Signature Bank provides building rehab grant to Banana Kelly

Signature Bank provides building rehab grant to Banana Kelly
(L-r) Joseph DePaolo, Signature Bank president and CEO; Harold DiRienzo, Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association president and CEO, and John Tamberlane, Signature Bank vice chairman at a presentation of a ceremonial $100,000 grant check to Banana Kelly on Wednesday, August 22.
Photo courtesy of Signature Bank

A local non-profit housing company got a much-needed cash infusion to pay for important capital improvements to one of its properties.

Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, which manages a portfolio of affordable housing developments in communities in the southern and western part of the borough, recently obtained a $100,000 grant from Signature Bank to complete needed repairs a Hunts Point building.

Harold DeRienzo, Banana Kelly president and CEO, said that his organization responded to a Request for Proposals from Signature Bank for a grant application.

The grants, said a representative from Signature Bank, total $500,000 and equally are distributed to five community non-profit housing developers and management companies in the New York metro area.

These grants, part of the bank’s commitment to housing non-profits in New York, come as part of a program called the Signature Bank Building Improvement Initiative, according to Signature.

“Signature Bank’s Building Improvement Initiative Program is designed to provide needed capital to not-for-profit owner operators, allowing them to facilitate and expedite improvements for tenants throughout their buildings,” said Joseph DePaolo, bank president and CEO.

DePaolo added: “The bank is offering non-for-profit housing organizations, like Banana Kelly, this recoverable grant to finance building-wide or apartment-unit improvements that will benefit low to moderate income tenants.”

At Banana Kelly, the funds obtained from the grant will be used for preservation of affordable housing.

Specifically it will go towards repair to a parapet wall and a façade issue at a 58-unit building at 1244 Westchester Avenue.

Making improvements to affordable housing from rent rolls can be challenging because a typical rent in a building like 1244 Westchester Avenue are set at prices much less than the market rate, said DeRienzo.

“The reason this money is so important to us is it is our goal (as an organization) is to keep the projects as affordable as possible, as long as we are able to keep the buildings financially viable,” said DeRienzo. “Our average rents in this building are somewhere around $750 a month, which is kind of unheard of in the Bronx.”

The work will come at significant costs that go beyond the grant, but with the grant and other resources repairs should be able to be made quickly, said DeRienzo.

The parapet wall bulged outward at the Westchester Avenue building requiring temporary mitigation, and detail work on the building’s brick façade was deteriorating, convincing DeRienzo that repairs to the building couldn’t wait, he said.

“This grant will allow us to take care of all those façade and safety concerns,” said the community improvement association president and CEO.

The building, part of the non-profit’s portfolio, was likely built in the 1920s and has seen multiple rounds of capital improvement but is still in need of more modernization, he said.

“There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but this is the most pressing work and it cannot wait,” he said.

The Signature Bank grant came just in time to help pay for an engineer’s report on the building, and the project is already out to bid, said DeRienzo.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

More from Around NYC