New affordable housing development in Far Rockaway boasts resilient and eco-friendly apartments for low-income New Yorkers

Photo by Todd Maisel

The city’s goal to create 300,000 affordable housing units and keep them truly affordable took a step in that direction with the ribbon cutting at Beach Green Dunes II in Far Rockaway.

Ayesha Hameed, a mother with three young children, received a three-bedroom apartment in the development for $1,900 a month at the same cost she was paying for a one bedroom on Beach 26th Street. Her reaction when she toured the new space overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and a block from the A train was, “Perfect!”

“Our rent for a one-bedroom went from $1,500 to $1,900 in an apartment that was so tight, I couldn’t breathe,” said Hameed as she held her 7-month-old son Ayfan while her two children, Ayan, 8, and Ayat, 6, played in their new separate bedrooms. “My husband, Ahsan Altaf applied to Housing Connect and three months later, they called us up and said we got the apartment.”

She and 127 other families will live in the new Beach Green Dunes, which has resilient and eco-friendly apartments meant to keep mostly residents of Rockaway with very low to moderate incomes in the community.

Mayor Bill de Blasio cut the ribbon with city officials and developers of the state-of-the-art project on Rockaway Boulevard and Beach 45th Street on Feb. 19, proudly showing that his administration was in the right direction of their goals to create the promised affordable housing under their program entitled “Your Home New York City” to “keep New Yorkers in New York.”

Ayesha Hameed, with her three children and her parents, Mohammad and Angela Hameed in her new apartment. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

“I know New Yorkers feel as if they are losing their grip on this city and fear their children will no longer be able to afford to call New York home,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We are changing that reality, and with Your Home NYC, will be in the corner of every family fighting for neighborhoods they can afford.”

Affordable housing has been a hallmark of the administration, requiring developers in some cases provide affordable apartments in their projects to get permits.

“I get a sickly feeling when I see signs for luxury condos starting at $3-5 million and it is clear they are not for any of us,” de Blasio said. “This is a place meant for working people rather than force working people out of New York. If we make this city just for the elite, we will lose the heart and soul of this city and this is part of fighting back.”

He pointed out that the unchecked rising rents are leading to illegal evictions, stealing security deposits, and forcing people to take illegal and dangerous basement apartments.

Deputy Mayor Vicki Breen said the city seeks to create 300,000 affordable apartment by 2026 — the population of Denver or Washington, D.C.

“We are building affordable housing on city land, but also resilient and energy efficient,” she said. “We want to invest in community and neighborhoods that support families. For decades, there has been disinvestment in this neighborhood and then there was Hurricanes Sandy and Irene that caused so much damage. This is not just affordable housing, but a green investment.”

Ayat Hameed, 6, sits on her own bed in her own room that she doesn’t have to share with her siblings. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

Beach Green Dunes II features geo-thermal energy generation from ground water taken from 36 wells 450 deep into the ground — water that is already more than 50 degrees — city water can be close to freezing, thereby reducing energy to heat the water. This results in a 75 percent savings on water heating. The development also features extensive use of solar panels, both on the roof and in the court yard.

Mike Domenici, senior project manager for the developer L+M Development Partners, conducted a tour of the development, proudly showing off the thermal risers in an apartment and later, the vast solar 200 kilowatt array on the roof, designed to cut electric use by 50 percent. Officials say residents can use the ocean breeze to cool their homes in the summer or spend $10 a month on air conditioner use.

Hameed remembered Hurricane Sandy, and while they tried to wait out the storm with her in-laws in a third-floor apartment, but they were stuck without utilities for weeks and had to move in with family in the Bronx for two months. “Oh my God, I couldn’t believe how high the water was,” she recalled.

During Hurricane Sandy, most of this community was under several feet of water. The new developments have no basements, are slightly elevated from the street and most of the utilities are located on the second floor. “And because the building is tiled permeable surfaces, the water might come in, but then, it will drain right out and includes bioswale gardens to treat and retain storm water,” one official said.

Beach Green Dunes II features 2,600 square feet of ground-floor retail, 49 parking spaces for residents, and outdoor recreation space which includes a play area for children. The eight-story building is also anticipated to receive Passive House certification. Passive House design emphasizes super-insulation, airtight envelopes, energy recovery ventilation, high performance windows, and effective management of solar gain in order to regulate heating and cooling through passive measures and reduce the need for mechanical systems.

Councilman Donovan Richards toured the site with state Senator James Sanders where they both agreed this was the right direction for new housing in the community.

“Housing instability creates a snowball effect of issues for anyone, anywhere in Queens. We know this already,” said Councilman Donovan Richards, District 31. “This project is a crucial step in revitalizing Rockaway sustainably. Geothermal energy in affordable housing is a smart way to heat buildings, generate electricity and save money. That is how you revitalize a neighborhood and an economy at large: by starting with the home.”

“Affordable housing is critically important as more and more people struggle to put a roof over their heads,” said state Senator James Sanders Jr. “I am proud to welcome the new Beach Green Dunes II apartment complex to Arverne, which will be environmentally friendly and will contain more than 100 new affordable housing units, giving priority to Community Board 14 residents as well as municipal employees and the disabled. Now, let’s go beyond this.”

Beach Green Dunes also earned nearly $112,000 in rebates from PSEG Long Island for installing energy efficient options in the new building. Collectively residents are expected to save approximately $30,000 per year on their electric bills as a result of the efficient geothermal system and LED lighting throughout.

Beach Green Dunes II was financed under the city’s Extremely Low and Low Income Affordability (ELLA) program. The NYC Housing Development Corporation (NYC HDC) provided $19,790,000 million in tax-exempt bonds and $8,255,000 million in subsidy to the project. The NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (NYC HPD) provided $18,415,000 million in city capital financing. The City Council has also awarded the project $250,000 in Resolution A funds.

Mike Domenici, senior project manager for the developer L&M Builders, shows off the solar array on the roof. (Photo by Todd Maisel)