With approximately 70 studios, the development will house patients with medical needs like congestive heart failure and end-stage renal disease after they leave jail. On August 19, 2022, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and NYC Health + Hospitals announced “Just Home,” a housing project in Morris Park, Bronx geared towards formerly incarcerated New Yorkers.
Located in a vacant building at 1900 Seminole Avenue on the campus of Jacobi Hospital, Just Home will house eligible tenants that were recently released from Rikers with serious medical needs such as congestive heart failure, stage 4 cancer, and end-stage renal disease. Correctional Health Services, a division of NYC Health + Hospitals and the direct healthcare provider in NYC jails, will identify patients who would be a good fit for Just Home based on clinical and other needs. The development will provide intensive, on-site social services from specialists, licensed clinical social workers, and dedicated peer workers, and residents will have close access to Jacobi Hospital’s health services.
In addition to providing support and medical care for critically ill patients, the project will offer much needed affordable housing. Just Home will include a two-bedroom apartment for a live-in superintendent and approximately 70 studios for residents. Available low-income units will be rented out through HPD’s lottery system, with preference for local Bronx Community District 11 residents.
The Fortune Society will act as developer, manager, and social service provider for Just Home. Fortune’s Castle Gardens residence in West Harlem, which opened in 2010 and provides 114 units of permanent mixed affordable and supportive housing, will serve as a model for the Just Home project.
Just Home will require a ground lease between Fortune and NYC Health + Hospitals; following a public hearing, the lease then needs approval from both City Council and Health + Hospitals’ Board of Directors. Based on this approval timeline, Just Home should open for tenancy in approximately three years.
However, many Morris Park residents have expressed their disapproval of the project, including local Council Member Marjorie Velazquez and Bronx Community Board 11. On August 13, 2022, CM Velazquez joined constituents at Jacobi Hospital for a protest against the project. Weeks prior on July 19, the Morris Park Community Association held a tense meeting packed with residents who spoke against the Just Home development. Opponents expressed security concerns.
Proponents of the project, including Bronx DA Darcel Clark and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, hope to challenge this pushback and gain greater support from local residents. Executive Director of Open New York William Thomas pointed out that Just Home “will serve some of our most vulnerable neighbors in a Council District that has built just 58 units of affordable housing since 2014, and where opportunities to build new housing in the district are consistently opposed. Though this project is not a shelter, Community District 11 is currently the only district in the Bronx without a Department of Homeless Services shelter, further proving that Morris Park and the surrounding areas are not doing their fair share”.
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom added that “Every New Yorker deserves a permanent home,” and the Just Home project “demonstrates the city’s commitment to providing care and delivering services to every person including those with a criminal justice history.”
HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr.: “New York City has a dire need for supportive housing for our most vulnerable citizens, and few are more vulnerable than those exiting the justice system with serious health conditions. Fortune Society has a long, proven record of helping justice-involved New Yorkers reintegrate with their communities, while NYC Health + Hospitals has the expertise to ensure residents receive the level of care and attention we all deserve.”
Health + Hospitals, HPD, and Fortune will hold community briefings with both Council Member Velasquez and Bronx Community Board 11 in September, and have engaged with local elected officials, community organizations, and community members to ensure Just Home can best serve its tenants and neighbors.
By: Cassidy Strong (Cassidy is a CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)