a real homeless shelter with metal detectors at the entrance. They don’t allow the tenants to cook or have visitors. The tenants can only bring plastic spoons with knifes and forks inside. Their food truck tends to arrive twice a week around 1am.
I am very against it. I was attacked twice by the homeless.
I already expressed my opinion in the earlier post, but as we know WSR picks and chooses what and when to publish.
I do protest this housing and want our elected official to do something about it.
I wouldn’t be alone in this. Lots of people think that but their voices are not heard.
Jen, sorry for what happened to you, but the Fortune Society residents are by definition not “homeless.” The point of supportive housing is in fact to keep at-risk people off the streets and facilitate their rehabilitation.
What a horrible idea. West 92-106 on Broadway is already a mess. You have to totally avoid 96th to 99th – Broadway.
Clean up the drugs, public drinking. Constant caustic panhandling. The petty crime. I see it every day. Why does no one seem to care that the quality of life in this neighborhood has declined dramatically?
The goal of supportive housing is to eventually leave, correct? Get back on your feet, get your own place? How logical is supportive housing in some of the most costly zip codes in the country where pretty much everything is expensive
That is not the goal of supportive housing. The goal of supportive housing is to give people the on-site mental health services they need to thrive, or at least function.
I find it interesting, if not surprising, that so many people in the comments here complain day and night about street homelessness, crime, and recidivism, but when a facility like this one is proposed, which works to reduce street homelessness and recidivism (and has a proven track record which shows that their residents do not commit crimes), these same people are opposing it. It’s almost like they don’t actually want to solve the complicated problems at the heart of these issues, but rather wish that they could turn the UWS into a gated community that only wealthy people are allowed to enter.
GATED community? Like others have pointed out, there are NYCHA all along the 90s, east of Broadway. There us also supportive housing on 94th and 95th street. How is that gated?
I don’ t think people who are opposed to new supportive housing are asking that the UWS be turned into an area just for the wealthy.
But also. Different parts of the UWS are, well, different. The 70s and 80s dont have any projects. The 60s and 90s do.
Anyway. I think the Fortune Society seems to run a good program. It sounds like we will all benefit. However. Treating opponents to it like they are classist monsters helps no one.
Or, maybe they just want a gated community for law-abiding people. It’s really not that “complicated” – don’t commit crimes and noone will care to oppose where you live.
Amen to this.
“Gated Community”? Hardly. Most apartment buildings have a mix of rent stabilized and market rate tenants. There is a lot of public housing, including the large Frederick Douglas site. There’s nearby supported housing, including two current supported housing locations on 97th, one on 95th and one on 94th, all west of Broadway. Ours has been a successful mixed income neighborhood, but it has exceeded its carrying capacity.
What about the drug dealers that follow the homeless?
Fortune may consider the presence of four other supportive housing locations nearby as an advantage. Fortune expanded its LI City and 140th St. locations over time. Cue their PR team to deny they have “plans” or “intention” to take over the two supportive housing locations down the block on 97th, or on 95th and 94th. Will they commit?
Also-Fortune was a strong backer of bail reform, other alternatives to incarceration. Good intentions, but result is no enforcement of shoplifting, etc. Our local police has not stopped the decline of our neighborhood before Fortune arrived. Fortune’s presence will make them even more ineffective.
Another homeless shelter on the UWS in the middle of a residential area with schools. Why not on the UES? This is why crime is through the roof in the area. I hope they plan on adding more cops too.
Where is there an area near social services that isn’t residential with schools? Serious question.
One thing I’m unclear on: is this new supportive / affordable housing, or is this restoring “existing” units? My understanding is that it’s the latter, so there’s very little the neighborhood can do to stop it.
In terms of why the neighborhood is against the development: it’s because of the high number of other facilities that exist and because the facilities do not serve neighborhood people.
If the Fortune House development was the only one in the neighborhood, then it’s a different discussion. Also, if this facility was to serve homeless already in the area – different discussion. Instead, this facility will bring in new people. The existing homeless in the neighborhood will not be served by this facility. And, this facility will operate in addition to the other facilities in the area. Plus, you’ve got the massive Douglas Houses, Wise Houses, and other NYCHA facilities.
At some point, the neighborhood reaches a tipping point. Some will say we’ve already passed that. Putting more stress on this neighborhood just because it isn’t as rich or politically powerful as its neighbors to the south (tradition UWS) north (Columbia) or east (UES) doesn’t seem fair. At some point, the city needs to understand that they’ll break the neighborhood beyond repair.
I thought folks were very well spoken in the community comment portion of the CB7 meeting. Great points that many of these units will go to people not from the neighborhood, essentially ignoring the needs on our own doorstep
The Fortune Society appreciates the support of members of this community. But we also understand the skepticism and hesitation of others to accept us as neighbors. We appreciate and understand your experiences and invite you to learn about who we are and how we operate. At 258 W. 97th Street, our rent-paying permanent supportive tenants will be rigorously screened and will have access to on-site case managers and support services to assure they remain contributing members of the community. Our tenants are accountable to us; and we will be accountable to you. As we have done for more than a decade in our West Harlem rental property called Castle Gardens, Fortune is committed to running a safe, stable and beautiful building. We are proud of our record of safety in West Harlem and the fact that we are accepted as a valued member of the community. I urge you to call the Community Board 9, the 30th Precinct Community Council, or talk to our neighbors and ask them about us! Or arrange for a visit to see for yourselves how we run our housing and fit within our community.
As for transparency … as soon as Fortune closed on the purchase of the building – which we bought on the open market through a broker – we immediately began meeting with the community board, elected officials, community groups, BIDs, religious organizations and community members to let them know about the project and to answer questions. These meetings are continuing. It will be between a year and 18 months before any new tenants move in. I hope that during that time, you will come to know who we are, how we work and trust in our promise to be good neighbors. I am available to answer any questions. Sherry Goldstein, Fortune’s VP of Operations 347-510-3602
Gail Brewer and Fortune’s use of the word “transparent” verges on the Orwellian, or perhaps Trumpian.
Do secret deal for the building. Attempt to redirect attention to what you want to be the focus, not addressing the actual problem: this teetering neighborhood already has more supported housing than it can support. Fortune’s approach seems counterproductive even for its clients. If they establish themselves as capable of independent living, there is no affordable place for them to live in this neighborhood without displacing others already in need. If community support is so important, then establish supported housing in a community your clients can remain in without displacing others already in need. Establishing it in one of the most expensive areas in NYC, already saturated with supported and subsidized housing, makes no sense. This location is familiar and convenient for the Fortune executive who lives in the neighborhood, but will not work, long-term, for those Fortune claims to serve. At least not without Fortune clients supplanting local workers and residents for affordable housing.
Being transparent “ as soon as Fortune closed on the purchase of the building” is meaningless, as you have taken off the table the essential concern expressed here: the addition of over 50 persons needing support to our already struggling neighborhood. As others have pointed out, this neighborhood has way more than its share of supported housing already.
A February 25th article in this paper reported:
“Incidents of the most serious crimes are up 42% in the 24th Precinct and up 41% in the 20th Precinct, compared to the same January 1st – February 20th period in 2021”
New York is a big city in a big state: why not the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, other parts of Manhattan?
You have indicated you hope some Fortune residents will graduate to non-supportive housing – but given the high demand and low supply of affordable housing in this neighborhood, they will either displace a current resident or will need to establish themselves elsewhere.
non-profits do not necessarily mean they will be non-profits forever. Intentions can be changed overnight when business charters change.
A true neighbor that cares about the neighborhood would support those in need that are in the area they reside first.
I do not live in that specific area, I can understand how people that live there see nothing change for the problems they see everyday. In any neighborhood local homelessness should be addressed in this case it seems to be ignored
I’m supportive of providing aid and services to those in need and volunteer my time towards it. They were not able to articulate a plan for residents who are a harm to themselves and the community. If they can’t assure employees of the LIC location that they are safe, how can they assure our community? This is one of the reviews I read “Safety is also a main concern, which CEO has continued to ignore. Clients bring weapons into the building and nothing is done to protect clients or staff.”
In offering living space to new residents of this facility, is there any requirement that they be “vaccinated”? I am concerned at the complete ignorance and violation of the Nuremberg Code, which memorializes the right, by international treaty, of informed medical consent to any medical product and/or procedure. New York City’s coercive and unjust treatment of people who demand medical freedom of choice, forcing unwanted “vaccination” on city government employees has created a techno-medical apartheid….a two-tiered society, where those refusing dangerous and experimental, no-liability mRNA injections are stigmatized, and denied their rights. We cannot lose sight of this, in making decisions about our neighborhood.