Brooklyn supportive housing project debated

New project would house women transitioning from shelters or hospitals; opponents expressed concerns about project’s impact on neighborhood. On August 25, 2010, the City Planning Commission heard testimony on the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s proposal to allow Providence House to develop a six-story, 26-unit supportive housing project at 329 Lincoln Road in the Prospect Lefferts Gardens section of Brooklyn. Providence House, established by the Sisters of Saint Joseph, provides supportive and transitional housing for homeless and formerly institutionalized women. HPD recently demolished a four-story building on the site that had remained vacant for thirty years.

Providence House would provide twenty apartments to single women transitioning from shelters and hospitals. Five units would be marketed to low-income single women earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income, and one unit would be occupied by the building’s superintendent. To facilitate the project, HPD requested permission to dispose of the City-owned property and applied for a special permit allowing an increase in the building’s maximum floor area.

Brooklyn Community Board 9 opposed the project, and Borough President Marty Markowitz conditioned his approval on Providence House altering the ratio of the project’s supportive/low-income housing component. Markowitz stated that 40 percent of the units should be available to low-income women, and noted that similar supportive housing projects in the area contained a 60/40 percent split in housing. He also stated that Providence House should consider providing larger “family-oriented” units.

At the Commission’s hearing, Sister Janet Kinney, Providence House’s executive director, said her group operated ten residential programs, including a transitional project for women parolees in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Kinney claimed that if Providence House altered the supportive/low-income housing ratio, it would have to eliminate staff, exweakening “a sound program.”

Residents testifying in opposition expressed concerns about the project’s impact on the neighborhood. Joanne Newbold said that many children live on the block and that it was not an appropriate site for the project. Newbold noted the prevalence of other nearby supportive housing facilities and asked when the area would “stop being our neighborhood and just be supportive housing for everyone else?”

Those speaking in favor included residents and former tenants of Providence House facilities. Sharon White-Harrigan, director of Brooklyn’s Alternatives to Incarceration program, said she resided in a Providence House facility after serving eleven years in prison. White-Harrigan said that she had successfully reintegrated into society in large part due to Providence House.

The Commission has until October 18 to vote on the project.

CPC: Hearing on Providence House I (C 100325 ZSK – spec. perm.) (C 1000326 HAK – UDAAP) (Aug. 25, 2010).

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