Supportive housing plan for Glendale met with criticism and support at Board 5 meeting

Rendering of the proposed mixed-use apartment building at 80-97 Cypress Avenue. Photo courtesy of WellLife Network.

A nonprofit’s plans to build a six-story supportive housing building in Glendale drew sharp criticism and concerns from Community Board 5 members during the advisory body’s Nov. 14 meeting in Middle Village.

WellLife Network is seeking to file a variance for their proposed mixed-use apartment building at 80-97 Cypress Avenue. The non-profit initially wanted the building to be 28 units but now wants 66 with 23 units for senior citizens with disabilities, 23 units for individuals suffering from mental illness and 20 for other community members.

Although representatives from WellLife Network tried to assure attendees at the Nov. 14 Community Board 5 meeting that the apartment building would be like any other, some board members expressed safety concerns.

Assemblyman Mike Miller, meanwhile, did not believe that housing those suffering from mental illness in facility without mental health services was appropriate.

“While WellLife Network can provide housing for the mentally ill, they fall short on providing basic mental health services,” Miller wrote in a letter addressed to Queens Director of City Planning John Young. “This is not the treatment that the mentally ill should endure.”

Miller was unable to attend last night’s meeting but a representative from his office, Samantha Kung, read the letter out loud for the community board. The assemblyman expressed his support for more affordable and supportive housing, but disagreed “that this type of housing should be placed at this location because Glendale already has housing amenities for people with disabilities and an additional housing unit for individuals with special needs.”

He requested that the land use committee deny the variance claiming that the neighborhood is already at full capacity.

The 50,720 square foot building is meant to promote community and integration, according to WellLife Network’s Chief Operating Officer Ann Marie Barbarotta and CEO Sherry Tucker.

Tenants would consist of the most independent of the disabled and individuals with a history of mental illness work, go to school and maintain healthy relationships but for some reason or anther have found themselves in a hospital.

“So they would not be what your normal perception of mentally ill person would be,” said Tucker. “We don’t house those.”

WellLife Network, formerly known as PSCH, is a non-profit that helps people and families recovering from health issues, with a focus on educating fiscal responsibility.

Despite the voiced concerns, others viewed the building as a progressive step towards destigmatizing mental illness.

“I hope you help reduce the stigma of mental health issues,” said Sarah Feldman, a 30-year-old member of Community Board 5 who said she has battled depression and took issue with the tone some attendees took when discussing those who have struggled.

In her opinion, Feldman believes the building would improve the neighborhood since the area is not currently being used.

“We need anything in the mental health community and we have nothing right now,” she said.

WellLife Network will have to address the matter further with the Community Board 5 Land Use Committee, which will submit a recommendation on the variance to the full board at the next meeting.

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