What lucky neighborhood got the Mental Health Housing? Port Richmond

UPDATE: On July 21, 2015,  Community Board #1 voted overwhelming against the project. State Senator Diane Savino said, “We have too many questions.” State Assemblyman Matthew Titone said that St. Joseph’s track record was “abysmal,” and City Council Member Debi Rose said she was tired of “the North Shore being the dumping ground.”

When St. Joseph’s Hospital, located in Westchester County, planned to convert the vacant former convent on Fort Place in St. George to transitional dormitories for the mentally ill, it was thwarted by community opposition in a long, agonizing legal battle. The convent will now be converted to residential use. But St. Joseph’s was not discouraged, and persevered in its mission to bring mentally health housing to Staten Island, (rather than to its own Westchester County neighborhood). They came up with a new plan. They will build it on Port Richmond Avenue.

Rendering of St. Joseph Hospital's plan for 110 Port Richmond Avenue, via DNAinfo.

Rendering of St. Joseph Hospital’s plan for 110 Port Richmond Avenue, via DNAinfo.

Quite possibly this will be a facility that will serve the needs of the community and help people transition to full re-integration after hospital (or prison!) stays. On the other hand, it can turn into a mismanaged warehouse for humans that becomes a nightmare for the neighborhood. It all depends on St. Joseph’s commitment to the project and the community’s vigilance. The local community must be kept in the loop as to how this is being set up and St. Joseph’s should be required to monitor the impact of their facility on the neighborhood socially, economically and in services. They should also be required to use the housing for Staten Islanders in need of services, and not ship clients in from other counties (or from Sing Sing, as St. Joseph’s had been planning). The Port Richmond Community Board has already voiced its opposition, but this will not block the project.

110 Port Richmond Avenue at present, via Google Maps

110 Port Richmond Avenue at present, via Google Maps

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Boardwalk Empire at Port Richmond: the difference a film crew can make

Welcome To Port Richmond

Welcome To Port Richmond (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Residents of places like Brooklyn Heights and the West Village know film crews as that plague of self important invaders who swoop down on a neighborhood and disrupt parking  and access for days or weeks without benefiting the community much at all. But for a fringe community on the tattered fringe of the city, the arrival of these exotic outsiders can be a pleasant change. Beryl Thurman of the North Shore Waterfront Conservancy shared this letter she sent thanking Boardwalk Empire for their use of Port Richmond locations.

Dear All,
Something unusual has been happening in Port Richmond down by the waterfront. The place that time forgot so to speak with its Victorian homes and old store fronts. This section near the waterfront was discovered by the cast and crew of Boardwalk Empire an HBO T.V. series.
It was movie magic that brought the area back to life not just with the activity of seeing the actors walking around in period custom. It was also seeing the many different kinds of jobs that the movie industry creates in filming a production. Having the crew here allowed many of the residents to not only see what happens behind the scenes in making a film. It allowed the young people to ask questions about what the crew was doing? And a introduction to asking how would a person get a job like that?

People were walking and driving by all day and night taking pictures of the Ford Model T cars that lined the streets and wondering how something that was made back in 1924 is still working in 2013 when nothing made today is actually made to last beyond 3 years.

Boardwalk Empire did something for the people of Port Richmond that will leave an indelible memory that may even lead to them recognizing, that there is a whole world out there just waiting to be explored, as well as career opportunities that were never imagined. NSWC has often told Staten Island politicians and economic development corporations that Staten Island must diversify in the kinds of businesses and industries that we have here on the island. There are many kinds of careers that can be tapped into if we have the imagination to do it.
Boardwalk Empire’s presence here was a impromptu career day and for the residents a positive learning experience that was very meaningful on many different levels.
Pass It On…
Beryl A. Thurman, Executive Director/President
NSWC
Creating Livable Communities