5th Av shelter gets the nod

for The Brooklyn Paper
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After months of debate and negotiations with neighbors, an affordable housing facility has finally been approved for the corner of Fifth Avenue and 16th Street.

The City Council unanimously approved the controversial building this week, clearing the way for a municipal parking lot to be transformed into 49 studio apartments for the formerly homeless, low-income elderly, and people with HIV.

The vote came after nearly a year of objections to the project, proposed by the Fifth Avenue Committee.

Several neighbors, under the ad-hoc group named “16th Street Action,” claimed that putting low-income housing and formerly homeless tenants at the site would be bad in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

“I live next door, and my children will be walking home right past the entrance to this building,” said Matthew Dwyer, a co-founder of 16th Street Action. “I don’t want them to be at risk.”

But such comments did not persuade Community Board 7, which approved the proposal earlier this year. It was subsequently rejected by Borough President Markowitz on the grounds that some units should be set aside for families, but Markowitz’s concerns were ignored in subsequent negotiations. The proposal then sailed through the Planning Commission, a precursor to this week’s Council rubber stamp.

During negotiations, the Fifth Avenue Committee did agree to relocate the entrance of the building from quiet 16th Street to busier Fifth Avenue.

And in another compromise, the group agreed to limit the number of mentally ill residents and fill their slots with people with AIDS, said Michelle De La Uz, executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee.

“This was a way to cut down on the number of mentally ill homeless who will be living in the building,” De La Uz said.

Construction of the five-story building will begin in late fall and take only 18 months, De La Uz said.

Updated 4:30 pm, July 9, 2018
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