Minna Gittens, 95, her Hancock Street neighbor of 55 years Mary Culler, and Alma Carroll were three of the last to leave the celebration for the recent opening of the Quincy Senior Residences at 625 Quincy Street hosted by the Bridge Street Development Corporation.
As the band slipped into a gentle downbeat on Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” classic, Alma Carroll lifted her arm conductor-like and demanded, “Stop the music! Stop the music! These seniors want to dance! They want some dance music!”
It is a well known fact that our Bedford-Stuyvesant seniors are a study in agelessness – a feisty, stand-up, go-getter bunch. But on November 29, Ms. Carroll, who celebrates her 80th birthday this month – and most times ignores her orphaned cane, and her friends Mrs. Gittens, and Mrs. Culler had something more to kick up the heels about.
A half-hour earlier, the Bridge Street Development Corporation and their partners, the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) and New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) along with a packed house of community leaders, developers, lenders and the stars of the day – our indefatigable seniors – opened the Quincy Senior Residences.
The new, six-story 94-unit rental apartment building for low-income senior citizens is more than an affordable housing project. Billed as an Holistic Living Environment, the building is a showcase in thoughtful design and pleasant atmosphere. “Space,” said an impressed Mary Von King as she walked into one of the model apartments in the $14.8 million project. “This is great space, you usually don’t get this.”
The Quincy Senior Residence was built from the ground up on a parcel of eight vacant lots between Stuyvesant and Lewis Avenues. The apartments, all one-bedrooms except for a single, two-bedroom superintendent’s unit, are renting at $292 and $513 per month, affordable to low income, independent seniors.
At the grand opening, Judith Calogero, Commissioner, DHCR, said, “Demand has never been higher for affordable housing, especially for this population living on very limited fixed incomes. It is our mission to provide these citizens with adequate housing within their neighborhoods.”
Financing for the project included a $4.5 million construction loan and a $834,000 permanent first mortgage from The Community Preservation Corporation (CPC). The New York State Housing Trust Fund Corporation provided a $2 million, low-interest second mortgage. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), under its Supportive Housing Loan Program, conveyed seven City-owned lots to the developer and provided a $480,000 loan. The eighth lot was purchased from a private owner. The low-income housing tax credit syndicator is The Richman Group.
Shaun Donovan, NYC Housing Commissioner said, “Senior citizens living on fixed incomes deserve safe, decent and affordable homes in the neighborhoods where they’ve spent their lifetimes. We need to do more for Bed-Stuy, not to Bed Stuy.”
Michael D. Lappin, President and CEO, CPC, said, “This outstanding new building exemplifies our mission to support, small , qualified developers who recognize opportunities to create affordable housing where no one else would think to look.”
Rhonda A. Lewis, President and CEO, BSDC, said, “Our housing model is based on partnerships to create a holistic living environment for our residents.” She noted that the YMCA, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the NY Public Library, the Bedford Stuyvesant Family Health Center and the Rusk Institute, will work with BSDC to offer on-site wellness programs, horticultural therapy, exercise, and arts and crafts programs.
In addition to the ribbon cutting, BSDC unveiled “Words and Wisdom,” the photo exhibit comprising majestic portraits of some of the community’s pioneer seniors, including event honoree Mrs. Edith Lovell, 101, now retired from 67 years of continuous community work and service. Photographer Deirdre Matthews’ elegantly-framed photo masterpieces line the Quincy Senior Residences’ ground floor corridors. The captions describe the pioneers’ many contributions to the community.
Speaker after speaker, including event host Monique Greenwood, was moved to tell wonderful stories of their own grandparents as they applauded the contributions of our seniors. If the seniors were the stars of the events, then BSDC certainly earned the supporting role – figuratively and literally. Accolades rang out about the impact of the corporation and its staff under the leadership of Ms. Lewis.
Councilman Al Vann, a son of Bedford Stuyvesant, and now a kind of grand Pere for other would-be leaders, issued a Proclamation commending the “glorious seniors” and the “valuable role they have played in the life of our city” and “all aspects of national life.”
And that glory can be seen in the majesty of Mrs. Carroll, Mrs. Gittens, Mrs. Culler, Mrs. Elsie Richardson, Mrs. Ida Lewis, Mrs Betty Irwin, Mr. William J. Steward, Mrs. Lily Johnson, Mrs. Faulkner, Mrs. Vivian Williams, and other seniors who were present at — and those who were unable to attend — the November 29 housing initiative milestone.