Senior Citizens Complex Opens

Emily Cullum took occupancy of her apartment in the new housing complex on the grounds of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett this week. Jane Bimson

    The wait is finally over.
    Last Thursday, a certificate of occupancy was issued and senior citizens, selected via lottery for the 40 newly constructed apartments on the grounds of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett, began to move in.
    As of Tuesday morning, the new residents of seven apartments had taken occupancy, with at least three more due to sign a lease, collect a key, and move in that day, said Gerry Mooney, co-manager of the Amagansett complex and of the Windmill Village apartments in East Hampton, which also provide affordable housing for senior citizens.
    “The average person has been pushed out [of the Hamptons] by insane real estate prices,” Mr. Mooney said. “We all realized we’d be changing lives on a personal level” at St. Michael’s. “There’s a high number of single people and couples in need.”
    The new apartments are designated for those 62 and older. An individual applicant’s income could not exceed $36,000, or $42,000 for a couple, said the Rev. Katrina Foster, the pastor of St. Michael’s Church. Residents will pay 30 percent of their income in rent.
    The project was a long time in the making. Kathy Byrnes, co-manager with Mr. Mooney of both complexes, applied for a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2006. The application was accepted and a $5.9 million grant awarded the following year, she said, but the planning process, involving both the East Hampton Town Architectural Review Board and the planning board, made for an unexpectedly long delay. The planning board approved the project in November 2010. A building permit was granted late in 2011, just days before the HUD grant was to expire, and ground was broken soon after.
    “One-plus year ago, everybody was saying, ‘This is not going to happen,’ ” Ms. Byrnes recalled. “But thanks to all the dedicated people, it has.” She and Mr. Mooney cited Michael DeSario, president of the housing board of St. Michael’s and Windmill Village; Drew Bennett, a consulting engineer for the town; Tom Ruhle, the town’s director of housing; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Tim Bishop among those who shepherded the project to completion. “People should never say it’s not going to happen,” said Ms. Byrnes.
    The project’s inception long predated Ms. Byrne’s application to HUD, said the church’s pastor. Thirteen years ago, Ms. Foster said, one of her predecessors issued a challenge to the church council. “They had a good, small but active church and all this land, and he challenged them: How can we be better stewards of all these blessings, and serve our community? They started looking at turning the parsonage, which we had to tear down, into a home for adult mentally disabled persons. They went to the town, and the town said that’s not what we need; what we need is low-income senior citizen housing.”
    Ms. Foster’s immediate predecessor, the Rev. Yvette Schock, began working with Mr. Mooney, who is a parishioner at St. Michael’s, and Ms. Byrne. “Finally all the pieces came together, and today we’re ready. Not even 13 months from closing to completion,” Ms. Foster said.
    The one-bedroom apartments are identical, with the addition of a balcony on second-floor units. Each has individual heating and air-conditioning control. An additional building houses a great room, offices, laundry facilities, and, upstairs, an apartment for the superintendent and his family.
    “People are very happy,” said Kenny Moran, who recently signed a lease and collected a key to his new apartment. “I got lucky, I’m upstairs in the back row facing the ocean, with a little deck. This saves a bunch of people a lot of money, or from having to leave the East End. It’s a good thing for everybody.”
    Mr. Mooney agreed. “This is yours for life. There’s security in knowing that you have a place for the rest of your life.”
    “This really was a vision for how do we serve our neighbors,” said Ms. Foster. “The congregation had a clear desire to do stewardship, and had enough courage. That’s a rare combination to find in a congregation.”