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Friday, February 22, 2008

Changing Times: Bank Note Building's New Landlord Wants Homeless Out

The Bronx's only drop-in center for homeless people is in the process of being forced out because the building's new landlord wants to attract a different type of clientele, according to the center's director, Noel Concepción.

The Living Room, which is run by the Citizens Advice Bureau, is located in the historic American Bank Note Building in Hunts Point. It currently serves 130-140 people a day, says Concepción. There are on-site medical services, showers, storage facilities, free meals, but no beds - which differentiates it from a shelter. Clients sleep in chairs. Many stay for months on end.

In January, the 400,000-square-foot building was sold to Taconic Investment Partners and Denham Wolf Real Estate Services for $32 million. "I think that the new owners envision Hunts Point as being the next place where there’s going to be a great deal of gentrification," said Concepción, speaking yesterday. "So they're planning to make this place a large multi-cultural arts center, and they’ve told us that our services and what we do here just don’t fit."

As one of the new owners told the Daily News: "Ideally, our tenant mix would encompass visual arts, performing groups, architects, Web designers, film production/studios, emerging green businesses and an international food market."

An international food market - whatever that is - sounds a little ambitious, but you get the picture: Yes to fancy art galleries, no to the mentally ill and those with drug and alcohol problems.

Other Bank Note Building tenants may not be safe either, because rents, of course, are set to rise. Concepción says he heard they might jump by as much as 75 percent, which is worrying Per Scholas, a non-profit that refurbishes old computers. (Majora Carter's Sustainable South Bronx, the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, and others, are also based in the building.)

The Living Room's lease is up in August. If staying put isn't an option (and at the moment it isn't), Concepción wants to find another location nearby. The neighborhood, he says, attracts the homeless, particularly homeless men, because it's easy to find day jobs, such as loading and unloading trucks. Hunts Point, all talk of gentrification aside, remains poor and industrial.

The Citizens Advice Bureau was involved in the Department of Homeless Services' annual Homeless Count, held Jan. 28. Results are due in the next few weeks. Concepción says he expects the borough's unsheltered homeless population to be down on last year's count, in part because of the Living Room's success in moving the chronically homeless into permanent housing.


  1. Living and working in Hunts Point is two different worlds. I live here and no,I never got comfortable with our homeless/drug issues.I welcome positive change and growth.

  2. Living and working in the South Bronx is a challenge. As a member of the community we have to adapt to changes. We can't change drastically the social issues that we face in our community. We have to advocate for a positive change that involves every one and stop the discrimination among the mentally ill homeless population.


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