The construction of the Howard Beach senior residence that started early last year has been completed, and it is now ready for occupancy.
Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens began interior demolition and reconstruction of the former Bernard Fineson Developmental Center at 155-55 Cross Bay Blvd. in Jan. 2012. Seniors whose applications were accepted by Catholic Charities began to view their new apartments in the facility last week.
Monsignor Al LoPinto, pastor of St. Helen Parish and vicar for human services of Catholic Charities, said the goal is to have the facility completely occupied by October.
“We’re excited about it,” LoPinto said of the facility. He added that the prospective tenants he spoke with were also excited about what is being offered to them.
“I think that it will be an asset for seniors,” he said, adding, “This is certainly something that was needed.”
There are 83 senior rental units, including 27 studio apartments and 56 one-bedroom apartments, as well as a live-in superintendent and a 24-hour security desk. Another 12 apartments are reserved for persons with disabilities.
Among the other amenities at the facility are laundry facilities, recreation rooms, landscaping, parking, and close proximity to supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, healthcare facilities, public transportation and restaurants. The apartments have sound-attenuated windows, air conditioning, Energy Star appliances, bathrooms with safety bars and emergency call systems.
LoPinto called the building “multipurpose” noting that it is not just a senior residence but also contains a senior center and the offices for the Catholic Charities Meals-On-Wheels program.
“There will be a number of different entities that will be participating in the building,” he said.
The Howard Beach Senior Center, which was forced out of its former location in the basement of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center after Sandy’s storm surge flooded and destroyed the senior center’s offices, will now be located on the first floor of the new facility.
LoPinto said the senior center will not be exclusive to the tenants of the residence but will serve seniors throughout the Howard Beach community.
Catholic Charities took over sponsorship of the Howard Beach Senior Center in January, though it is still funded through the city Department of the Aging.
Debbie Hoffer, director of field operations for Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, said the group was thrilled when the center came under its sponsorship, noting the center’s “wonderful reputation” in the area. The senior center will be moving into the building on Aug. 22.
“We will be providing a brand-new beautiful new home for seniors to really enjoy state-of-the-art programming and daily hot, nutritious, delicious meals and have an opportunity to meet with other seniors in the apartment building,” Hoffer said.
“The opening of the Catholic Charities’ senior housing residence is a huge victory for the Howard Beach community and all the residents in Queens,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park). “Our growing senior population can finally achieve the quality housing they deserve, while keeping financial and economic independence and most importantly, remaining in their own backyard. Additionally, this building will finally provide a centralized location for our diverse senior community to meet under one roof.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he was grateful to LoPinto for working with the senior center on a temporary space after Hurricane Sandy and for a permanent new site to socialize in.
“Recently, I personally toured the new center and was impressed with its size and quality,” he said. “Many of the seniors I spoke to were excited about going to their new location. While I understand a few of our seniors don’t like changes and there will be minor issues at the new site, I believe that the seniors will benefit from their new location and I am prepared to help address any issue that arises. Our seniors deserve to have a new center that remains open and various programs to participate in and enjoy.”
The Fineson Center occupied the building, originally a hospital, from 1975 until 2009. The conversion to senior housing was discussed almost immediately and the $31 million to fund the project was raised by December 2011, with construction beginning the next month.
“Certainly we have a high concentration of seniors in the area,” LoPinto said, adding, “This is one of the highest concentrations of seniors in Queens County and probably in the city.”
Hoffer said there is no date yet set for the ribbon cutting of the new development, though LoPinto said he expects the formal dedication of the Senior Residence to be in October.