The recent raise several issues for community discussion.
But first, a clarification with regard to the specific project: The Bridge is not developing a residence at the site; the building will have mixed use with a combination of supportive housing residents and 2-bedroom affordable housing units for the community.
This model of housing has replaced the former “residence” model to provide the community with housing that it needs and to integrate housing for people with special needs and the general population.
In fact, over the course of four meetings with Community Board #3 and the Herking Alagantic Block Association, the community has been asked to select what groups it would like to put into the 2-bedroom units (families, elderly, veterans, etc).
The mixed-use model is thriving in other buildings in Bed Stuy. In one such building, there are more than 50 children living with their families, along with supportive housing residents. The building has 24-hour front desk coverage, social and recreational space for all residents, a computer room available to all, and staff to provide assistance to any resident that needs services.
All of these features are built into the Herkimer Street building also.
The special needs population slated for the Herkimer Street project consists of formerly homeless men and women who have mental health diagnoses. This is the population of concern to the Block Association. Having provided services to this population for 58 years, including housing in more than 20 programs, The Bridge has the experience to screen and select appropriate residents.
It is important for the community to understand that today, if people with mental health diagnoses receive appropriate services and supports, they can and do live full, independent lives in the community. While the media continues to sensationalize the rare incidents that involve persons with mental illness, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority are excellent neighbors.
Another often expressed concern is that special needs housing decreases property values in the area in which it is located. This was the subject of a study by New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. The study found that the presence of supportive housing actually increases area property values.
This has been the experience of The Bridge over many years. Many of the areas in which we have developed housing have gotten a significant boost in real estate values and other economic activity from our buildings.
Agencies like The Bridge take community involvement very seriously. For the Herkimer Project, not only are we encouraging the community to select the affordable housing priority populations, we will also be recruiting staff locally through the Community Board, block associations, local religious institutions and offices of elected officials. We are also establishing a Community Advisory Board which will meet regularly to plan and oversee the operations of the building.
While the presence of persons with mental illness in the community raises concern for many and the stigma towards persons with mental illness continues, it is The Bridge’s goal, not to endanger communities, but to enhance them by providing quality housing to persons with special needs and the community at large.
For more information about The Bridge please go to our website at www.thebridgeny.org