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More time on earth: Sunset Park church’s teardown delayed until later this year

Reprieve: The century-old Zion Norwegian Lutheran Church in Sunset Park, originally slated for demolition by the end of last year, will stay up until at least July, due to funding problems at the affordable-housing developer that bought the property.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

These builders are in purgatory.

Developers postponed the demolition of a more-than-century-old Sunset Park church that was slated to be razed last year through at least this summer, according to the project manager for the affordable-housing builder working on the site.

Honchos at the Fifth Avenue Committee, which are overseeing the transformation of the Zion Norwegian Lutheran Church at the corner of 63rd Street and Fourth Avenue into affordable senior housing and a pre-K school, put the demolition on hold after the Republican tax plan passed late last year because the legislation cut the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit — a federal subsidy for affordable-housing construction and repairs — which the committee and similar organizations rely on as a funding source, according to Michael Rose.

The tax-credit hit meant that the Fifth Avenue Committee lost about 15 percent of its funding for the project — amounting to $4–5 million — Rose said. The developer applied for more competitive tax credits through the state and is awaiting a decision, but the teardown will now not occur until July at the earliest, he said, which means that construction of the nine-story building would not begin until at least September.

The new building will include 56 studio apartments and 28 one-bedrooms, with eight of the 83 total units distributed among the two attached brownstones, which will be gutted and renovated, according to Rose. The units will be reserved for recipients of the city’s project-based Section 8 voucher program who are older than 62, he said.

Seventy-four of the units will be reserved for tenants with incomes of less than 50 percent of the area median income — which is $33,400 for an individual and $38,200 for a couple, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The other nine units will be reserved for seniors with a slightly higher income of up to 80 percent of the area median income, Rose said. And 26 of the units will still be reserved for formerly homeless seniors, according to Rose, who added that the developers will accept referrals of formerly homeless tenants from the city’s Department of Social Services.

The new building — will also host five pre-K classrooms — will be among the tallest in the area, but will still be dwarfed by the twin 811-unit, 30-story Bay Ridge Towers, the two affordable housing apartment buildings just two blocks away, on 65th Street.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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