Board 12/Peacekeeping Efforts Praised

New York Observer | October 12, 1992

By Judith Warner

At their first full meeting after a turbulent, troubled summer, the members of Community Board 12 returned to work Sept. 22 with words of praise and thanks for the peacekeeping efforts of community members who worked to restore neighborhood calm after street disturbances erupted in Washington Heights last July.

“It is up to us, the people of the city, to make our streets safe,” said Andre Soleil, a board member and outreach director of the Congress on Racial Equality. “It’s not just up to the police to protect us.”

By an overwhelming majority, board members approved a resolution calling for the construction of a dog run in J. Hood Wright Park at Fort Washington Avenue and 173rd Street. Funds for the dog run have already been raised through contributions by dog owners and neighborhood residents.

Following up on earlier discussions, the board members heard from Ellen Baxter, executive director of the Committee for the Heights Inwood Homeless, about her organization’s plan to convert the Fort Washington Armory into a housing development for low-income families. The CHIH proposal calls for construction of a new, 275-unit residential tower and the conversion of existing space into a day care center, a community resource center and retail stores. The armory’s original running track would be restored to serve as a high school athletic facility, and space would be designated for use as an alternative high school, according to Ms. Baxter.

The armory, which peaked occupancy once sheltered up to 1,200 homeless men and presented the community with serious public health and safety problems, now shelters 200 men, and is no longer in use by the military. The remaining homeless men, Ms. Baxter said, would be relocated to temporary sites in other parts of New York, in accordance with the city’s Fair Share mandates.

Calvin Maul, a CHIH building resident with a history of repeated homelessness and mental illness, testified to the value of CHIH’s social programs as a means of helping homeless people rebuild their lives. “Everyone cares about everyone else. They give you respect,” he said. That’s something you don’t usually get, a sense that somebody cares about you.”

In other business, board members welcomed a proposal from Food for Children to create a 14-family residence for homeless women and children, with support services and job training facilities, in two adjacent city-owned buildings at 859-861 Riverside Drive. Food for Children is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization founded and mostly staffed by health care professionals.

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