Battling For Affordable Housing
by Stephen Geffon
Mar 11, 2009 | 1176 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bernard Fineson Developmental Center property in Howard Beach appears ready to be turned into affordable housing, after three non-profit organizations submitted their proposals for the property to the state Housing Finance Agency (HFA) before the February 27 deadline.

At a meeting last week of Community Board 10 in South Ozone Park board chairwoman Betty Braton said the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation and PSCH, Inc. had each requested a letter of support from the board for their proposal to redevelop the Fineson Center.

The HFA issued a request for proposals (RFP) on Jan. 12 for developers looking to purchase the site, renovate it and turn it into affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income senior citizens.

The two structures that make up the Howard Park unit of the Fineson Center at 155-55 Cross Bay Boulevard are owned by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York and occupy 111,000 square feet and sit on 3.4 acres. Paul Williams, executive director of the Dormitory Authority, said that as part of the RFP the state is asking prospective developers to convert the facility, which will require “substantial rehabilitation and modernization” into 100 units, 80 of which are to be studio or one-bedroom apartments for low-to moderate-income seniors over the age of 60.

The remaining 20 units are to be reserved for individuals supported by the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD). Some space should also be set aside for senior service, such as a community resource center, according to the RFP.

Metropolitan Council has developed their proposal – called Heritage House - in conjunction with the Arker Companies Real Estate Development. The proposal calls for the construction of a mix of studio and one bedroom apartments and amenities such as dining and laundry services. The Visiting Nurse Service will provide appropriate supportive services to residents. Metropolitan Council plans to work through the South East Queens Senior Services, which operates the senior center at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center, to offer enhanced senior services to residents and the community at large. The income level of seniors at the new facility would be at the middle-class income level.

Catholic Charities' proposal calls for the construction of 32 studio, 48 one-bedroom, and 9 two-bedroom apartments, laundry facilities, a community room, resident lounges, and offices serving eighty seniors and twenty individuals with developmental disabilities. The proposal adds that the grounds will be landscaped with additional passive recreation areas and raised tenant gardens specifically designed for seniors.

According to its proposal through its affiliation with Catholic Charities, all tenants will be supported by Catholic Charities' network of community and social services. The proposal calls for developing enhanced senior services in the area.

Braton said that a third potential bidder, PSCH, Inc., a group that operates two facilities for the developmentally disabled in Community Board 10, provided some information that stated they proposed to develop 144 units rather than 100. She said that PSCH proposed more of an SRO (single room occupancy) model and proposed linkages with other service providers.

“It is unknown at this point whether or not any other groups submitted responses to the RFP to the State last week,” Braton told the board members, adding, “These are the only groups that contacted the Board.” She said that letters were sent to Metropolitan Council and Catholic Charities which stated, in part, “While the Board has not taken a formal position regarding your proposal, there is nothing in what you provided that I believe will not be fully supported by the Board. We look forward to the creation of much needed senior housing to serve an underserved part of our population and to working together with you to insure community involvement should you be selected.”

Although PSCH Inc. received a letter thanking it for contacting and providing some information to the Board, the letter to the group also indicated that Community Board 10 is not prepared to express support for their proposal.
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