Catherine Montgomery has filed applications for an affordable apartment for years, but no one ever responded, she said.
And then finally she got a studio in a new building on Broadway, and one designed specifically with seniors’ needs in mind.
“I lived in the Bronx many years and I applied and applied for affordable housing. I never got anywhere and my daughter went to a community meeting and she was given the application,” Montgomery said. “I am so happy that I have her as an awesome daughter to push me. I love the area and I love, love my apartment.”
The studio apartment Montgomery received is at the Van Cortlandt Green, at 6469 Broadway, an apartment building with affordable units for seniors. Local politicians, community leaders and activists from Selfhelp Community Services gathered on Feb. 3 to celebrate its opening.
The project was more than three years in the making. For seniors like Montgomery, the apartments are a chance to live independently.
Montgomery, who called her studio apartment “awesome,” said one of the best things about the new building is that it was designed just for senior citizens. “When you know that you are living with people your own age group. It’s a difference and the difference is the quietness,” she said. Previously, she lived in a three family house.
“I love the big park. I love the friendliness of the tenants in the building. I never went to any senior meetings or anything like that but I get a chance to do that now. That makes a big difference in a person’s life,” continued Montgomery. She added that she was looking forward to getting to know her new neighbors.
Resident Kate Modu agreed. “I am so excited when I was asked to come here. I couldn’t say a word because I didn’t expect such a thing to happen… It’s marvelous. I have no words to express it,” said Modu in a voice filled with emotion.
Modu said that she had been living in shelter before moving into her new apartment. Modu added that the first thing she did when she moved in was say a prayer of thanks because she was so happy to have her own home—and a place built specifically for a senior citizen.
“I love it. It’s beautiful. I love the area and my apartment is very comfortable. I have no complaints,” said resident Alphonzo Dozier. He previously lived in a two-story home in Queens. The single floor layout and design, which is wheelchair friendly, makes Dozier’s everyday life easier to navigate.
“This building is designed with the idea of seniors in mind… so they can age with dignity and independence,” said Sasha Kesler, a government and external relations associate at Selfhelp Community Services, a nonprofit senior service agency.
Samantha Pearce, director of housing development and sustainability at Selfhelp, spoke of some of the features of the building. Bathrooms have roll-in showers and grab bars, all doorways are at least 36 inches to accommodate wheelchairs and the kitchen counter tops and sinks can be lowered to accommodate a wheelchair.
Additionally, the windows are high efficiency and allow for less noise from the outside to come in, residents can control the apartment’s heating and the lights operate on sensors.
All of the 85-studio apartments have emergency pull cords where a resident can call for help, which will alert a Selfhelp staff member or the super who is on-site full time. The building also has a full-time social worker to assist residents, who are all at least 62 years of age, if they need help with transportation, getting social services or setting up medical appointments. The building is at 100 percent occupancy.
According to the statement from the company, the building in the process of being certified with a Silver rating for its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for its energy efficiency.
Evelyn Wolff, vice president of real estate development at Selfhelp, said residents were chosen by lottery. All units will be leased to seniors, and eight units will be subsidized through a 15-year Project-Based Section 8 and the Fair Market Housing Plan. The maximum income for a single person living at the Van Cortlandt Green is $32,000 and $41,000 for two people.
Getting Van Cortlandt Green built has not been without some controversy. In March of 2016, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) granted Selfhelp a waiver for eight of the 19 parking spaces required based on the zoning code despite the objections of community leaders. Additionally, local activists stopped plans to include units for people with mental health issues in 2014.
Elected officials in attendance included Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., state Senator Jeffrey Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, Councilman Andrew Cohen attended the ribbon cutting ceremony, which also included community and business leaders.
“Our seniors are resting their heads where they feel safe, where it’s calming, where it’s quiet, where they feel dignified and they deserve it. And, I’m so happy to be a part of it,” said Diaz Jr., after the ribbon cutting ceremony.
In the spring, the Van Cortlandt Green will open a social adult day care center for seniors, which will be open to all people living in the community.
“I believe God blessed me when I got this apartment,” said Montgomery.