Monday, June 22, 2009

Charity Creating Senior Fineson Center by Clare Trapasso - NY Daily News

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HELP IS on the way for financially strapped seniors.

The state has tapped Catholic Charities to transform a former Howard Beach hospital into affordable housing for the elderly.

The charity expects to create about 100 studio and one-bedroom apartments at the Bernard Fineson Developmental Disabilities Senior Office site at 155-55 Cross Bay Blvd. The complex - to be called the Howard Beach Apartments - is slated to be ready by summer 2012.

"There is a desperate need here in Brooklyn and Queens for affordable senior housing," said Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, vicar for human services at the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. "Many seniors living on limited incomes are struggling between paying their rent, putting food on their tables and their medical expenses. It's very difficult."

A branch of Catholic Charities would create about 80 apartments for seniors 60 and older capable of living on their own. Another 20 units would be set aside for mentally and physically disabled elderly residents.

Seniors with incomes of up to $43,000 a year can apply for the apartments through a lottery, state officials said.

No medical care will be given at the site, but staff will provide services such as dietary advice and help scheduling doctor appointments.

"Senior buildings are meant for people who are able to live independently," LoPinto said. "However, if they are in need of services, we would assist them."

About 40 apartments would be reserved for seniors who live within the boundaries of Community Board 10.

That was music to the ears of board Chairwoman Betty Braton, who said the senior population is growing in her district.

"If you're going to build something in a community, it should certainly serve that community," Braton said. "Many senior citizens live on fixed incomes and cannot afford today's market rents."

The project has generated strong community support. But it has also stirred some concern.

Ike Albala, director of the city-funded Howard Beach Senior Center, is worried about plans to create a new senior center at the complex. "I'm concerned about the possible overlap between the two facilities," Albala said.

But he does support creating housing for seniors.

"We do hear, 'Gee, it's a struggle to maintain my apartment,'" Albala said. "So if there is more affordable housing, that's a plus."