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Once-controversial special needs housing opens to cheers on Fifth Ave

The Brooklyn Paper
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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.

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Reader Feedback

joe joe from slope says:
let me begin by saying "boo" to myself, because i am going to take the unpopular stance - in support of cars...

the much needed housing could have been found in numerous locations, although not in a single location.

but parking cannot.

the single site housing benefits the 5th Avenue Committee more than the individuals housed there.

a balance needs to be struck with enhanced short & long term planning for sustainable communities.

it is awful to create a scenario of pollution spewing cars versus needy human beings, but cars are part of our necessary society - i used the parking lot repeatedly as a handicapped individual who needs my car to get about from time to time. my independence has been diminished - not terribly and not with great harm, merely an inconvenience, so i am not writing on my behalf.

but a community includes housing, stores, jobs, leisure/entertainment sites, open space and modes of transportation - including walking, biking, private cars, business vehicles, taxis, and buses.

the loss of the parking lot - in the heart of the shopping district cannot be replaced and will not be replaced. housing could have been found and did not have to be directly on 5th avenue - a bit of zoning ovesight would have been appropriate in terms of maintaining a retail zone - with some help for private cars.

studies have shown that increased parking reduces pollution from cars repeatedly circling blocks looking for spots that don't exist.

studies have shown that double parked cars are a major danger, to pedestrians and most especially bikers.

that's my two cents, boo to me and cheers to the 5th avenue committee that works with blinders on.
July 26, 2010, 10:40 am
richie rich from parkslope says:
OMG! there gos the neighborhood. yes, lets house crack heads. stupid people allow this to happen..
July 27, 2010, 12:39 pm
Tom Gogan from Park Slope says:
In reference to the prior comment, my grandmother used to say "It's the empty barrel that makes the most noise."

As for parking problems, you have my sympathy ... but you will survive, I assure you.

Housing for low- and moderate-people (singles, families, folks with special needs) is sorely needed in this rapidly-gentrifying city of ours.
Oct. 4, 2012, 8:48 am
Tom Gogan from Park Slope says:
I meant to say (above): low- and moderate-INCOME people ...
Oct. 4, 2012, 8:50 am

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