Nonprofit drops plan for shelter in Jamaica

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A nonprofit scrapped its plans last week to build housing for former homeless residents in Jamaica and community activists said they were pleased the neighborhood is not the location for another home for displaced New Yorkers.

Adoja Gzifa, chairwoman of Community Board 12, said she and her fellow board members were thrilled that Manhattan-based Common Ground pulled its plans to build a 225 unit low-income housing building that would cater to homeless people who have left the shelter system.

The chairwoman said her board’s jurisdiction, which includes Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, Springfield Gardens, Baisley Park and Rochdale Village, hosts 10 out of the 18 city homeless shelters and, although the building was rent-based, it would have added to the homeless population in the community.

“We voice our concern to every developer who comes into this community who puts up shelters, but they do what they want because the city gives them the go-ahead,” she said.

The building was slated to be constructed at a parking lot near Rufus King Park, near the former site of Mary Immaculate Hospital, according to Gzifa. The apartments were going to be studios and applicants — who were to be formerly homeless, people with mental disabilities, elderly or low-income individuals — would have been thoroughly vetted, according to Common Ground’s website.

A spokeswoman for the non-profit declined to explain why it withdrew its plans. The chairwoman said that when the group informed her about the cancelation last week, it did not give any reason.

Board members and Borough President Helen Marshall toured one of Common Ground’s similar buildings in Brooklyn in the fall, after it came to the board with its proposal.

Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., said Common Ground’s plans for Jamaica were well-intended and the building and its facilities would serve the potential tenants well, but he agreed with Gzifa that the neighborhood was saturated with homes for displaced residents.

“We concur that this is a superior solution, but not if it is adding to the overly concentrated population,” he said.

Towery added that the plans to put the building in the parking lot would have hurt the downtown Jamaica area, where motorists visiting the large number of stores and two state courts vie for spots.

In the fall, the city approved the creation of a 54-unit transitional home at 170-02 93rd Ave. The Brooklyn-based group that runs the building, Housing Bridge, met with the board several times to try and come to a mutual agreement about the project, but the board refused to support it.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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