Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens officials held a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Bishop Rene A. Valero Senior Residence in Astoria on Friday, Oct. 7.
Reverend Robert Brennan, bishop of Brooklyn, and Monsignor Alfred LoPinto, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens and Affiliate Agencies, were joined by Adolfo Carrión, commissioner of the New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and Deputy Queens Borough President Ebony Young at the residence.
The $62 million development, located at 23-11 31st Rd., provides 102 units of affordable apartments for low-income seniors and formerly homeless adults with supportive services. The residence features a six-story, 84,900-square-foot, state-of-the-art-facility. It includes on-site residential supportive social services; a residents’ lounge; a large exterior landscaped yard for relaxation, recreation and gardening; and the relocated Catholic Charities Peter J. DellaMonica Older Adult Center.
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is one of the largest faith-based social service agencies and providers of affordable housing in the United States and, through Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation (CCPOP), currently provides 4,465 units of affordable homes.
“Today we celebrate the good work of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, and their continued commitment to providing affordable housing for our elderly,” Brennan said. “We are responding to a great need here in our diocese, and are putting our faith into action as we embark on this new opportunity to care for our neighbor. May these new apartments bring a sense of dignity and well-being to those who will call them home.”
Developed by CCPOP, the affordable housing arm of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, in partnership with the HPD, funding for the Bishop Rene A. Valero Senior Residence includes a $3.1 million annual allocation of 9% low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC), which leverages $30.8 million in tax credit equity over 15 years.
Richman Housing Resources LLC syndicated tax credits, and Bank of America provided construction lending. Barings LLC provided permanent loan commitment for the project over the next 30 years.
With 102 residential units and one superintendent’s unit, the building is a 100% affordable residence for seniors. Thirty percent of the building is reserved for formerly homeless seniors with severe mental illness (SMI), sponsored by the New York City 15/15 Supportive Housing Initiative through the Department of Social Services.
The remainder of units reserved for low-income seniors will target those making up to 50% of the area median income (AMI). One hundred percent of resident units are supported with rental operating subsidies through the HUD Section 8 Project-Based Voucher program, as administered by the NYC Housing Authority.
“We are truly honored today to dedicate the Bishop Rene Valero Senior Residence. Affordable housing is one of the biggest crises facing New York City. As one of the largest faith-based developers of affordable housing in the country, we understand how crucial it is to address this issue,” LoPinto said. “This project provides much needed housing to low-income seniors and a supportive environment for formerly homeless individuals, and allows the residents to live safely, comfortably and independently for as long as possible. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals in need of affordable housing in New York City, and we cannot build fast enough.”
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens named the new residence after the late Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, Rene A. Valero. A strong vocal advocate for the elderly, refugees and the Hispanic community until he retired in 2005, Valero had a significant role in developing and expanding services to help seniors age with dignity.
The bishop was the first director of the Catholic Charities Office for the Aging and was the founder and chairperson of the Diocesan Commission on the Elderly. He influenced the development of the Hispanic Ministry in the Diocese of Brooklyn and chaired the Committee of Racial Harmony. He spearheaded the creation of the Diocesan Golden Age Clubs and remained a passionate advocate for older adults and their importance to the local parishes throughout his life.
“With the completion of the Bishop Rene A. Valero Senior Residence, New York City and partners like Catholic Charities are once again delivering for older New Yorkers by opening the doors to new affordable senior housing,” Carrión said. “Some of our most at-risk older New Yorkers, including those who were once unhoused, will now have the safety and security of housing that comes equipped with the specialized services they need to thrive. Thank you to all who made this project possible.”
In 2016, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens joined a coalition with LiveOnNY that advocated for changes to the New York City zoning resolution. Approved by the City Council, the Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) included allowing buildings with affordable or senior housing to be taller and eliminating parking requirements for affordable senior housing near subway lines. This new ZQA regulation allowed Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens to build crucial affordable housing units on underutilized parking lots within the existing Catholic Charities’ housing portfolio.
The Bishop Rene A. Valero Senior Residence is the second phase of the Catholic Charities Catherine Sheridan Senior Residence built in 1978, which currently provides 240 apartments for low-income seniors. The Bishop Rene A. Valero Residence is located directly across the street in what was the Catherine Sheridan Senior Residences parking lot.
Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán extended heartfelt congratulations to everyone who worked hard to bring the project to fruition and are helping New Yorkers who need support.
“With its supportive services and affordable apartments for low-income seniors and formerly homeless adults, the new Bishop Rene A. Valero Senior Residence is just what we need to make New York a safer, healthier city for all its residents,” Cabán said.
Former Councilman Costa Constantinides, who is the CEO of Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, said the construction of the new, state-of-the-art residence will help meet a critical need in the neighborhood.
“Advocates have estimated that over 22,000 residents in western Queens are in need of senior affordable housing,” Constantinides said. “Meeting the needs of our vulnerable community members with a senior center as well, this building is a great step forward and I am glad to join in the chorus in praise for this important project.”
In a time with such high demand for senior housing, including for supportive housing for formerly homeless seniors, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said the Bishop Rene A. Senior Residence is a “true blessing for our borough.”
“This state-of-the-art facility, with its 102 affordable units and its many services and amenities, will be the warm and welcoming home that so many seniors have been looking for so long,” Richards said. “My heartfelt thanks goes to Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and all those who worked on this project, which will stand as a fitting tribute to Bishop Valero and his legacy of faith and service.”