The city Planning Board voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve the Gloversville Free Methodist Church’s special use permit and site plan application to allow the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center to move into 33 Bleecker St., site of the former YWCA.
Ginger Cato, the center’s director, was overcome with emotion after the board granted the use permit, which will allow her organization to move from its current location at 86 Briggs St., where the lease is set to expire by the end of April. With tears in her eyes, she explained the impact of being able to move her organization’s “post-recovery group” services to downtown Gloversville.
“I feel relieved, happy. It’s been very stressful for a few months. I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said of the Planning Board vote. “This is a larger space, in a better location. We’ll be meeting people where they are at, because they are in downtown Gloversville.”
Rev. Rich Wilkinson, leader of the Gloversville Free Methodist Church, said he was glad the Planning Board ruling was unanimous.
“This is another step toward bringing services into Gloversville,” he said. “The point of this building is to bring hope to the people of Gloversville, and to bring in as many services to better the city of Gloversville as possible.”
Although the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center is not a residential program, both planning board member Jonathan Kluska and alternate planning board member Frederick Bochenek raised concerns similar to those brought up when a permanent Code Blue shelter was proposed for the same site.
Kluska and Bochenek participated in Tuesday night’s planning board votes in order to give the board a full quorum. While Planning Board Chairman Geoffrey Peck and board Vice Chairman Peter Semione were present for the meeting, board members Matthew Donde and James Anderson were absent.
“A place like this, as long as it’s going to help the residents of this city, is a great thing,” Kluska said. “The only thing I had a problem with last time … was drawing people in from outside the city, but if it’s for the people living here I think it’s fantastic.”
“I have the same concerns, we don’t need to be a focal point for the tri-state area, for Montgomery County or Saratoga County or anyplace like that,” he said. “I mean you heard issues about people doing stuff outside that they’re not supposed to be doing. It’s been talked about many times, people roaming the streets, where are they going to go? Where are they going to stay?”
Bochenek said the Planning Board must be cautious, but said he wouldn’t vote against it.
“This is right next door to True Value, and they’re loaded with cameras, and I would assume this building is going to loaded with cameras as well, so we’ve got the downtown area covered with cameras,” Kluska said, arguing the development should be safe.
Peck said the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center should not be confused with a “drop-in clinic.”
“It’s a recovery service, and it’s meant for individuals that are there to eventually be involved in skill-building, recreation, wellness education and employment readiness,” Peck said.
Cato said her organization is funded by three different state grants annually, providing a budget of about $300,000, which pays for a staff of four people currently, and she hopes to hire two more soon. She said the program supports a recovery group that helps people learn how to live without being controlled by “addictive forces”, and recover from addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling or other negative addictions. She said the service is free of cost to participants and currently has about 60 different people accessing the program on a monthly basis and approximately 120 annually.
Cato said she hopes to be ready to move her entire operation into the former YWCA by May 1.
Wilkinson said he’s signed a five-year lease agreement with the Rob Constantine Recovery Community, which will not affect any of his potential future plans for the rest of the YWCA building, including any of the space on the 2nd or 3rd floors, which he had used for the temporary Code Blue homeless shelter in 2020. He said he also runs a food pantry, which is also called the “Center of Hope” at the YWCA building. He said planning board member Kluska was correct when he mentioned security cameras, and that he’s installing those cameras all around the YWCA building.