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City Planning Hears Testimony on Expansion of Mental Health Treatment Facility

Rendering of the proposed redevelopment at 50 Nevins Street. Image credit: DCP

The proposed rezoning would facilitate the expansion of a mental health treatment facility to include low-income affordable units for individuals and families. On June 21, 2017, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on an application for multiple land use actions to facilitate the enlargement and reconstruction of an existing eight-story building by integrating a 10-story horizontal expansion onto an abutting parking lot and three-story addition to the northern portion of the existing building. The applicants, the Institute for Community Living, proposed the a zoning map and zoning text amendment at the site, located on the southwest corner of the intersection of Nevins Street and Schermerhorn Street in the Downtown Brooklyn neighborhood.

In 1986, the Institute appropriated the building to establish its “Stepping Stone Treatment Residence” for single adults with serious mental illness. Currently, residents live in 120 square foot rooms with shared bathrooms. A dining program that includes three meals per a day is offered on the eighth floor, and supportive services are located on the ground floor.

The proposed rezoning would allow the Institute to renovate and enlarge the 150 single unit, eight-story building into an upgraded and modernized building containing 128 supportive housing units with studio, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. Sixty percent of the units would serve disabled individuals and 40 percent would be slotted for low-income single adults as well as families. The ground floor along Schermerhorn would contain 4,100 square feet of retail space.

On May 15, 2017, Brooklyn Community Board 2 voted 33-1 to approve the project. On June 14, 2017, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams issued a recommendation to approve the project with conditions. The Borough President requested that the Institute provide a written commitment to the City Council that: (1) it would actively solicit cultural organization as potential building occupants within the retail space; (2) it would continue to explore additional resiliency and sustainability measures; and, (3) it would retain Brooklyn-based contractors to meet and exceed the 20 percent local requirement.

At the June 21st hearing, Caroline Harris, of GoldmanHarris LLC, presented the project to the Commission on behalf of the Institute for Community Living. Harris emphasized that this model of integrating the mentally ill or disabled with general population is a state of the art approach of working with persons who have mental disabilities. Harris also stated the Institute’s commitment to meet the Borough President’s requests.

Responding to a question about relocation services for current tenants from Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin, the Institute’s Chief Operation Officer Chris Copeland explained that residents would be relocated to multiple other sites controlled by the Institute to continue care. The building would be completely emptied during construction, but Copeland assured the Commission that none of the 150 residents would be left without options or become homeless as a result of the project.

CPC: Nevins Street Rezoning, Brooklyn (170029 ZMK; 170030 ZMK) (June 21, 2017).

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).