Pierina Sanchez to Announce Community Investments at Block Party on Saturday, July 30

DISTRICT 14 CITY Council Member Pierina Sanchez (center) is pictured with other attendees at the groundbreaking of the new Starhill affordable housing development site, located at 1600 Grand Avenue in Morris Heights, on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. The project will reportedly bring around 500 affordable housing units to City Council District 14 as part of two phases of construction. 
Photo courtesy of the Office of Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez

District 14 City Council Member Pierina Sanchez will host a community block party on Morris Avenue, between 181st Street and Burnside Avenue, on the border of Fordham Heights and University Heights on Saturday, July 30, from noon to 4 p.m., during which she is expected to announce a number of investments in the district.

With a large variety of activities, food, and more, according to the councilwoman’s office, District 14 residents are welcome to attend. The event is being hosted in partnership with the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF), Fidelis Care, and the Union Community Health Center (UCHC).

On Wednesday, July 27, Sanchez, along with other elected representatives and City officials, including Gov. Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams, attended the groundbreaking of Phase I of a new affordable housing project, managed by Starhill development in the Morris Heights section of The Bronx. As reported by YIMBY in June, Services for the Underserved (S:US) and Bronx Pro Group (BPG) closed on what was described as a sizeable construction loan to complete the first phase of the dual-tower, affordable housing project. Phase I of the development, a 14-story residential tower, is located at 1600 Grand Avenue and will comprise 325 units.

A total of 200 units in the first tower will be set aside for formerly homeless individuals with substance abuse disorders, according to YIMBY. S:US will be the service provider for the supportive housing units, through funding from the Office of Addiction Services and Support under the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) program.

“In the midst of our city’s affordable housing crisis, and given the rising rates of rent and eviction within District 14, I am glad City dollars will fund the construction of the new affordable housing development in Morris Heights,” Sanchez said in the context of the groundbreaking. “Starhill Phase I’s $189 million development will build 326 affordable housing units, including 200 with onsite social services for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.”

In total, the Starhill complex will comprise around 570 apartments of supportive and affordable housing designated for the formerly homeless and households earning between 40 percent and 80 percent area median income (AMI).

“At S:US, housing is at the core of what we do,” said Dr. Jorge R. Petit, S:US president and CEO. “Without the stability of a home, families cannot stay together, people cannot find employment, challenges completely overwhelm, and life quickly spirals out of control. Helping New Yorkers obtain housing is part of our social justice mission to end homelessness and ensure access to affordable and supportive housing.”

According to YIMBY, the development site spans approximately two acres, and is occupied by a former hospital operated by S:US. YIMBY reported that construction would not have been possible at the site without ratification of the Jerome Avenue rezoning plan, a major initiative to facilitate the construction of mixed-use and mixed-income housing along 73 blocks of the avenue. Norwood News readers weighed in on the plan in 2018, as reported.

The Jerome Avenue rezoning plan was approved by the City Council in 2018, and is expected to create roughly 4,600 new apartments, with over 1,000 units of affordable housing, according to YIMBY. The same year, however, Norwood News found that it was not exactly working to the benefit of everyone involved, with one small business owner found to be on the cusp of shuttering his business, as reported. Last year, City Limits carried out a more in depth investigation which also showed the plan’s wider impact on other local small businesses.

The Starhill team has not announced when construction of Phase II is expected to break ground. Located at 1600 Macomb Road, the second and final phase, will include a 222,000-square-foot tower with around 240 units of supportive and affordable housing. The ground floor will also include a 4,400-square-foot community facility.

Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15), in whose district the new complex is based, said of the project, “As we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic it is abundantly clear we need more than a temporary solution to the housing crisis in New York City.  I am encouraged by the steps taken by the Governor and Mayor to develop housing that will support homeless and low-income families in my district.”

Residents will have access to an amenity deck with elevated green space, seating, social services, and a water feature, in addition to a children’s play area, laundry facilities, and a fitness room, according to YIMBY. Residents will also have access to a rear yard with a barbecue area and an urban farm. The interior complex will also include 11,500 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

AERIAL RENDERING OF the Starhill affordable housing complex located in the Morris Heights section of The Bronx 
Photo courtesy of  Marvel Architects

Samantha Magistro, BPG CEO said of the project, “Bronx Pro Group is proud to be a part of the next chapter and reinvention of the Starhill Campus of Morris Heights.” She added, “Starhill Phase I honors the site’s history of medical and mental health care, while responding to the present-day community’s need for affordable housing and new open space. We look forward to building this new community together with S:US, our lenders, as well as our community stakeholders.”

Marvel Architects served as the design studio for both Starhill towers. The total development cost for Starhill Phase I is $190 million, according to YIMBY. The project is being financed through tax-exempt bonds, low-income housing tax credits and subsidy loans provided by the New York State Housing Finance Agency, and subsidy loans provided by the New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD).

Additional funding includes tax credit equity syndicated by Enterprise Community Partners and purchased by Freddie Mac, a construction loan provided by JP Morgan Chase, and Resolution A funds. The developers did not confirm the total development costs for the entire Starhill complex.

For her part, Hochul said the development would provide safe, stable homes for more than 300 residents of The Bronx and offer critical resources and amenities to support the Morris Heights neighborhood in the long term. “As the national affordability crisis drives rent and other costs to new highs, my administration is tackling the crisis head-on with a $25 billion plan to deliver high-quality affordable and supportive housing that will help to stabilize and improve New Yorkers’ lives,” the governor said, in part.

Meanwhile, Adams said safe, stable, and affordable housing was fundamental to a prosperous, inclusive city. “We are ensuring no New Yorker is left behind when it comes to having a roof over their heads,” he said. “Our administration has a plan to kickstart the creation of supportive homes for New Yorkers who need them most, and we are moving full speed ahead. We are working with closely with Gov. Hochul to ‘Get Stuff Done’ for New Yorkers and make our city stronger and fairer.”    

As reported, a new permanent supportive housing project, Bedford Green House, managed by Project Renewal and located at 2865 Creston Avenue in the Bedford Park section of The Bronx, was formally opened on July 14. The complex houses people who formerly lived in the shelter system. The homelessness crisis, and its impact both on the mental health of those affected by it and its spin-off effects on the quality of life of other New Yorkers has received heavy focus by the mayor and his administration which appears determined to move the homeless population indoors.

Some have criticized Adams’ methods of clearing people experiencing homelessness and their encampments from the City’s streets and subways, even amid resistance, while the mayor has defended the measures, saying people deserve better and adding that there is no dignity in living on the streets.

On Sunday, July 24, as reported, Adams and NYC Health + Hospitals announced the launch of a new student loan forgiveness program for behavioral health providers, funded by a $1 million contribution from an anonymous donor. The new program is designed to help attract and retain doctors, nurse practitioners, and other clinicians who care for New Yorkers with mental health or substance use needs, which some but not all homeless people have, and as the U.S. faces a national mental health professional shortage.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, July 28, Sanchez was honored by City & State. Though it is only the councilmember’s first year in elected office, having assumed the role from former District 14 Councilman Fernando Cabrera on Jan. 1, 2022, she was featured by City & State on the 2022 Bronx Power 100 list.

Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson is also expected to attend the block party on Saturday, along with representatives from Morris Heights Health Center.

Of the latest Starhill housing project, the councilwoman said, “This investment is a testament to the City’s commitment to funding our most vulnerable New Yorkers. The residents of this development will benefit from onsite services and amenities, convenient transportation options, as well as essential utilities such as free internet access. Housing insecurity is one of the greatest issues that impacts my constituents, and the construction of this development will be of crucial support to District 14 residents, including our homeless community members.”  

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