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Once troubled Brooklyn residents briefly find home in Pelham Bay apartment

Bronx Times

Five dozen once mentally troubled Brooklyn residents forced out by Hurrican Sandy are now calling the Bronx home for the next six months.

East Bronx community leaders and elected officials quietly met Dec. 28 with Services for the UnderServed, lead organizers for a supportive housing facility in Far Rockaway, Queens ravaged by the storm.

They discussed the temporary move last month of 65 tenants, once afflicted with mental illness, into the long vacant Pelham Grand luxury apartment building on Pelham Parkway South.

The 35-year old non-profit group inked a six-month lease with building managers Portman Inc. Realty, with a three-month emergency extension should any snags derail repair work for the Queens building.

The group now has facilities in 14 Bronx neighborhoods, serving 1,000 people ranging from military vets, poor, developmentally disabled or mentally ill people in the borough.

Following the catastrophic storm, displaced Queens tenants were scattered about, taking shelter in hotels, community centers and other vacant apartments, some taking whatever they could, wherever they could.

“Because of Sandy we had no place to go,” said one of Pelham Grand’s new residents, scratching his lottery ticket on his way back to his new home at 1870 Pelham Parkway South at St. Paul Avenue.

“Living in very transient and a nomadic existence is destabilizing to anyone,” said Dr. Yves Ades, chief operating officer for SUS, who briefed Councilman Jimmy Vacca, Senator Jeff Klein and an aide for Assemblyman Mike Benedetto about the temporary move.

SUS worked with the State Office of Mental Health in finding an empty location with “all the safety features we needed,” said Ades. The building at an isolated section of Pelham Bay, is a 10-minute walk from the No. 6 subway stop.

SOMH will partially cover rental costs for tenants in the new building, complete with 24-hour security, a parking lot, and a social services team on hand should any tenant need it.

The new tenants, a wide spectrum of people who go to school or work, have no criminal background, said Community Board 10 chairman Ken Kearns.

Kearns, who also attended the December meeting, said he is convinced the tenants “will be good neighbors.”

“There won’t be a problem” said Kearns, adding SUS made assurances the facility would not be disruptive to the sleepy Pelham Bay community, overlooking a swath of the Hutchinson River Parkway.

Tenants will be banned from smoking outdoors or milling outside the building, he said.

But Anita Valenti, head of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association, is still on the fence with the new move, hoping no problems surface from Pelham Grand’s tenants.

“Time will tell,” she said.

Around the neighborhood Maria Aromando doesn’t mind recovering patients living their lives in Pelham Bay.

“They shouldn’t live in the street,” said Aromando, an elderly woman known for keeping an eye out on the neighborhood.

The public will get a chance to hear Dr. Ades brief the community on the temporary move at CB10’s next general board meeting set for Jan. 17th.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 or dcruz@cnglocal.com.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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