Brooklyn, Bronx To House NYC’s First LGBT Welcoming Senior Developments
Seeking to right the wrongs of discrimination against LGBT seniors, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) announced it's partnering with BFC Partners and HELP USA to develop and operate the buildings.
SAGE CEO Michael Adams tells Bisnow these facilities are necessary, as many LBGT elders are afraid to apply for any kind of senior services out of fear of discrimination. Some, he told the Wall Street Journal, are even tempted to go back in the closet.
The Fair Housing Act doesn’t explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, so these seniors can’t seek protections under federal law. Not even the 2006 guidelines protecting LGBT seniors can help, as they’ve been rarely, if ever, enforced on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s incredibly tragic that [LGBT seniors] can’t be who they are even in the privacy of their homes,” Michael (pictured, right, with HELP USA CEO Tom Homeline) says.
That’s why, he says, it was essential that SAGE launch the National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative in 2014, giving the organization a specific focus on getting consumers, aging providers and policymakers to work together and create understanding and welcoming environments in housing for LGBT older people.
Over the last several years, several LGBT senior housing developments have been set up in major cities across the US, including Chicago, LA, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. But, these communities were strangely absent from NYC, despite having more than 700,000 LGBT-identifying residents here.
The two buildings will be open to low-income seniors regardless of sexual orientation. Those who meet income eligibility requirements will be entered into a lottery process and allowed to move in when the buildings are completed in 2019.
Both facilities will have SAGE Centers modeled after SAGE’s other centers in Chelsea, Harlem, the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn. These centers, Michael states, will allow LGBT seniors feel “welcome, respected and honored for who they are.”
The two centers will offer daily hot meals, fitness classes, social engagement services and free event programming, including Pride Month celebrations and meet-and-greets with LGBT speakers. While still in the planning stages, Michael says the events will be tailored to the specific preferences of its tenants. In addition, SAGE stated these services will be offered to both residents and seniors in the surrounding neighborhoods.
While these developments and related services seem quite expensive, SAGE isn’t alone in this venture. Each project is being resourced from local and state bodies, including the New York Housing Authority, New York Housing and Preservation, the Department for the Aging and the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR)’ low income housing tax credit program.
The Crotona Senior Residences in particular will also be financed by the Housing Trust Fund Corp, the Community Investment Fund and even Bronx Borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. and New York City council member Ritchie Torres—pictured here with Tom Hameline, Department of Aging commissioner Donna Corrado, Michael Adams, NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye and BFC principal Don Capoccia—who is both gay and grew up in public housing.
Moreover, since the developments are bringing affordable units to the market, they’ll also be supported by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York program, which seeks to create and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units throughout all five boroughs over the next 10 years. Michael mentions that this legislation had a specific provision dedicated to providing affordable housing to LGBT seniors.
“It’s great to have this level of support,” Michael tells Bisnow. “In order to undertake developments of this scale, it’s really important that we have strong support from our city agencies and public officials."
The projects were originally announced in May, when the NYCHA announced that BFC Partners—an affordable, market rate and mixed-use developer—and Marvel Architects would be developing and designing Ingersoll. But, Michael says, BFC and SAGE had been talking about potential LGBT senior housing projects for years.
Located on Myrtle Avenue between St. Edward Street and North Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, Ingersoll is expected to cost $47M. Boasting 145 affordable units over 16 floors, it’ll be the largest LGBT senior housing development in the US. It will also feature an open lobby with street access, a garden terrace and a state-of-the-art senior center and community center.
“We’re not just trying to build a building,” Michael says. “We’re trying to build a community for people to live in and be a part of.”
For the Crotona Senior Residences in the Bronx’s Crotona Park North, SAGE is working with HELP USA, a national social service provider dedicated to providing supportive housing for high-needs residents, such as veterans, survivors of domestic violence, the homeless and those with HIV/AIDS. The 82-unit residence—designed by Magnusson Architecture and Planning—is expected to cost $38.4M.
“SAGE is not a real estate organization and has no experience developing real estate, and [HELP USA] has no experience providing social services specific to LGBT seniors, so it was a relationship that was perfect for both of us,” HELP USA real estate development SVP David Cleghorn says.
Priced out of Manhattan, HELP and SAGE looked to other boroughs. HELP owned the Crotona site, using it as a parking lot and a small office for homeless prevention services and planning to “eventually” develop it. But after more discussions and a tour of the site, Michael and David realized that it was perfect for a decently sized senior housing development.
David says the SAGE center will occupy 10k SF of Crotona’s ground floor, but the facility will also feature HELP services, lounges on each floor with floor-to-ceiling windows, park views for every apartment and multiple terraces. He also expects the energy standards to be similar to LEED Platinum.
Looking towards the future of LGBT senior housing, Michael hopes that this development wave of senior housing communities across the US will gain momentum, but also hopes that LGBT seniors can also find homes in conventional senior housing.
“An important piece of this work is that we hope to provide the existing senior housing market with the tools, training and technical assistance they need so existing housing becomes welcoming to LGBT elders as well,” he says. “LGBT elders should have the choice to live in a place that’s specifically LGBT friendly, or they can live in the same place as their friends and family.”
David agrees, hoping to do more work with SAGE again on projects throughout the US.
“I think we’re off to a good start,” he says. “There’s a lot of momentum here. This project has enjoyed a lot of support from elected officials. Most of the time people ignore affordable housing projects, but to reach this level of support made the process simpler and more linear than most other projects I’ve worked on.”