St. Michael’s Senior Housing On Its Way

The Rev. Katrina Foster of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett stood in front of the demolished parsonage that will be the site of 40 units of low-income housing for senior citizens to be completed within the next year. Morgan McGivern

    Ground has finally been broken for an affordable housing complex for senior citizens at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett.
    The 40 apartment units, each 600 square feet, will be built adjacent to the church on Montauk Highway, along with a superintendent’s apartment, and a community center room. Residents will be 62 years and older, and will have to have an annual income of $30,000 or less.
    The plan received approval from the East Hampton Town Planning Board in November of 2010, but the housing project has been years in the making. After securing a $5.9 million federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, along with a federal rent subsidiary of $891,000, the application began winding its way through the planning process in November 2009.
    The East Hampton Town Board approved a transfer of development rights from a vacant parcel in Springs to the Amagansett property in 2010, which was necessary so that septic system requirements for the housing project could be met.
    According to Tom Preiato, the town’s senior building inspector, the project needed to receive a building permit before Dec. 5 of this year or the HUD grant would expire. A permit was issued on Nov. 30, and work began on Monday.
    Michael DeSario, president of St. Michael’s Windmill housing board, has been an instrumental part of the group that handled this project. In a phone interview Tuesday, he discussed the final pieces of the plan.
    “They started construction yesterday. We took down the parsonage and put up site perimeter fencing. It was a little bit before we were fully ready to go, but we were confident and we were right,” said Mr. DeSario. An official groundbreaking ceremony will take place in mid-January. “Three days ago there were very real possibilities that this wasn’t going to happen.  It did take a lot of people’s cooperation,” he added.
    “Right now I’m at the very end of a two-day closing, with all sorts of people here, including HUD people, state people, and county people. We’re ready to go full speed at this point,” said Mr. DeSario.
    “This is where everything goes official. Approvals, conditions, we spent years getting all of those, and it accumulates right now. Within an hour everything will be signed, sealed, and ready to go forward,” he said, “The actual funds have been transferred as opposed to pieces of paper promising us money. It’s a very exciting time.”
    Mr. DeSario works in the real estate business, and spoke about how there are usually two opposing sides when it comes down to negotiating in this industry. This was not the case with this project.
    “At the closing here, we have a wonderful experience with people working here to make this happen. When it came to the final building approvals and determining how the funds were going to be distributed, we did it in record time. Normally it takes six to eight months; we did it in six to eight weeks. The people at HUD were terrific with us,” he said.
    Mr. DeSario expressed gratitude to the many different groups that played a role in making this project possible. “This was something very needed in our community. We had four different supervisors, each of the councilmen was terrific, and the East Hampton Planning Department was great. They put us through their paces, but they worked to help us, not to stop us,” he added. 
    “I’d like to thank the church for being very receptive and engaged in this project. They were very much a part of this, and cooperative in transferring the land at a good rate. This is a project for the entire community and when it comes down to it, all elderly people. I’m the chairman of four or five corporations involved in this, and I would thank everyone at Windmill II [a senior citizens apartment complex in East Hampton] for working hard to make this happen,” Mr. DeSario said.
    He was optimistic that the housing project would be be completed in approximately 12 months. “It’ll be nice to have 40 apartments ready for Christmas for next year,” Mr. DeSario said. “That’s what we hope.”