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BY ALINE REYNOLDS | Downtown is in for more affordable housing along with a new school and senior center, if Community Board 1’s Housing Committee has its way.
The committee is formulating a pitch to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to find a developer that would convert a soon-to-be-sold property on Chambers Street into affordable housing apartments and a school. The committee is also ironing out the logistics of creating “Manhattan Seniors,” a nonprofit poised to provide domestic care to the local elderly that wish to age in place.
The grim outlook on the future of affordable housing that city housing officials presented at the group’s monthly meeting in February inspired the committee. Since then, committee members have took to the streets and begun to scour the neighborhood for sites that could potentially house low- and middle-income families.
“I think this is an easy victory for the board to actually get affordable housing,” said Committee Chair Tom Goodkind of the parking lot and 15-story building at 49-51 Chambers St.
The find coincides with Bloomberg’s wish to possibly sell the building at 49-51 Chambers along with 22 Reade St. and 346 Broadway to private developers. Currently, the building at 49-51 Chambers is home to C.B. 1’s offices in addition to the city Board of Correction, the Department of Education, the NYPD and the Department of Parks and Recreation. The parking lot next to the building is reserved for city officials and is underutilized, according to board members.
C.B. 1 will be drafting a letter to the Mayor in the coming days requesting that the city choose a developer that would guarantee at least some affordable housing on the site.
“We might have a better chance of convincing the city to make affordable housing a part of the deal if the two parcels are packaged,” said Michael Levine, C.B. 1’s director of land use and planning. “It’s a better incentive to a developer to get two pieces of property instead of one.”
The committee envisions another 15-story building to replace the parking lot.
“It could have school seats on the ground floor with a separate entrance,” said Levine.
Meanwhile, the committee is brainstorming a development plan for “Manhattan Seniors,” a nonprofit organization that would offer Downtown senior citizens affordable medical aid, cleaning, activities and other services.
The committee invited Maggie Goloboy, a graduate of Harvard Business School, to its March 26 meeting for advice on how to get the ball rolling in developing a business proposal for the organization.
“A business plan is a way to communicate your vision for what you’re doing,” Goloby told the committee. “But you also want to say what problem you’re trying to solve and how you’re going to solve that problem. Everyone, I’m sure, recognizes the problem of aging in place, but how does that affect all of you?”
Goloby suggested such strategies as asking seniors via survey if they’re well enough to stay in their homes to begin with and what they think of the program.
A vision alone doesn’t suffice, agreed Victoria Mbithi, a banker who lives in Battery Park City.
“It’s good that it has a social aspect but, financially, your numbers have to make sense in order to get the check [from sponsors],” said Mbithi.
One of the things the committee has already figured out is that “Manhattan Seniors” will be a nonprofit venture, according to C.B. 1 public member and nonprofit founder Amy Sewell, who has already put together a draft of the business plan.
“It’s the only logical way when you’re working with populations in need, otherwise, you’d have a conflict of interest with service providers,” said Sewell.
All seniors that live in the C.B. 1 district would be eligible for the services, according to Sewell.
“Ideally, we’d like to have as many neighborhood seniors registered as possible,” said Sewell. “The more people we get involved, maybe the better pricing we can get for some of the service providers and the more group discounts we can get.”
The staff of the nonprofit, Sewell said, would act as a clearinghouse to provide such services as medical care, dog walking, and house cleaning.