Construction Begins in January, Senior Housing to be Finished by 2014

Seniors in Howard Beach are now closer to getting affordable housing, with project officials declaring Tuesday that they closed the $31 million deal to turn the former Bernard Fineson Center property into an affordable housing complex for seniors, with construction to start next month and finish in 2014.

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, the nonprofit that is overseeing the project, announced that they had closed on $31 million in financing to develop the 3.4 acre property on 155-55 Cross Bay Boulevard into a 96-unit affordable senior housing building, now referred to as Howard Beach Senior Apartments.

The deal was closed late Monday night, according to John Tynan, director of the nonprofit’s Progress of Peoples Development Corporation.

Approximately 76 of the units at the complex, or 80 percent, will be studio or one-bedroom apartments for low-to-moderate income senior citizens over the age of 60, with a preference for current residents of Community Board 10.

Roughly 20 of the units will be one-to-two bedroom apartments reserved for individuals supported by the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OMPDD).  Those units will be supervised and serve developmentally disabled residents seeking alternative housing means, while offering parents of those individuals the opportunity to live with them.

Details on the application process and lottery selection for those interested in occupying the apartments will be announced near the end of the complex’s construction.

Funding for the project includes a $14 million construction loan from JPMorgan and $17.5 million in federal and state tax credits for low-income housing. Among the grant awards that went towards the project include $2.1 million from the Housing Trust Fund Corporation, $4.2 million from the New York State Housing Finance Agency, $3.5 million from the city Housing Preservation and Development agency—a combination of city funding and a HOME block grant, and $1.3 million from the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.

Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, vicar for Human Services for Catholic Charities and pastor for St. Helen’s Church in Howard Beach, thanked City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilman Eric Ulrich and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, among others, for their efforts in contributing to the funding of the complex.

Quinn provided $1.5 million while Marshall and Ulrich each contributed $1 million. LoPinto also thanked Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton, former Assemblywoman and Queens County Clerk Audrey Pfeiffer, Congressman Gregory Meeks, and New York State Sen. Joseph Addabbo for their support of the project.

“They want to see this happen as much as we do; without their support, this project would not be possible,” said LoPinto.

“We are pleased that the project is underway, and we will soon provide affordable housing to seniors and persons with developmental disabilities in Howard Beach,” added LoPinto. “Most notably, during this time of economic uncertainty, this redevelopment project will create new jobs—providing work opportunities to over 200 individuals.”

The Howard Beach Apartments complex is expected to create 200 full-time temporary construction jobs over the course of the two year project, while 46 staff jobs—44 full-time and 2 part-time—will be created, some of which will be specifically focused on managing units for developmentally disabled individuals, according to Tynan. Construction is being overseen by Brooklyn-based Monadnock Construction.

Thanks to the funding, the apartment complex is set to include a number of green features, including Energy Star air conditioning units;  a 30 percent more energy efficient building envelope including exterior and window systems; Energy Star-rated or equivalent kitchen appliances and light fixtures; and low-VOC paint, adhesives and sealants for tenant health and comfort. As a result of the green features, the complex will receive a $150,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Plans for the property will also include a community room that will house an activity center for all seniors, both residents and local community members, with social services offered to all residents.

Robert Siebel, CEO for Catholic Charities, welcomed the completion of the deal, noting that providing affordable housing to seniors and developmentally disabled adults was in line with his agency’s mission of “preserving the dignity” of  those they serve.

“We believe that everyone deserves an affordable, safe home—housing shouldn’t be a luxury,” said Siebel.

By Jean-Paul Salamanca


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