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.
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.