Elder Brooklynites looking for affordable housing are in luck, as local leaders finally broke ground on a long-awaited Bushwick complex for low-income seniors.
Slated to come online in fall of 2023, Rheingold Senior Residences will house 94 combined studios and one-bedroom apartments, which will be earmarked for older residents making up to 60 percent of the federally mandated Area Median Income (AMI) — just over $50,000 per year for a single person, and $57,300 for a two-person household.
In addition, one-third of the units will be reserved for formerly homeless seniors.
Nonprofits Los Sures and Churches United for Fair Housing are developing the site, and Los Sures will manage the building once it’s open and occupied.
“For me personally, this is a big day because I was a young man who was raised by my grandparents and I saw firsthand up close what it is to be an aging adult aging in places that weren’t really meant for you,” said Juan Ramos, executive director of Los Sures.
Rheingold will have community lounges on each of the building’s eight floors, a backyard, and a rooftop with raised garden beds, while Los Sures will run activities like gardening and cooking classes alongside social services.
The project kicks off after years of delays, stemming from cost, according to Ramos, who helped jumpstart a revised project when he took over as executive director of Los Sures.
“It was a little too expensive at first,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “We also wanted to do a redesign of some degree because we felt it had some features that weren’t as important to the lifestyle and the health of our seniors.”
The City Council first approved the Rheingold rezoning eight years ago, after the plan garnered the support of local Community Board 4 and then-councilwoman Diana Reyna based on the developer’s informal agreement to increase the number of affordable units included in the rezoning.
Shortly after the council approved the project, Read Property Group split the property in two and sold it to two new developers — Rabsky Group and All Year Management — who did not abide by the agreement, to the dismay of advocates and elected officials.
By then, though, a portion of the property on Montieth Street had already been donated to Los Sures and CUFFH for the construction of affordable housing for seniors.
After some setbacks and delays, that part of the rezoning is finally coming to fruition.
“The senior housing was, I think, the only salvageable part of the original deal,” said CB4 district manager Celeste Leon. “But I would like to think this is going to be the silver living of an otherwise very frustrating and discouraging process.”
The city’s Housing Preservation and Development Department loaned the project more than $11 million as part of their Senior Affordable Rental Apartments program, and the building’s design won the state Energy Research and Development Authority’s Buildings of Excellence Competition and a prize of $750,000, plus $300,000 through the authority’s Multifamily New Construction Program as a result of its energy-efficient plans.
Builders are planning to add a solar panel system to the roof of the building, while climate control will be powered by an all-electric heat pump system.
Private loans will fund much of the rest of construction, and the New York City Housing Authority has allocated project-based Section 8 vouchers for every unit.
Councilmember Antonio Reynoso contributed $5 million from his capital budget toward the affordable housing project.
“$5 million might not seem like a lot to some people,” Reynoso said. “But it’s my entire capital budget. It is my entire capital budget. I gave all of my money in one year to one organization specifically for this project.”
District 34 is large, he said, and there are many projects and organizations in need of funding, but he has been fighting to build affordable senior housing since he worked as Reyna’s chief of staff and throughout his term on the council.
“Don’t worry about the money,” he said. “As borough president, should there be any hiccups or any concerns, I’ll make sure that I write a check for that too, it’s not going to be an issue. This project will get done.”
Ramos said making sure seniors living in the nearby Bushwick Houses can apply to live at the building is critical, and that it’s likely a lottery system will be used to fill the units.
“This is why it’s good that we as a community-based organization are involved,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “We’re going to ensure we do everything possible to have application workshops, and have an opportunity to help our seniors apply for this housing, to have an opportunity to continue to call this neighborhood home.
“This building is going to be a building that is going to be for the people that paved the way for us,” Ramos said. “A lot of the seniors are going to have the opportunity to call this place home who stood in this community in not-so-good days.”