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Housing proposed

Seen here is a rendering of a proposed 28-unit apartment complex on Cooper Street, Glens Falls, which would be targeted for mentally ill and homeless people. The Warren-Washington Association for Mental Health hopes to break ground on the project this summer. 

An organization that provides housing for people with mental health and other problems intends to build a 29-unit apartment building at an old industrial site on Cooper Street. It’s a worthy project that will improve the city of Glens Falls and deserves the support of all its elected officials.

The site used to house Mullen Iron Works, which was demolished in 2013. A cleanup of the property followed.

The site is in the city’s First Ward, which is home to numerous businesses — including The Post-Star, next door to the site — and several industrial businesses, such as R. Cohen Recycling, a scrap metal company on Geer Street, and Ames Goldsmith, a silver refining and fabricating company on Rogers Street.

Considering this is an industrial site, we’re bewildered by the objections of First Ward residents to construction of an apartment complex. Apartments will be cleaner and quieter than any industry we can imagine there. Cars, not trucks, will be coming and going to the complex.

As for the objection that the property will be taken off the tax rolls, because the buyer — Warren-Washington Association for Mental Health — is a nonprofit organization, that is countered by the organization’s willingness to pay the same amount of annual taxes — $5,000 — now being paid on the land.

Yes, a for-profit housing development would pay a lot more, eventually, but the city won’t lose any money with this arrangement. Meanwhile, the First Ward has other sites (one of them right across the street at the old Price Chopper lot) that are available for development. We’ve heard a rumor, too, that the big Post-Star lot is for sale.

The city needs a bigger tax base, but it also needs low-cost and subsidized housing, and the two things are not mutually exclusive. Caring for the homeless and the mentally ill and others who are facing chronic or temporary obstacles to finding shelter makes the city a better place to live for everyone.

Now and then, you can spot a homeless person in a Glens Falls park or even see someone panhandling on the sidewalk. A well-run city takes care of its most needy residents by providing homeless shelters (the city has one, run by the Open Door Mission) and low-cost housing. Moving homeless people and panhandlers off the streets into safer and more secure living situations not only helps them, it improves the quality of life for everyone who lives in the city and improves the experience for everyone who visits.

Of the 29 units in the complex, 14 would be set aside for people dealing with mental illness, four for survivors of domestic violence, six for the chronic homeless and four would be family units. One would be used as a transitional unit for short-term stays.

It’s not a practical argument, but kindness and generosity of spirit are worth a mention, too. If we can welcome — or, at least, accept — people into our neighborhoods who need a hand — who won’t have a place to live without some help — that is to our credit.

The housing complex will have staff on-site, day and night, so if any disturbances or emergencies arise (and goodness knows, they can arise at anyone’s house), the staff will be there to step in and, if necessary, to call for help.

Cooper Street is a good spot for this project. It’s not busy, so traffic won’t be an issue. It’s not densely populated. The land is vacant now.

The strongest argument against the project is that it takes developable property off the tax rolls. But that argument loses force when you look around the First Ward and see all the other sites — some on the same block — available for development.

It’s possible that, underlying the other objections, people fear having others who are mentally ill living nearby. Mentally ill people live throughout the city now. The more we help them live safe and stable lives, the better off we all will be and the more the city will flourish.

Local editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Publisher/Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representatives Connie Bosse, Barb Sealy and Jean Aurilio.

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