Feb. 5, 2024 By Gabriele Holtermann
Elmcor Youth and Adult Activities representatives, community members, and city and elected officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Feb. 2 to celebrate the opening of Elmcor’s first supportive and affordable permanent housing development at 104-10 Northern Blvd. in Corona.
The building, named after Helen M. Marshall, the first African-American Queens Borough president, was built in partnership with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC).
The development, which is seven stories tall and contains 30-units, offers 21 studio apartments for chronically unhoused individuals battling serious substance use disorders and/or mental health issues, and nine units are dedicated to low-income older adults. Three units are dedicated to the visually and hearing impaired, and another three units are ADA wheelchair accessible. All apartments are fully furnished and have soundproof floor-to-ceiling windows.
Amenities include a laundry room on the first floor, an elevator, and a landscaped backyard. The recreational room on the seventh floor features a patio with views of Citi Field and the Manhattan skyline.
The new development also serves as a home base for Elmcor’s New York State (NYS) Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) licensed outpatient substance use clinic and 51-bed NYS OASAS-licensed residential treatment facility.
Residents can also use the state-of-the-art gymnasium, older adult center and computer, education and vocational training center at Elmcor’s main campus, three blocks from their new home.
The property was designed by New York-based MWBE architect Monica Lopez Uran, with Queens-based Penta Restoration Corp. as the general contractor. It was financed through public funding from the CPC ($1.7 million), the Queens Borough President’s office ($5.4 million), HPD Supportive Housing Loan ($2.9 Million), U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez ($663,250), Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry ($200,000) and the City Council ($2.5 million), in addition to several preferential loans and subsidies from government agencies.
Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the facility with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Department for the Aging Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez and a host of speakers praised the new complex.
Elmcor’s board chair, Michael-Sean Spence, described the apartment building as a symbol of hope and resilience, addressing the need for affordable housing in New York City.
“With more than 55 years of service to Corona, East Elmhurst, and Queens at large, Elmcor has been dedicated to fostering positive life changes for individuals and families for decades,” Spence said. “And this new development stands as a continuation of that mission.”
Elmcor bought the land the new building is on in 1989, and construction of the project began in January 2022. Elmcor CEO Saeeda Dunston was elated that the dream of providing a home to the most vulnerable New Yorkers had finally been realized.
“In utter defiance of naysayers who doubted the success of this project, our first supportive affordable housing project, Elmcor remains determined to establish greater black and brown representation within the permanent housing development space,” Dunston said. “And with that in mind, we are proud to say we have three more projects in our housing development pipeline.”
Assemblymember Aubry praised Dunston for her vision, tenacity, and understanding of how government works to bring the project to fruition.
“And that is an incredible gift that she gives this community. So I want to thank her personally for that,” Aubry said.
Ocasio-Cortez highlighted that seniors on a fixed income or those struggling with mental health issues or substance misuse are all too often “dismissed by the world.”
“What this housing development represents is a community that does not give up on itself,” Ocasio-Cortez said, pointing out that housing was the “bedrock” of a stable community. “If we want to be safe, we need to build housing. If we want to be stable, we need to build housing; if we want to be fed, we need to build housing, and that’s what all of these folks here have done, have known, and have accomplished today.”
Queens Deputy Borough President Ebony Young described the development as a “big deal,” rooted in the message, “We heal, we grow, and we thrive.”
“If we continue to take that message to the people that will be in this building permanently, the world changes,” Young said.
For HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión, a home is a place that nurtures progress and potential.
“There are people that are going to lay their head down here to be safe and secure and warm, and have a place where they can think about life and get their life on track and deal with the issues that they’re dealing with in themselves and with their families and discover a brighter future for themselves,” Carrión said.
Cortés-Vázquez commented that 1.8 million seniors live in New York City, many of whom experience home and food insecurities.
“We all need to be committed to [seniors’] well-being because there, but for the grace of God, it’s going to be you one day,” Cortés-Vázquez said. “We’re all caregivers. So we have to remember that we are caregivers for the 1.8 million [seniors] that live in this city.”