What a difference three years makes.
A non-profit group that once divided the South Slope with a proposal to house formerly homeless and low-income adults with special needs in a Fifth Avenue building received a warm welcome to the neighborhood on Friday.
Even Borough President Markowitz, who opposed an early version of the proposal, was on hand at the formal ribbon cutting to cheer the Fifth Avenue Committee’s $14-million conversion of a parking lot into a five-story, 49-unit building.
In fact, Markowitz, whose objections resulted in the inclusion of more units for senior citizens, was eager to meet his new constituents.
“Where are the new residents?” he asked, looking around for upraised arms. “I brought some voter registration forms!”
One of the new residents, former homeless drug addict Samuel Oliver, appreciated the attention — and his new room in the building, which is at the corner of 16th Street.
“When you get taken out of that [drug] environment and start being treated in a different way, you start to come along,” said the Brownsville-born mechanic and Army veteran. “When you are held to a certain standard, you maintain that standard. You start appreciating life.”
Michelle de la Uz, the executive director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, which spearheaded the project, echoed Oliver’s thoughts.
“Many of us take for granted what having a home feels like — and this building is part of the solution,” said de la Uz.
The fate of the project was not always certain. In 2007, area residents blasted the project, fearing their neighborhood would be diminished because of the composition of the new tenants. As a result of the outcry, modifications were made, including the relocated entrance, a 24-hour front desk security and a live-in superintendent.
The building also features ground-floor retail occupied by Kumon learning center, a rooftop greenhouse, lush backyard garden, and community space.
©2010 Community News Group
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