1 2 3 4

WellLife Network brings affordable housing to Glendale

Housing for homeless, income-eligible folks

After years of planning, vying for community support, and construction, WellLife Network finally cut the ribbon on a brand new five-story affordable apartment complex in Glendale.

Dedicated to serving people across the five boroughs and Long Island with developmental disabilities or mental illnesses, WellLife Network plans to continue its mission to empower individuals to live dignified lives and achieve their goals with this new supportive mixed use apartment building.

The building, located at 80-97 Cypress Avenue, has 66 units, which are a combination of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments.

Forty of these units are reserved for the homeless, while the remaining 26 units are for individuals in the community who meet low-income eligibility criteria, or 60 percent of the area median income.

Sherry Tucker, CEO of WellLife Network, is saddened by the fact that over 25,000 applications were submitted for the 26 community units, revealing how much demand there is for affordable housing in New York.

The previous property at the site of 80-97 Cypress Avenue was a community eyesore for years.

“At WellLife, we work very hard to be good neighbors, wherever we go, and we are always interested in trying to improve the areas in any way we can,” she said. “We’d love to be an asset to the neighborhood and really try to help in any way we can to make it be the very best it can be, and we always want to be a part of the community in any way possible.”

On June 9, WellLife Network commemorated the official grand opening of the building with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Local officials attended the event to compliment the project, including Ingrid Lewis-Martin, chief adviser to Mayor Eric Adams; Ahmed Tigani, deputy commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development; and New York City Councilman Robert Holden.

“WellLife, in partnership with the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development has created a model mixed-housing development for some of our most vulnerable residents in need of supportive services, as well as for New Yorkers who just need good and decent affordable housing,” Lewis-Martin said. “We strongly encourage other developers to ‘honor the call’ to create affordable housing with amenities in communities that systematically have been on the fringes. Kudos to WellLife and HPD for a job well done.”

Tucker said that WellLife’s proposal to open this apartment complex was approved unanimously by Community Board 5.

Walter Sanchez, chairman of CB5’s Land Use Committee, said that the board’s decision to approve was the right thing for the neighborhood.

“We know that every area has to do their part in supportive housing, and we think this fits in very well with us, so our board voted overwhelmingly to approve the project,” he said.
WellLife also held public forums to hear the community’s concerns—many of which they took into consideration when tweaking the specs of the project, such as potential traffic congestion and excessive height.

However, some neighbors on Cypress Avenue are skeptical of what changes the new apartment complex might bring to the community, especially with widespread concerns about the nearby men’s homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue, Cooper Rapid Rehousing Center.

“We’re not happy about this; it’s going to be a mess,” one neighbor, who requested to remain anonymous, said. “That’s why my landlord is selling this house and we’re leaving.”

Another neighbor, Yaffa Tamano, said that she’s also not in favor of the project because it’s out of character for the rest of the block, and might bring unwanted change to the neighborhood.

Councilman Robert Holden, who has openly criticized the Cooper homeless shelter in the past, emphasized that WellLife’s new affordable housing project is in no way comparable to it.

“This is actually a home for people; they’re going to stay there. This is not something like a shelter where they’re transient and they come and they have problems,” Holden said.
“This place actually supports and treats them … Some have mental health issues, some are just falling on hard times, and some are coming from shelters, but they will get their own apartment, which is great.”

Tucker said that the building has various amenities and services that will significantly improve the quality of life for residents, such as 24/7 front desk coverage, on-site support services, a laundry room, gym, and a deck that offers a perfect view of the city skyline.

She noted that the site just passed a final routine HPD inspection, and families could start moving in as early as this week.

“The Cypress Avenue residence helps WellLife achieve its ongoing vision to create income-eligible, supportive, and affordable mixed-use housing developments that offer a safe and nurturing environment where all tenants feel a sense of belonging to a larger community,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Walter Sanchez is the publisher of BQE Media. His recent remarks were made in his capacity as chairman of CB 5’s Land Use Committee.

Activist arrested during Myrtle-Wyckoff sweep

Update: Raquel Namuche’s case was dismissed and sealed in the interest of justice.

Ridgewood Tenants Union aimed to protect belongings of homeless

As Mayor Eric Adams’ citywide effort to clear homeless encampments continues, advocates in Queens have stepped up to support homeless neighbors in their communities.

This includes Raquel Namuche, founder of the Ridgewood Tenants Union, who was arrested by NYPD officers on the morning of April 9 during an encampment sweep on Myrtle Avenue in Ridgewood.

Namuche said that at around 10:30 a.m., as members of RTU attempted to make sure no items of value were discarded, a DSNY worker began to pull away a shopping cart.

She requested a few more minutes to review the contents of the cart, but was instead arrested by two 83rd Precinct officers for disorderly conduct and ​​obstruction of governmental administration.

Namuche was taken to the 83rd Precinct in Bushwick, where she was detained for four hours and then sent to Central Booking in Downtown Brooklyn where she spent 10 hours in a cell while waiting to see a judge.

“The commanding officer told me ‘no,’ that they had no time and other sweeps to do, and that they couldn’t give us one more minute. I assumed the cart belonged to Charlie, a homeless individual who stays at that encampment, but is currently at the hospital,” Namuche said.

“We just wanted to make sure that nothing of importance was thrown away, such as documents or ID,” she continued. “For that, I was arrested. This was not planned, and we believe that this was an unwarranted arrest.”

Cellphone video of police apprehending Namuche

Namuche said that a notice of the sweep was posted a block and a half away from the encampment, and that none of the men who stayed there noticed it.
RTU members agreed to store the belongings in their basements temporarily, and communicated with the homeless individuals about how to support them during the sweep.

“In this instance, we weren’t really trying to block anything, because the men told us that they just wanted help with getting into safe shelters,” Namuche said.

She added that one of the men, Michael, was able to go to a shelter in the Bronx where he lives in a single room.

But another individual named Jo Jo lost all of his belongings as a result of the DSNY and NYPD’s sweep.

“They took all my stuff and threw it away. Now I don’t have nothing at all to live on—no clothes, no socks, they took everything,” he told RTU members during the sweep.
“It’s not fair to us.”

At a recent press conference, Eric Adams said that the ultimate goal of his revamped policy is to build trust by engaging with homeless folks and informing them of the alternatives to living on the street.

But Namuche emphasized that the majority of homeless people have the same fate as Jo Jo when it comes to these sweeps.

“It’s very rare that these individuals actually get placed somewhere that is adequate for them,” she said. “The mayor’s office said that in March, 312 individuals accepted shelter placements. That’s not enough.”

“But in the meantime, they also arrested 719 people and gave out over 6,000 tickets during the sweeps,” she continued. “That just shows how violent they are.”
Ridgewood Tenants Union is in favor of using the 2,000 vacant apartments in the city for housing, as opposed to transitional shelters or Safe Haven beds.

The group also actively advocates for issues such as the Good Cause Eviction Bill, healthy living conditions for tenants and safe working conditions.

Namuche assures homeless folks that tenants’ rights organizations, like RTU, will continue to stand with them and advocate for their rights.

“We need to work together to demand the city build and open up housing for every homeless individual,” she said. We have to keep pushing the city to actually do its job in providing the residents with the services, adequate housing, healthcare and work that they need to live fulfilled and dignified lives.”

City agencies clear out homeless camp under BQE

As part of the mayor’s clampdown on homeless encampments, one under the BQE was recently cleared

First, it was the subway. Now, it’s the encampments.

A homeless encampment under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Williamsburg was cleared out on Monday March 29 as part of the mayor’s new enforcement policy. Mayor Adams previously told The New York Times on March 25 that he was looking to rid encampments over a two-week period.

A 2021 report from the city found that there were more than 2,000 homeless people in the city but advocates have said that the number is undercounted and doesn’t reveal the full complexities of homelessness in New York. Advocates have also heavily criticized the mayor’s recent subway safety plan and his new encampment policy and lacks the investments in housing and resources to seriously tackle the issue.

According to a January report from the Department of Homeless Services, there are currently 1,208 stabilization beds and 687 stabilization beds throughout the city.

“If the Mayor is serious about helping homeless people, he needs to open thousands of New Safe Haven and stabilization rooms and offer them to those in need, not take away what little protection they have from the elements and other dangers on the street,” Jacquelyn Simone, policy director for the Coalition for the Homeless, said via a statement, regarding the encampment policy announcement.

Homeless outreach teams, the Department of Sanitation, and NYPD officials showed up to the north Brooklyn encampment in 20-degree weather, telling homeless individuals’ to pack up their stuff or risk it being thrown away. Signage was posted on March 25 that the Meeker Avenue area would be cleared out on Monday.

Benjamin Adam, an organizer with North Brooklyn Essentials—a wing of North Brooklyn Mutual Aid that specifically tries to provide harm reduction and goods for homeless people—said that up until the recent announcement his group and the Department of Sanitation had a cooperative relationship. While sweeps are nothing new, Adam says he has been able to have a lot of “positive negotiations” in the past that would prevent mass displacement and damage as opposed to what has happened since the mayor’s announced crackdown.

“It just feels like with the weekend there’s an escalation in terms of what was happening and why it was kind of an all hands on deck this morning,” Thomas Moore, a volunteer with North Brooklyn Essentials, said. Around two dozen other volunteers and community members showed up to help the homeless with the sweep and document the cities’ actions.

A week prior to the latest raid, two long-standing encampments under the BQE were destroyed without notice. Adam said that one of the encampments was over a year old hosting multi-generations of Spanish-speaking day laborers and that the other encampment used a bunch of found materials in order to make a handwashing station and different sleeping areas.

“What’s inhumane is destroying people’s homes,” Adam said, referring to Mayor Adams’s statement that the living conditions on encampments are inhumane. “And if there is any inhumanity in the conditions in which homeless folks live, it is a result of the inaccessibility and dangerousness of the shelter system itself, that forces them to live there. So calling someone’s home, and the condition that they live in inhumane is an absurd idea, because, in fact, these folks would much rather like most people would have healthy environments to eat in and have safe and warm homes. And they’re here because they have nowhere else to go.”

Mike Rodriguez has been homeless for around two years but has never been in a shelter because it would mean he would have to separate from his partner Parker Wolf. He’s not sure where he going to go next since he can no longer pitch his green tent under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

“So everybody thinks of us as a danger. But we’re in danger out here,” Rodriguez said, before describing different times he’s been harassed and one time when someone tried sexual assault him and his partner. “It’s not our choice to be out here.Homeless people are just trying to live. Nobody understands how were just as good as the next person.”

Homeless help

Dear Editor,
I was appalled and saddened to read about a 32-year-old homeless man named Akeem Loney who was stabbed in the neck and killed while sleeping aboard a northbound 2 train near Penn Station.
He was reportedly a gifted soccer player who was trying to get his life together. Transit crime is up, and something needs to be done to protect the riding public and homeless.
Loney was reportedly a gifted soccer player who was trying to get his life together. I can relate.
I was homeless in 1975 after the Vietnam War after serving in the United States Navy. I was in a shelter called Middle Earth in Hempstead, and got help from the people I met there.
In reality, many others are not so lucky. I offer my heartfelt prayers to all the homeless who are suffering, mentally and physically. I truly feel their pain because I was there.
Sincerely,
Frederick R. Bedell, Jr.
Bellerose

Fire Banks

Dear Editor,
Regarding Jessica Meditz’s article on September 1 (“Sliwa on homeless crisis”), in his interview with this paper’s editorial board, GOP mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa vowed to close 26 shelters filled with mentally ill and drug-addicted homeless people.
He blamed Human Resources Administration (HRA) Commissioner Steven Banks for forcing homeless shelters “down people’s throats with no transparency or discussion.” Sliwa promised to fire banks if he becomes mayor.
But his opponent Eric Adams has a different view. He told news media that Banks “is
doing amazing things” and hinted that he might retain Banks if he wins. That’s like putting an arsonist in charge of the FDNY.
Before joining the de Blasio administration, Banks spent 33 years with the Legal Aid Society advocating for the homeless. He filed a lawsuit resulting in a milestone 2008 settlement creating a permanent right-to-shelter law for the homeless in New York City.
New York is the only U.S. city that has such a law. During his tenure as mayor, Mike Bloomberg blamed the law for attracting people from all over the country to the city for a free roof over their heads.
He urged its elimination. Our next mayor must do the same and gain support from City Hall and Albany to make it happen. Readers should urge their representatives in the City Council and state legislature to revoke this wasteful law.
Sincerely,
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

Sliwa on homeless crisis: “Defunding police to blame”

Republican mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa met with this paper’s editorial board last week to discuss a handful of city issues and how he would navigate them if elected.
One of the most pressing issues he touched on is the treatment of homeless people and emotionally disturbed persons in the city.
Sliwa can be seen on social media interacting with homeless people who are living on the streets and in the subways, and often calls out officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio and his democratic opponent, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, for not doing the same.
Sliwa believes that homeless outreach efforts have taken a turn for the worse as a result of the police being defunded by $1 billion, which he says severely impacted the Homeless Outreach Unit.
“Cops would go into the shelters, they would go into the hotels,” he said. “They would deal with EDPs and homeless people, more so than at the precinct level.”
Sliwa would close the 28 MICA shelters, which deal with mentally-ill and substance-abusing people, in the city.
“Those have to be closed,” he said. “You can’t have emotionally disturbed persons in shelters, they need care. They need to be in a mental healthcare hospital getting their meds.”
He supports reopening Camp LaGuardia upstate, a facility for the mentally ill and substance abusers that was closed during the Bloomberg administration.
Sliwa argues the camp would allow these individuals to overcome their substance abuse problems, as well as offer job training that may assist them with employment opportunities in the future.
Last month, Sliwa led a rally to celebrate local efforts that prevented the city from housing homeless people at the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, but said the issue of using hotels to house the homeless is an issue for many neighborhoods.
Sliwa said Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks “shoved these shelters down people’s throats” with no transparency or discussion. The argument is that the hotels allow homeless people who need shelter to remain in their community where they have a support system
But Sliwa says he has had conversations with homeless individuals living in hotel shelters far from where they are originally from.
The mayoral hopeful says he requested a meeting with Governor Kathy Hochul to discuss his opposition to legislation that would allow the state to buy hotels currently housing the homeless to make them permanent shelters. Sliwa says he has not heard back.
“A man or a woman, single, able-bodied should be able to have their own apartment, not have to live in a shelter in a dormitory-style way in which it’s not healthy for them,” he said. “They’re constantly being preyed on, it’s Darwinian.
“I’ve been in enough of them in which the shelter guards, whether they’re private security or Department of Homeless Services, have a no-touch policy,” Sliwa added “How are you going to control some people who are going to use force to try to shake down and extort other homeless people?”

Residents celebrate anniversary of stopping shelter

Local residents gathered outside the Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth to mark the 5th anniversary of the successful protests that stopped the city from housing the homeless at the hotel.
“They came to Maspeth and they thought they could force a shelter on us, but they had another thing coming because the people know how to fight,” one attendee told the crowd.
The rally also offered the opportunity to speak out about the city’s current homeless policies.
“That’s not what these hotels and motels were built for,” said mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa at the rally. “That’s what they should not be repurposed into.”
The Republican candidate recommended the city consider housing the homeless in commercial areas where warehouses are empty.
Attendees at the rally also called for the removal of Staeven Banks, who is commissioner of the Human Resources Adminstration/Department of Homeless Services. Banks has defended the city’s response to the homeless crisis, arguing that agencies at the state level are more to blame.
“There’s so much public focus on how the city should do more, but the state disinvestment is totally lost, we’re making up for them,” Banks said during a virtual City Council budget hearing earlier in the year. “There’s a real danger that New York state is going to continue to withdraw from providing support for the social safety net in New York City.”
Phil Wong, president of the Chinese-American Citizens Alliance, lives behind the Pan-American Hotel on Queens Boulevard, which serves as a homeless shelter for families. He said he saw children struggle to adapt to remote learning during the pandemic because of a lack of resources.
“Meanwhile, what do you see? Homeless under the LIE, in the subways and sleeping in parks,” he said. “So we are looking at outright abuse of our tax dollars. We’re talking about systems of sources that have failed for the last seven years. Steven Banks has to go.”

Fill the Form for Events, Advertisement or Business Listing