By JON CRONIN
After being proposed as a site for a homeless shelter, Community Board 5 recently found out that a long-abandoned Cypress Avenue housing project will become supportive housing for senior citizens.
WellLife Network, a company with four decades of experience creating supportive housing for mentally ill and physically disabled adults, have owned the site at 80-97 Cypress Ave. since 2003. After a previous false start, the company has begun to develop it.
According to the city Department of Buildings’ website, an application was filed on Aug. 3 for a six-story building with a basement and 66 units.
Willie Scott, the vice president of public affairs for WellLife Network, said that the company is currently attempting to get a variance for the height and square footage to develop a multi-family apartment building, which could take six to eight months to get approved.
Scott added that Well-Life Network is also researching the amount of funding it can receive from the state.
“Hopefully, within a few weeks we can give specifics,” Scott said.
He added that the project is being built as of right, which means that it does not have to be approved by the community board or City Council.
He said that the developer is hoping to begin “as soon as possible.” However, due to the process of obtaining the variance, he doesn’t know when they will be able to start.
Scott said that the previous contractor used porous materials that caused the site to flood whenever it rained.
“The problem was the material used was not quality material,” he said, adding that the old structure will need to be torn down before the new one can begin. “Right now, we’re really just gearing up.”
On its website, the developer wrote of its history, “In its early years, WellLife Network operated and maintained community residential facilities for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness, and to provide programs of care, service, habilitation, rehabilitation, social and recreational activities, in a homelike environment.”
Scott added that the company has moved into creating senior housing and senior supportive services in the past 15 years.
Vinnie Arcuri, the chairman of Community Board 5, said that the property was abandoned by WellLife Network five years ago and the board had been trying to get in touch with them ever since. The site has long been a graffiti-filled eyesore on Cypress Avenue.
“We had no problem with the usage—we just asked them to add more senior apartments,” Arcuri said of the board’s previous communications with the developer.
The most recent complaint on file on the DOB’s website regarding the property was from 2003. The complainant stated that the site was not properly boarded and there were squatters on the premises.