April 26, 2023
By Bill Miller
BROWNSVILLE — Even without a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the latest affordable housing project proposed by Catholic Charities Brooklyn & Queens has already received an award.
The Livonia C3 Senior Residence plans to offer 142 affordable rental apartments for seniors and formerly homeless adults in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood. The projected cost is $111 million.
The 13-story building will join more than two dozen senior housing centers created by CCBQ’s Progress of Peoples Development Corporation (CCPPDC). This organization started developing affordable housing in the 1970s — serving families, the homeless, senior citizens, and people with HIV.
The New York State’s Buildings of Excellence Competition took notice of the Livonia project. It honored the plans with an award for the design of “a low-carbon emitting multifamily building.”
Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, CCBQ’s president and chief executive officer, explained that the proposed building aligns with Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
“We are honored to receive New York State’s Buildings of Excellence Award, allowing Catholic Charities Progress of Peoples Development Corporation to build upon Pope Francis’ vision as well as our mission of providing affordable and sustainable housing for New Yorkers in need,” Msgr. LoPinto said.
This fully electric building is the next phase of CCPPDC’s Laudato Si’ Corporation, which oversees environmentally sound CCBQ programs. Strict criteria of building standards ensure these projects deliver cost-effective solutions that cut energy use, including rooftop solar panels.
This competition supports Gov. Kathy Hochul’s climate goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act). This legislation aims to help New York state achieve carbon neutrality. It also mandates an 85% drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“Pope Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach,” Msgr. LoPinto said.
To that point, the CEO referred to Laudato Si’, in which the pope calls for solutions that “integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
Adding more affordable housing addresses poverty, but the Livonia project is also designed to help the community. New York City government reports an estimated 80,000 residents have no homes.
The project enhances the city’s community-led “Brownsville Plan.” This process identifies neighborhood goals, forms strategies to address local needs, and finds resources to fill gaps.
The Brownsville Plan aims to build more than 2,500 new affordable homes at a projected cost of $1 billion.
CCBQ officials said in a news release that the building is designed for mixed-use functions. An example is an on-site case management service for its residents.
Another is an older adult community center. But this “refuge” can open for “energy disruption, flood-related events, and adverse health effects of extreme heat,” the officials said.
The building plans feature modern heat-pump water heaters, a central variable refrigerant flow system for space conditioning, energy recovery ventilators, solar panels for on-site energy generation, and backup batteries. The officials said drought-resistant landscaping and outdoor shading features are intended to ease utility demands.
Father Ed Mason, a longtime affordable housing advocate in the Brownsville and East New York neighborhoods, said the Livonia project helps address “a tremendous need.” He is the pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, which encompasses St. Gabriel’s and St. John Cantius churches.
He described how the area is divided by the MTA’s 3 train, which runs parallel to Livonia Avenue.
The north side is dominated by public housing; to the south are longtime homeowners in the Nehemiah housing development. Both communities would benefit from the Livonia C3 Senior Residence.
“It really is a tale of two cities there,” Father Mason said. “But we have a lot of seniors in multi-bedroom apartments. If we can get them into a senior building with better services for them, we’ll be opening up bigger apartments for families. So, it’s a win-win.”
CCBQ offers three affordable-housing options throughout the diocese: senior housing, family housing, and single occupancy. Applications for all three can be downloaded from this website: ccbq.org/service-type/affordable-housing/.
The website includes information on where to mail the applications, waiting lists, and more.