Sleek new building will house seniors

Architects rendering of 1115 Intervale Avenue, built to house seniors with family members.

 As Hunts Point ages, builders can’t keep up with demand

With its oversize windows and two-tone gray brick façade, 1115 Intervale Avenue resembles a luxury apartment building.

But it will house low-income seniors who won one of the 47 apartments in this newly-built rental building in a lottery—and are almost as happy as if they’d won the Powerball lottery itself.

Subsidized apartment buildings for seniors usually require that the senior live alone, but this building will be open to seniors who live with a family member, and in some cases are the caregivers for young relatives. “Often housing for seniors does not provide for their family. This is an opportunity to still live with family–a daughter, a grandchild,” said SEBCO president, Peter Cantillo.

The Hunts Point-based SEBCO will manage Intervale Seniors on Intervale Avenue and Webster Commons on Webster Avenue near Gun Hill Road.

“Grandparents have to take care of their grandchildren for a variety of reasons–it could be work, a loss in marriage, incarceration,” said Mildred Colon, a member of Community Board 2, and a grandmother who has shared her Hunts Point apartment with her grandchildren since they were born.

When it was built in 2005 with the support of local politicians, faith-based organizaions and housing groups, the “Grandparent Apartment Building” in Morrisania was the first building to cater to low-income grandparents raising their grandchildren. When they open in November, the new buildings will improve on that model, Cantillo says.

What’s unique about the new SEBCO buildings is “that the person 55 or over doesn’t have to be paying the rent,” he explained. Castillo says the arrangement will allow low-income seniors who qualify for the housing to continue living with the family member who supports them.

Its eight other Bronx senior buildings were financed through a federal housing program, but SEBCO partnered with Azimuth Development Group LLC to build Intervale Seniors with funding from the city’s department of Housing and Preservation.The city agency provided the developers subsidies and tax-credits to transform what was a parking lot.

The financing allowed the community not-for-profit developer to lower the age requirements for the apartments from 62 to 55, and allow residents to live with family. Rents at the Intervale building will range from $474 to $763 a month.

“The history of SEBCO is built on city-owned property,” said Cantillo. Where once derelict buildings were available, though, “Now you have to buy the land,” he said.

But developing from scratch gave SEBCO the chance to design a high-end building with high-grade materials you “would see in Manhattan, in Chelsea–not what you would expect to find in a low-income neighborhood,” Cantillo said.  Amenities include a ground level commons room and full kitchen. A backyard garden, and laundry room will also be available to residents.

After the ribbon cutting on its newest buildings, SEBCO will be managing 10 senior buildings in the South Bronx, five of which are in Hunts Point and Longwood. A van service will shuttle residents of the Intervale building to the recreational and educational centers at SEBCO’s flagship senior building Erma Cava, on Southern Boulevard and Barretto Street, where they can get subsidized meals and engage in recreational activities like dancing and bingo.The seniors will also have access to a computer lab and visiting computer instructor.

Some South Bronx housing assistance groups that are grateful for SEBCO’s new senior housing nonetheless say it will not dent the increasing demand in Hunts Point and Longwood.

In addition, the income eligibility requirements are too rigid, said Sandra Wise, executive assistant to the CEO of H.O.G.A.R., a Bronx based housing placement agency that also provides transitional homes for the homeless living with HIV.

Many people in need of housing don’t have the minimum annual income of $19,636 that the rules require, she said. The number of people over 65 in Hunts Point and Longwood has increased by 25 percent since 2000, according to the census.

Ensuring that seniors can afford to live in the neighborhood continues to be a priority of Community Board 2, and the board requested more affordable senior housing–especially for senior heads of households–in its statement of needs for the city’s current fiscal year.

Senior housing “is badly needed. A lot of our buildings are pre-war, and seniors live in over-sized apartments,” said Joyce Campbell-Culler, the chair of the board’s housing committee, who noted most people in Hunts Point struggled to afford their rent.

Seniors can spend over a decade on waiting lists for the limited number of government subsidized apartments, Campbell-Culler said.

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