Concern grows over Woodlawn senior project

Concern grows over Woodlawn senior project
Residents fear a proposed senior housing project on East 233rd Street in Woodlawn could instead become a homeless shelter.
Arthur Cusano

New information learned by local leaders and the recent creation of homeless housing in newly constructed buildings are raising the concerns of Woodlawn residents about a proposed senior apartment complex.

Representatives from Woodlawn Associates LLC, met with elected leaders and some community members earlier this month about its building proposal, which would be constructed on a vacant site at 85 E. 233rd Street, just down the road from the Major Deegan Expressway ramps and across the street from Woodlawn Cemetery.

The project was downscaled by the developer from 92 to 80 units after community feedback.

The makeup of the building was also changed, from studio apartments to a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments to reflect local needs.

The income qualifications were also raised to allow more area seniors to qualify for the facility.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Senator Jeff Klein and Councilman Andrew Cohen met with the developer and community members on Monday, August 14.

Dinowitz said the meeting brought new information to light, most notably the updated proposals that include 24 units for recently homeless and low-income seniors aged 62 and up and a service component that would be run by Ridgewood-Bushwick Senior Citizens Council of Brooklyn.

Dinowitz said between the low income levels required to live in such a building and the fact that project can’t give preference to Woodlawn residents apart from Community Board 12 as a whole, the proposal held little promise for current neighborhood residents and wasn’t particularly well received.

“The hope would be that at least some people from Woodlawn would be eligible to live there if they want to, but I think it’s fair to say virtually no one from Woodlawn would be able to live there,” Dinowitz said.

Woodlawn Taxpayers Association president Kenneth Nugent said the possibility of the proposed building being used as homeless housing has always been in the back of member’s minds.

The company that Woodlawn Associates principal Ericka Keller Walla also runs, Brisa Builders, has built several such facilities in Brooklyn, he said.

A separate pitch for multi-generational housing was also floated, which Nugent said was unacceptable due to the extreme overcrowding at P.S. 19 on Katonah Avenue.

“Bringing more kids into the neighborhood is a bad idea,” he said.

Nugent also called for a higher AMI to allow more current neighborhood seniors to qualify to live there, since housing is already scarce.

Calls to Keller Walla for comment were not immediately returned.

In a statement, Klein said when projects like the Woodlawn development fail to meet the needs of the communities they serve, a sense of unease sets in over the future plans of the site in question.

“The developer of this project initially sold this to the community as senior housing, and I will continue to work with seniors and residents of Woodlawn to ensure that any development that may be approved is done so with their voices heard and services the seniors in the community this project purports to help,” Klein stated.

CB 12 district manager George Torres said the developer had asked to meet with the board over the summer, but the next meeting would likely be in September at the earliest.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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