The Fortune Society and Jonathan Rose Companies build affordable housing in Harlem
July 06, 2010
The Fortune Society and the Jonathan Rose Companies are nearing completion of Fortune Castle Gardens at 625 West 140th Street that will contain 113 "affordable" apartments including 50 for homeless persons who previously been incarcerated.
The handsome, 11-story building has been designed by Curtis + Ginsberg Architects and is adjacent to the society's 5-story Fortune Academy, known as the Castle, that provides transitional housing for homeless people just released from prison.
Ground was broken for the project February 19, 2009 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, JoAnne Page, president and CEO of the Fortune Society, Jonathan F. P. Rose, president of Jonathan Rose Companies, Congressman Charles Rangel, Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
The Fortune Society acquired the "Castle," a rusticated former Catholic girls' school, in 1998 and Ms. Page said at the groundbreaking that "our residents have demonstrated that men and women can, with proper supports, return home from incarceration as resources to their families and community," adding that "we have seen a neighborhood that once feared our presence become our strongest supporters, use our building as a resource and meeting place, and ask that our planned new building serve the Harlem community by including affordable housing for low income families."
The new building is seeking LEED-NC Gold Certification and will have a roof garden that will feature an extensive green roof and a rainwater harvesting system while also allowing residents to enjoy vistas of the Hudson River. Aluminum solar shades will be employed on the building's south facade and "green" materials free of toxic ingredients are used throughout the building.
According to an article in today's edition of The Wall Street Journal by Craig Karmin, the Fortune Society said that "anyone convicted of arson, manufacturing methamphetamines or is a lifetime registered sex offender isn't eligible" to live in the building.
The building has received more than 1,000 applications for the 113 apartments and expect to fill them all, Fortune says, according to the article.
"Castle Gardens relied on 14 different financial supporters - from federal, city and state agencies to corporate foundations - to raise $43.5 million to construct the building," the article said.
In 1966, David Rothenberg, a theatrical press agent for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, received a script of a prison drama by a relatively unknown Canadian writer named John Herbert. The play, "Fortune and Men's Eyes," depicted the gritty reality of life in a boy's reformatory and was based on the author's own experiences as a young man in prison. Rothenberg used $12,000 of his own money to produce the play and it opened at the Actors' Playhouse in Greenwich Village February 23, 1967.
In preparation for the performance, Rothenberg arranged for the actors and himself to tour Rikers Island and the play opened to angered and electrified audiences. At the end of one performance, a member of the audience openly questioned the play's accuracy. In response, Pat McGarry, a formerly incarcerated man who had also come to see the show, stood up and held the theater spellbound with his tale of life in "the joint."
Post-show discussions between the cast and the audience of "Fortune and Men's Eyes" soon became a Tuesday night tradition. McGarry returned with another formerly incarcerated man, Clarence Cooper, and together with Rothenberg they discussed prison conditions in the United States and they began to receive requests from civic, church and school groups.
Soon Mr. Rothenberg founded The Fortune Society, taking the name from the play's title, which in turn originated from William Shakespeare's Sonnet 29, which begins: "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes/I all alone, beweep my outcast state...."