By Molly Sugarman
Seventy-seven affordable apartments for seniors will be coming to 117 West 79th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam, thanks to a collaborative effort by Fairstead, a purpose-driven real estate developer and Project FIND, a nonprofit organization that provides senior housing.
The 60-day lottery for the building, a historic hotel called Park 79, will open this summer. Twenty-four of the units will be set aside for formerly homeless seniors. None of the residents will pay rent of more than 30% of their income, according to a presentation to the CB7 Housing Committee on Monday evening, by David Gillcrist, deputy director of Project FIND.
Residents will not only have affordable rent, they will also have onsite social workers to provide needed services as well as activities.
“This is a completely admirable project,” said Ethel Sheffer, housing committee member. “Project FIND is reputable. This is really an accomplishment and a pleasure to hear.”
Although enthusiastic about the project, other members of the committee were disappointed that no preference will be given to current residents of the Upper West Side, but were assured by the presenters that the lottery will be widely advertised at local senior centers and in local media.
Sheffer also pointed out that this was the first time that the Inclusionary Housing Preservation Program has been used in Community Board 7’s area. The program allows developers of market-rate projects a bonus if they fund affordable housing, not necessarily on their own site. In this case the funding came from an extra height bonus for a project now under construction at 103rd St. and Broadway.
“It is extremely important for CB7 to have this as an example,” Sheffer said. “We can learn a great deal from this.”
The committee also heard a presentation from Committee Member Madelyn Innocent about the advocacy efforts of the committee’s Senior Housing Task Force. She described public meetings, meetings with elected officials and other community boards, and with NYCHA officials. But “They don’t care,” she said. “How do we make them listen?”
As a tireless advocate for public housing for many years, Innocent wants to keep communication open with residents of public housing as well as with elected officials and NYCHA management — as long as communication can be “concrete, sincere, respectful, and kind,” she said.
She recounted two instances in which residents of Douglass Housing desperately needed help — no heat in winter and no elevator for a woman returning from the hospital. Because of her contacts, Innocent was able to remedy these situations.
“You should not have to know someone to get heat or to get an elevator fixed,” Committee Member Mark Diller said.
“Let’s do something now, “ said Committee Chair Louisa Craddock. “The process has to change.”
The committee agreed to host a meeting in May or June with federal, state, and local officials, with very specific requests.