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Plan to Replace Car Storage With Affordable Housing Clears Community Board 7

An affordable housing developer wants to expand the Valley Lodge transitional homeless shelter and build new apartments on the sites of three parking garages between Amsterdam Avenue and Columbus Avenue on W. 108th Street. Photo: Google Maps

Last night Manhattan Community Board 7 endorsed plans to convert two city-owned parking garages on West 108th Street into affordable housing. Video from the meeting is available on YouTube.

With CB 7's support, plans to replace 675 parking spaces and an existing homeless shelter with a 100-bed transitional homeless shelter for seniors and 194 below-market rental apartments are almost certain to move forward.

For each of the five resolutions endorsing the project, the show of hands in favor was overwhelming. The last of those resolutions urged City Planning and the developer, the West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), to hasten the timeline for converting a third garage on the block into additional affordable housing. WSFSSH had previously said it would delay that garage conversion to appease project opponents.

The outcome was not a given.

The contingent who organized against the project under the banner "Save Manhattan Valley" turned out big numbers last night hoping to stop the plan. At one point, it looked like they might succeed. Some board members pushed for an amendment conditioning CB 7's support on the city and WSFSSH producing a plan to replace demolished parking spaces. But the motion failed spectacularly, with eight votes in favor and more than 30 against.

The debate over the amendment highlighted the faulty logic of project opponents, many of whom have claimed that their demands for off-street parking don't conflict with housing needs in one of the city's densest, most transit-rich neighborhoods. WSFSSH reps made it clear to the board that replacing the 650 parking spots would make the project prohibitively expensive.

"There are no new garages being built because they're not market affordable," board member Richard Robbins told his colleagues. "If we're going to force them to build a 600-car garage somewhere in the district, the parking spots could be $2,000 a month."

Following last night's vote, the project has three more stops in the land use review process before it's official policy: an advisory recommendation from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, a vote in the City Planning Commission, and a vote in the City Council. But the CB 7 vote is a strong indicator that it will proceed. WSFSSH expects construction to begin mid-2018 and wrap up in 2020.

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