Aging Public Housing Development Gets Complete Overhaul After Superstorm Sandy

It’s not often that a single development receives $170 million in low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) equity.

But there is nothing ordinary about the redevelopment of the Ocean Bay Apartments in Far Rockaway, Queens, N.Y.

The New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA’s) 1,395 units of public housing are under redevelopment through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program after suffering devastating damage from Superstorm Sandy. Through the RAD program, the public housing units move to a Section 8 platform with a long-term contract, ensuring they stay affordable to low-income households. This is NYCHA’s first RAD conversion. There are 178,000 units of public housing in New York City.

“RAD has been an incredible tool to leverage private capital,” said RuthAnne Visnauskas, commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR), which provided tax-exempt bonds to the development. She added that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo started a five-year, $10 billion initiative to create and preserve 100,000 units of affordable housing throughout the state. “We are committed to expanding affordable housing and ensuring that it remains affordable for years to come.”

“RAD is a cost-neutral way to leverage private financing,” said Matthew Rooney, CEO of MDG Design + Construction LLC, the co-owner and developer of the property with Wavecrest Management. The two companies operate under a joint venture called RDC Development. “We applied for this request for proposal because of our passion for preserving affordable housing.” Rooney added that the affordable housing stock has started to dwindle in New York City as many developments’ compliance periods are ending and owners are looking to increase rents by converting properties to market-rate.

The 24-building, 1,395-unit Ocean Bay Apartments were built in the early 1960s and operated as affordable housing since. The restoration will give the development’s roughly 4,000 residents extensive apartment and communal space upgrades, access to ample services, better energy-efficiency throughout the property and storm resilience updates.

“The preservation of our existing affordable housing is important,” said Susan Camerata, chief financial officer at Wavecrest, which manages 20,000 units of affordable housing throughout New York City. Camerata added that Wavecrest properties in New York City have a vacancy rate of 0.75 percent. “The promise of revitalization has brought hope back to the community,” said Camerata.

The property will receive new building systems, including overhauled elevators, new roofs, new roof fans, new electric service, new water tanks, conversion of the existing single steam boiler system for all buildings to 24 individual hydronic boilers for each building, and 618 security cameras. The apartments will receive new bathroom finishes and fixtures; new smoke detectors; new kitchen finishes, including cabinets and stainless-steel appliances; and new simulated wood flooring. In addition, new windows and energy-efficient LED lighting will be installed throughout the complex. Lobbies and public hallways will also be updated with new finishes. Renovations will also include a new playground for the community center and the implementation of a community garden. Solar panels are being installed on the roofs of 20 of the buildings. The array will produce 575 kilowatts of solar generation.

Journal December 2017 HUD photo
Image: Courtesy of MDG Design + Construction

The New York City Housing Authority’s 1,395 units of public housing in Far Rockaway, Queens, N.Y., are under redevelopment through the Rental Assistance Demonstration and low-income housing tax credit programs after suffering devastating damage from Superstorm…

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