Developer seeks letter of support for affordable senior housing from CB 12

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CB 12 Housing Committee and the Finch Group discuss affordable senior housing on Wednesday, Aug. 26.

The developer of a proposed affordable senior housing project in Wakefield held an emergency meeting with Community Board 12 on Aug. 26, seeking a letter of support from the CB 12 Housing Committee to begin construction.

While the Finch Group wanted the letter within a couple of days, District Manager George Torres told the Bronx Times that is not happening. He noted that the meeting should have occurred in September when everyone would have been in attendance.

“I don’t want to write a letter unless the whole committee says yes,” Torres said.

The Finch Group plans to construct a six-story, 63-foot-high building with affordable senior housing for former transient seniors at 4750 White Plains Rd. The location is currently the home of the Wakefield Grace United Methodist Church, which will be knocked down and rebuilt into 73 studio apartments, all of which will be 100 percent Section 8.

The church has been in the community for over 100 years and is on board with the project according to Blake Bendett, executive vice president of Finch.

“Now, with an aging, obsolete building, the underpinning of Wakefield Grace as a neighborhood asset is vulnerable,” Bendett said. “Once again, with its dedication to the community in mind, the church has come up with a transformative initiative; an initiative that addresses two very significant neighborhood- and Bronx-related anxieties.”

Bendett explained this will allow the church to continue to play a key role in Wakefield and provides the Bronx with much-needed affordable senior housing.

Reverend Laurel Scott of the local church said she looks forward to the partnership.

“The entire church hierarchy is all on board with this,” she said. “The members of the church are very enthusiastic about this.”

The WGUMC Complex will provide a wide array of activities that will engage the seniors living in the building with the social service outreach of the church.

The WGUMC Seniors program will be expanded from a monthly event with 25 participants to a weekly event with 100 participants. A food pantry is proposed to service the seniors in the building and the neighborhood. Summer day camp will be expanded to 100 children with some having the chance at an overnight stay at Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island.

Continuing education, healthy lifestyle and cooking programs can be offered. After school programs will be offered to provide a safe place for neighborhood children to co-mingle with residents, do homework, tutoring and have a healthy snack.

“The need for affordable housing in the city is overwhelming, surpassed only by the need for affordable senior housing,” Bendett said. “Wakefield Grace asks for your support of its dedication to maintain and enhance the neighborhood by supporting its construction of its new building.”

The apartments will be open to 30 percent of CB 12 residents, however, since they are only for former homeless seniors, not everyone was in favor of the plan.

Dr. Diane Price Banks feels the church should have come to the board beforehand to discuss the project. She said it’s a good idea, but not for CB 12.

“I live in this community, but I would be iced out of getting in as a resident because I don’t have Section 8,” she said. “I’m not sure if this benefits ‘the community’ in so much as it gets homeless people off the street and into our community, which again is not a problem, but it shouldn’t be sold as a benefit to us.”

This will be further debated when the committee meets next month and then brought in front of the full board.

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