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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Facing fierce opposition to Van Cortlandt Green, project’s partnership disintegrates

By Sarina Trangle
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
An architectural rendering of the Van Cortlandt Green project proposed for 6469 Broadway.

The Van Cortlandt Green project has hit a red light.

Amid community opposition, one of two non-profits proposing to jointly run a 12-story residential facility in North Riverdale for low-income seniors and residents suffering from mental illness has dropped its bid. 

Comunilife, an organization that assists people with HIV, the homeless and new immigrants, withdrew from the project, leaving its partner Selfhelp Community Services Inc. scrambling to find a new provider to manage the 26 units set aside for formerly homeless New Yorkers diagnosed with mental illnesses. Selfhelp planned to manage the remaining 59 units at the 6469 Broadway site reserved for seniors who earn no more than 60 percent of the metro area median income.

Politicians wasted no time declaring the move a victory.

On Sept. 20, state Sen. Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Democratic candidate for the District 11 City Council seat, Andrew Cohen, held a press conference in front of 6469 Broadway, beneath a banner with their photos and the message “bringing Riverdale together.”

Mr. Klein and Mr. Dinowitz said developers provided little information about the proposed building before it was announced, even though the project received more than $13 million in state aid. The two politicians opposed the proposal, saying the developers failed to communicate with them or their constituents about the building’s security plans and environmental concerns at the site — the land at 6469 Broadway was once a gas station and is currently in the Brownfield cleanup program for contaminated properties. 

Mr. Dinowitz noted that Comunilife and Selfhelp were unable to point to another facility that had housed both seniors and the mentally ill.  “This was not a proven concept,” he said. “And I certainly don’t want our community to be the guinea pig of a new idea that may or may not work out.”

Selfhelp would need to return before the state Housing Finance Agency and the state Department of Mental Health if it found another provider to manage the 26 units forfeited by Comunilife or pare down its plans to just senior housing, according to Mr. Klein.

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