A rendering of the Crotona North Apartments development in the Tremont section of the Bronx. | SAGE
BY PAUL SCHINDLER | Seventeen months after outlining a bold plan to remake the housing opportunities for queer seniors nationwide, SAGE or Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders announced it has the financing in place to put shovel to earth on two affordable housing developments — one in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and the other on Crotona Park North in the Bronx.
The new developments — slated to begin construction over the next 12 months and to open within three years — will provide 227 units of affordable housing supplemented by supportive social services and social engagement opportunities, including on-site SAGE Centers.
In Brooklyn, the 16-story, 145-unit Ingersoll Senior Residences will be developed, at an estimated cost of just under $45 million, through a partnership between SAGE and BFC Partners, a developer of affordable and market-rate housing in New York for more than three decades. The development will be sited at the Ingersoll Houses, an existing New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) facility near Myrtle Avenue.
With city, state partners, money in hand, group launches New York’s first affordable, LGBT-friendly developments
In the Bronx, SAGE will team up with HELP USA, a nationwide leader in homelessness prevention and permanent supportive housing since 1986, on the seven-story, 82-unit Crotona North Apartments in the Tremont section, a project that has a $38 million price tag.
SAGE member Joyce Banks looks forward to the chance to find an affordable unit at the planned Crotona North Apartments in the Bronx. | CATHY RENNA/ TARGET CUE
According to information from the two developers released at a June 30 press conference, eligibility for the Ingersoll development will be open to those 60 and older whose incomes are at 60 percent or less of the area median income — which works out to $43,500 for a couple and $38,100 for a single person — and eligibility at Crotona North will be pegged at 50 percent or less of AMI, or $36,250 for a couple and $31,750 for a single person.
With these two projects underway, New York City will soon join other cities, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Minneapolis, in creating affordable housing options for seniors distinguished by what is termed “cultural competency” in serving the LGBT community. While the housing will be open to all income-eligible seniors, the role of SAGE in developing the buildings, providing ongoing services, and marketing the units’ availability will likely result in a residential composition that is heavily LGBT, according to Michael Adams, SAGE’s CEO.
The development of new housing specifically geared to serve LGBT seniors is only a small part of SAGE’s broader nationwide strategy of making all housing providers more responsive to the community’s aging population as well as providing needed services to older people in the neighborhoods in which they already live.
HELP USA CEO Tom Hameline, Department for the Aging Commissioner Donna Corrado, SAGE CEO Michael Adams, City Council Public Housing Chair Ritchie Torres, NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye, and Don Capoccia of BFC Partners at the June 30 press conference. | GAY CITY NEWS
Still, at the June 30 press event, Adams emphasized, “For too long, our LGBT elder pioneers in New York City have lacked access to housing where they are welcomed for who they are. Ingersoll and Crotona are a critically important step toward righting that wrong.”
And he acknowledged that the announcement of not one, but two new housing initiatives in the city at the same time had an element of serendipity about it. In May, NYCHA in tandem with New York City Housing and Preservation and the New York City Housing Development Corporation announced the selection of BFC Partners and SAGE for the Ingersoll project, which will be the largest LGBT-friendly senior housing initiative in the country when completed.
Shola Olatoye, NYCHA’s chair and CEO, on hand for last week’s press conference, emphasized that the Ingersoll development was not only in keeping with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing but was also part of her agency’s mission to encourage “healthy, welcoming, diverse communities.” She explained that the selection of SAGE and BFC came after a “nine-month visioning session” with current residents of NYCHA’s Ingersoll community.
Crotona North, the Bronx development, has been in the works longer, mentioned as part of SAGE’s rollout of its nationwide housing strategy in February 2015. In addition to HELP USA, its development partnership also includes the city’s Housing Development Corporation and New York State Homes and Community Renewal.
Adams singled out the commitment of $1.2 million for the project from Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and City Councilmember Ritchie Torres, the out gay chair of the Public Housing Committee.
Torres saluted Olatoye’s agency, saying, “NYCHA is a pioneer in cultural competency in the reimagining of public housing” in New York and nationwide, and then said of the Crotona North development, “I am more than monetarily engaged, I am deeply morally engaged as well.”
A rendering of the Ingersoll Senior Residences development in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. | SAGE
In remarks lauding the efforts by SAGE and her government colleagues, Donna Corrado, commissioner of the city’s Department for the Aging, said, “I experienced discrimination in housing many years ago. Save an apartment for me.”
The press conference drew others — SAGE members — also hopeful of finding future housing opportunities at Ingersoll or Crotona North.
Joyce Banks is a 72-year-old retiree of the US Department of Veterans Affairs who has lived in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx since 1988. She shared her life with Janet Gloss for 32 years until Gloss’ death in 2013 from cancer, a disease she battled on and off for 16 years.
Gloss was long engaged in SAGE’s activities — “she advocated,” Banks recalled, even while acknowledging, “I never showed up until she got ill.” Even then, Banks would drop in to check out the group’s offerings, but hesitated about diving in.
That changed when Gloss died.
“They saved me, I tell you,” Banks said of SAGE.
She soon became a regular at SAGE’s Harlem Center and later its newer Bronx Center in the Fordham section.
“Now I’m out and proud,” she said.
Every week, Banks hears from the four children she and Gloss raised and is also in regular contact with a sister who lives in Boston, but at a weekly Saturday grief group at SAGE following her life partner’s death she learned the vital role her LGBT family could play in her life. When the lottery for a spot in Crotona North begins taking applications, she plans to be on line.