Recap: “What’s So Special about 90 Sands Street?”

Thanks to everyone who attended our last Breakfast Talk of the academic year. We were thrilled to host Amie Pospisil, Chief Operating Officer of Breaking Ground and Sarah Lipsky, Deputy Chief Program Officer of the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS).

The event featured discussions on urban housing challenges and solutions, particularly regarding supportive housing for vulnerable populations. It started with a reflection on the impact of the pandemic on the community, noting significant losses among students and faculty. The event then transitioned to a discussion about a property in Dumbo, acquired for use in human services by a non-profit organization, which was previously puzzling to local residents due to its connection to the Jehovah Witnesses.

Pospisil, from Breaking Ground explained the organization’s history and mission in providing supportive and affordable housing. Starting in 1990 with the acquisition of the Times Square Building, Breaking Ground has expanded to own several properties offering over 5,000 units of housing, combining supportive services for individuals with histories of homelessness. She detailed the journey of acquiring and transforming these properties, emphasizing the importance of integrating architectural quality and energy efficiency.

Lipsky, from the Center for Urban Community Services, discussed the operational side, focusing on the essential services provided to residents, including medical and psychiatric care. She highlighted the housing-first model, which prioritizes stable shelter to help address more complex personal issues. 

The discussion underlined the effectiveness of the supportive housing model, illustrating its success through the high retention rates of residents and low eviction rates. The event concluded with an open Q&A session, where attendees engaged deeply with the topics of community integration, funding mechanisms, and the potential for replication of the supportive housing model in other areas.

Watch the recording in case you missed it!

Meet the speakers:

Amie Pospisil is Chief Operating Officer of Breaking Ground, providing oversight and development of the agency’s Programs, Property Management, Administration, and Data Services divisions. Pospisil joined Breaking Ground in 2008 to develop and manage the organization’s extensive street outreach programs for chronically homeless New Yorkers. Since that time, her role in the agency’s program development has grown right along with Breaking Ground. In addition to overseeing Street to Home, Pospisil is responsible for the operation of nearly 600 units of transitional housing, the Queens Drop-In Center, over 4,600 units of permanent supportive and affordable housing, and a growing suite of social services programs, including Connect to Care, which brings Breaking Ground’s approach to street outreach into specific geographic areas and privately managed spaces. Prior to working for Breaking Ground, she oversaw street outreach in the Bronx. Pospisil holds a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University.

Sarah Lipsky is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York and New Jersey. She was awarded her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and has dedicated her career to working with some of New York’s most at-risk individuals, the homeless and formerly homeless. Lipsky started working with the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS) in 2010, and in 2022, as Program Director for 90 Sands, she led the CUCS team to ensure a smooth rent-up of over 300 individuals transitioning from street homelessness and shelter to permanent supportive housing at the DUMBO location, the second largest of its kind in the country. She currently works as a Deputy Chief Program Officer, overseeing a portfolio of programs providing clinical and social services to clients residing in permanent supportive housing across the five boroughs, as well as contributing strategic leadership to CUCS programs. Lipsky also works in private practice as a psychotherapist.