CORONA — Officials broke ground on a new affordable housing building with 68 apartments for the borough's seniors, as well as social programs and a ground-floor pre-K.
The HANAC Senior Residence at 54-17 101st St. near Chrystie Avenue, will be the first affordable housing built in Corona in more than 30 years, officials said. It's part of a benefits package brokered by City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland in 2013 over the Willets Point development deal.
It costs $35 million, with funding also coming from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development's $12.8 million low-income housing tax credit subsidy.
The project is named after the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, or HANAC, which is one of the partners in the project along with Enterprise Community Partners and LiveOn NY, with support from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Rents will be kept affordable through a subsidy in HPD's Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) program, and paid on a scale. Tenants will pay 30 percent of their income in rent, with the majority of the units given to residents at 60 percent of the area median income (AMI.)
It's not clear when qualified applicants will be able to apply for apartments.
During the negotiations for Willets Point, Ferreras-Copeland worked out a deal to build affordable housing at the Iron Triangle, but knew it would be years before it was built.
She pushed for apartments to be built sooner elsewhere in Corona, and officials found a community garden on 101st Street near Lewis Avenue that would work.
"It's her tenacity that made this happen," Evangeline Douris, the chair of HANAC said at the ceremony at the construction site.
The drive for housing was "for all the seniors in my community who are figuring out how to live, figuring out, living in a room, living in a basement, living in attics, living in conditions that probably are not appropriate," Ferreras-Copeland said.
The Sparrows Nest community garden has also been relocated to a smaller lot on the corner. It even helped inspire some of the landscape and design on the future building, according to John Kaiteris, the executive director of HANAC said.
Construction on the building is set to start soon, and it will be open in a year and a half, officials said.
The significance of affordable housing for seniors is major, especially in Queens, where 34,000 of the 200,000 seniors on waiting lists for affordable housing lives.
Helen Swiatowski, 73, has been living in HANAC housing in Astoria for six years, and called her home a "lifesaver."
"Looking for senior housing in a nightmare, to put it mildly," she said.
"I thank God every day for HANAC, I thank God every day for that call that said, 'you got an apartment.'"