After 13 years of work and collaboration, the nonprofit and partners transform a former NYC Health + Hospitals parking lot into 89 units of affordable housing.
Rosa M. Gil, President and CEO of Comunilife, opened the event’s speaking program by recalling a conversation with one of the building’s newest residents – a formerly homeless woman who, with new keys in hand, uttered disbelief in this new stage of her life. Gil echoed her wonder, saying, “My dream and her dream has become a reality.”
The Woodhull Residence creates 89 new homes, with 54 reserved for patients of NYC Health + Hospitals who are eligible to be discharged from inpatient care but would otherwise have no permanent housing afterward. One of the biggest themes of the morning was this dangerous, cyclical gap between many vulnerable patients’ life in hospitals and the precipitous drop in support that follows. The Woodhull Residence represented to all present an example of that need met – located beside Woodhull Hospital and itself a transformation of a formerly underused parking lot.
“We have a cure for homelessness,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals, the city’s public hospital system. “It’s called a home. It’s 100 percent effective; it has no side-effects. The important question is, now that we’ve proven that we can do it, how can we do a lot more of it?” He added his hopes to turn other underused parking lots at other facilities into supportive housing in the future.
The long-term collaboration and faith in the project was also celebrated by all the development partners present to speak.
“Every good thing encounters its share of opposition and pushback,” said Gregory Calliste, CEO of New York City Health + Hospitals/Woodhull, who added that the Woodhull Residence had “succeeded because of the persistence and dedication of the team here.”
“This is what’s needed. It takes vision, incredible expertise, partnerships. Creating these linkages and partnerships is what’s needed,” repeated Stephen Levin, NYC Council Member for District 33.
The Honorable Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., NYC Council Member for District 36, spoke personally on the importance of that day for him. He emphasized how the Woodhull Residence revealed how “there are opportunities to eradicate homelessness that are in our grasp” and “was the vision [he] had many years ago” upon entering political office.
The speaking program also included powerful remarks from Raquel Ayala, Chairperson of Comunilife’s Board of Directors; the Honorable Kathy Hochul, Lt. Governor of the State of New York; the Honorable Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor of the City of New York; the Honorable Julia Salazar, New York State Senator for District 18; RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner/CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR); Eric Enderlin, Acting Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD); Evelyn Cruz, representing Congress Member Nydia Velazquez for District 7; Dr. Talya Schwartz, Chief Medical Officer of MetroPlus Health Plan; Sharmi Shoban, Executive Director of J.P. Morgan Chase Community Banking; Sam Ganeshan, Managing Director of Acquisitions at Hudson Housing Capital; Maygen Moore, Senior Loan Officer at CSH; and Jessica Arrocho, Chair of Woodhull Hospital CAB.
The important finale of the program was a woman named Miriam, a new tenant of the Woodhull Residence. She stood up to the applause of all attendees to describe the renewed dignity, self-respect, and sense of self she felt upon moving into her new apartment. “Hard for me to believe that so many people would come together to do something for somebody like myself,” she said.
Comunilife provides the onsite social services for the residents, funded by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) through NYC 15/15.
Funding for the project was also provided by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), NYS Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA), and federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. The project was also supported by JPMorgan Chase, Sterling National Bank, CSH, Cirgenski + Capalino, and Hudson Housing Capital. The Woodhull Residence was designed by Monica Lopez Architects; the general contractor was Mega Contracting Group.