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CB 6 uneasy with Bridge plan

A respected non-profit plans to build a low-income project for men and women recovering from mental illnesses at 2265 Bathgate Avenue, near St. Barnabus Hospital and P.S. 59.

The Bridge’s Peter Beitchman is confident his clients will blend into the neighborhood. Most are working or in school, and none have suffered a serious episode since 2004.

But some Tremont residents are concerned. The neighborhood is already saturated with assisted housing, they claim.

“We’re opposed to it,” Community Board 6 land use chair Sara Logan said. “We need affordable housing, not this sort of housing. It’s nothing personal.”

The Bridge is a Manhattan-based housing provider, responsible for 19 single-site buildings and 250 scatter-site rentals since 1985. Beitchman manages buildings on Morris and Sheridan avenues, southeast of Claremont Park.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded The Bridge $2.9 million for the 2265 Bathgate project – Bridge Gardens. The seven-story building, scheduled for completion by January 2011, will include 18 studio apartments, a community kitchen, an office and a laundry room.

The Bridge offers three levels of assisted housing. Men and women fresh from the hospital or the street enjoy 24-hour supervision. Clients generally “graduate” to scatter-site housing, and receive frequent visits from Beitchman’s staff.

Bridge Gardens will be permanent housing, designed for The Bridge’s most stable clients, but will retain 24-hour supervision as well. The state will to chip in $1.9 million, Beitchman said.

2265 Bathgate is a privately owned vacant lot one block from P.S. 59. Other schools within walking distance are P.S. 23, P.S. 159, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, The Theatre Arts Production Company and M.S. 118.

Yvonne Johnson’s great granddaughter attends P.S. 59. The Quarry Road resident worries about Bridge Gardens.

“We’re surrounded by schools here,” Johnson said. “Tons of kids walk alone. We don’t know the nature of these mentally ill people.”

Logan believes the neighborhood has done its share. It’s time for wealthier areas like Riverdale to shoulder the assisted housing burden, she stated.

The Bridge will visit CB6’s general meeting on March 17. Because the Bathgate Avenue project involves state and federal funding, Beitchman does not need the board’s approval.

“We’re not against any specific population,” CB6 district manager Ivine Galarza said. “We’ve supported a lot of these institutions in the past. But this is a sensitive issue. I don’t know how the community is going to react.”

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