Thursday, November 4, 2010

Howard Beach Affordable Housing Project Moving Forward: Details of Plan for Former Fineson Center Unveiled

By Eric Yun

Affordable senior housing is on its way to becoming a reality at the old Bernard Fineson Developmental Center on Crossbay Boulevard in Howard Beach. Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens was awarded the contract in June 2009 to renovate and rebuild the center for senior apartments.

John Tynan, Director of Housing for Catholic Charities, gave a presentation to the Howard Beach community about the status of the building Wednesday night at St. Helens.

The new complex will feature 96 housing units. Twelve of the apartments will be set aside for the developmentally disabled, and there will be a live in super. This leaves 83 units for seniors, which are broken down into 27 studio apartments and 56 one-bedroom apartments.

The facility is designed for independent living. “It is not a nursing home or assisted living facility,” Tynan said. However, Tynan understands that “once in a while seniors will need some help” because of sicknesses or injuries. He is confident that in these circumstances the integrated services at Catholic Charities will help provide the necessary assistance.

Seniors who wish to get a unit at the new center must follow the application process, which was explained in detail. Six months before the completion of construction, Catholic Charities will advertise that the applications will be accepted. Applicants must write a letter requesting an application, and finished applications will be reviewed to ensure the senior meets the age, disability and income eligibility. Finally, there is an interview session to determine if the prospective candidate is the best fit for the apartment.

Seniors living in the Community Board 10 district will get priority. “For the lifetime of this project Board 10 will have a 50 percent preference,” Tynan said. That means at least 42 of the 83 units will be filled with seniors from the district.

Catholic Charities is hoping to get development underway by June. However, there is still a budget deficit to overcome. The expected cost is $29.415 million, and Catholic Charities has received $18.855 million from tax credits and city and state officials such as Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Ozone Park), City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Queens Borough Hall President Helen Marshall.

Another $7.31 million is anticipated through grants, private loans and state subsidies. This still leaves a budget gap of $3.25 million, but Tynan is confident that it can be overcome and no further delays are necessary.

As the process continues to move forward, Tynan and CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton assured the audience that they would know everything that is happening. “We will continue to disseminate information like we have been in the past,” Braton said.

The community seems ready to turn an unused site into a worthwhile building for seniors. “I feel very good about this. I want to get an apartment,” one member of the audience said.

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