The Fulton County YMCA opened its renovated and expanded residency facility in downtown Gloversville on Friday, ending a contentious four years during which the city tried to block the project and the organization filed lawsuits to move it forward.
The facility consists of 11 low-cost apartments that can accommodate 23 people. Ten of the apartments have two bedrooms and one has three bedrooms. They all contain kitchens, bathrooms and common space.
For the first time since the YMCA began offering shelter in 1913, the facility will accept women as tenants, said YMCA CEO Steve Serge. “We found there was a tremendous need. There is a limited quantity of good housing stock for women,” he said.
The YMCA gutted the first and second floors of the former health center and demolished the gym and pool as part of the project. It used a $3.5 million grant from state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to pay for it all.
The third floor of the YMCA building at 19 E. Fulton St. will continue to function as single-room occupancy rentals for 23 men.
Serge said the YMCA proposed the project, which dates back to 2001, because of a need for this type of housing in the community. The agency actually launched the effort in 2008 when it relocated its health facilities to Harrison Street in Johnstown, following consolidation with the Johnstown YMCA.
“The state of New York would not invest this kind of money in Gloversville and in Fulton County if there was not a well-documented, substantial need for this service locally,” Serge said. “There is a tremendous need for housing for people at risk of being homeless due to a myriad of reasons.”
Serge said he expects the facility will obtain full occupancy quickly and will serve primarily residents of Fulton County. “They are local people who are down on their luck and need affordable housing. They are not from out of the area,” he said.
The YMCA will screen residents — who will pay $75 per person, per week for the apartments — to ensure they do not have criminal backgrounds. Residents will gain access to the building with key cards and the building will have interior and exterior surveillance cameras.
When it was proposed, the project generated controversy in the community. Some people said the housing would attract an undesirable element. The city’s planning and zoning boards twice rejected the project and the YMCA filed three lawsuits, one of them a federal court discrimination action seeking $5 million. The YMCA insisted its format constitutes apartments, but the two city agencies defined the YMCA proposal as a boarding house.
The parties finally reached a settlement in 2010. The Planning Board approved the project site plan and special permit and the ZBA voted to issue the variance the YMCA needed to exceed the nine-unit limit for boarding houses located in a commercial zone.
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