Not in My Downtown

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Claiming that an influx of homeless people would devastate the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan, downtown residents and community board members say they’ll do everything in their power to keep the Coalition for the Homeless from relocating its headquarters to the busy intersection of Fulton and Nassau streets.

Last week, members of Community Board 1 voted to oppose the move, claiming it would hinder local businesses.

“Lower Manhattan has taken a tremendous hit after Sept. 11,” said the board’s district manager, Paul Goldstein. “A citywide homeless center is, unfortunately, not the ideal centerpiece for trying to attract businesses and residences to the area.” The board’s committee on the Seaport and Civic Center area voted overwhelmingly against the project.

In June, the Coalition, an advocacy and direct service group for the city’s homeless, bought the five-story building in the heart of the Fulton Street shopping area for $10.5 million. The group plans to relocate its administrative offices by next year. The Coalition provides about 100 homeless New Yorkers a day with job training and placement services, and referrals to shelters, substance abuse treatment programs and supportive housing. The CVS pharmacy based on the ground floor will remain.

“Our presence on Chambers Street has not had any negative impact on businesses here, so why would it impact a commercial area on Fulton Street?” asked George Delaney, deputy director of the coalition. For nine years, the Coalition has operated out of a smaller space on Chambers between Church and Broadway. Their staff, he said, has outgrown that space.

Goldstein said the board plans to work with the Alliance for Downtown New York–which also opposes the Coalition’s move–and with elected officials to try to persuade the group to sell their new space and move elsewhere.

But at least one community board member said the group’s new home could be an asset for the area. “These people are working to limit the number of homeless,” said Rick Landman, who lives a block away from the Coalition’s Chambers Street office. “We should really be supporting groups who provide these types of services.”