Battle over Fifth Ave housing

Battle over Fifth Ave housing

Supporters of a plan to build low-income studio apartments in the South Slope fought back against Borough President Markowitz’s surprise rejection of the proposal, storming a hearing this week to urge the city to move forward with the plan.

Markowitz had rejected the Fifth Avenue Committee proposal for a 49-unit building to house mentally ill and formerly homeless adults, plus low-income seniors, on the grounds that families should also be part of the plan.

Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director Michelle de la Uz agreed that there is a need for affordable housing for families in Park Slope, but told the City Planning Commission on Wednesday that “unfortunately, this is not the right site for that.”

The supportive housing would be built on what is currently a municipal parking lot on Fifth Avenue and 16th Street — an area whose zoning bars buildings above five stories.

At such a short height, the Fifth Avenue Committee could not fit enough family-sized units to keep the rents affordable, yet generate enough income to run the building, de la Uz said.

The studio apartments would be rented to single men and women who make less than $29,775 a year.

Sixty percent of the units will be set aside for formerly homeless and mentally ill people, while the other 40 percent will be rented by elderly people and young people aging out of foster care.

Community Board 7 supported the proposal last month, an advisory vote that was promptly rejected by Markowitz.

On Wednesday, many residents came out to support de la Uz’s efforts — but an equally large number of opponents backed Markowitz’s rejection, though for very different reasons than the Beep.

“I live next door, and my children will be walking home right past the entrance to this building,” said Matthew Dwyer, a co-founder of the 16th Street Action Community Group, who testified on Wednesday. “I don’t want them to be at risk.”

Such comments prompted Planning Commissioner Karen Phillips to remark, “There seems to be a case of NIMBY [not-in-my-backyard] syndrome in here.”

De la Uz said her existing facility at 551 Warren St. in Boerum Hill is an example of what the South Slope can expect. That facility is now home to 94-year-old Dominick Diomede — the Carroll Gardens resident whose eviction became international news last year before he landed his Fifth Avenue Commitee apartment.

But there are countless of Dominick Diomedes losing their apartments every day thanks to gentrifrication and soaring real-estate prices, experts said.

Lucy Santiago, a 16th Street resident, testified that her mentally ill brother would be out on the street if not for the Fifth Avenue Committee’s Warren Street building.

“Just because he’s mentally ill doesn’t mean he’s not entitled to affordable housing,” she said.

The City Planning Commission will vote on the proposal later this month. A City Council vote will follow. If either group supports it, the plan goes to the mayor.