Islip Planning Board approves LGBT senior development
A unanimous vote of approval by the Islip Town Planning Board last week marks another step forward for the development of a historic local housing development catered towards LGBT seniors.
The Bay Shore-based LGBT Network’s proposed Senior Citizen Affordable Housing Project is the first of its kind in not just Long Island, but the entire tri-state area. It will consist of 75 units (71 one-bedroom and four two-bedroom) next to the organization’s current community center on the northwest corner of Park Avenue and Community Road near the LIRR station. In addition, an all-new 8,000-square-foot LGBT Center will be constructed adjacent to the complex in order to continue to provide its wide-ranging services to both its residents and other seniors throughout the surrounding region.
Dr. David Kilmnick – president and chief executive of the New York and Long Island LGBT Network – referenced statistics indicating a disproportionately greater number of older adults on Long Island, with both Nassau and Suffolk counties posting higher median ages than New York State and the country as a whole, according to a recent U.S. Census Bureau population estimate. In addition, the Long Island index has stated that the 55-plus population is growing by more than 2 percent each year – more than six times the overall rate of population growth.
“Combine these factors with an already disproportionate number of older adults on Long Island – a lot of them with lower incomes – [along with] scarce affordable housing, and we have a crisis on our hands,” said Kilmnick. “This project is a step in the right direction to address this crisis we have on Long Island.”
Kilmnick also noted that a complex for LGBT and LGBT-friendly seniors would offer a comfortable environment where those who have faced a variety of discrimination over the years can feel comfortable being themselves.
“The need for affordable LGBT-friendly senior housing is exponential – particularly for LGBT older adults who have faced a lifetime of stigma and discrimination from their peers,” said Kilmnick. “Older LGBT people still face prejudice living on their own or in other types of retirement housing. Some LGBT adults feel the need to return to the closet in their golden years in order to ensure that they receive quality care or avoid rejection and violence from fellow residents.
“All of these factors combined can force an LGBT older adult into isolation and depression, especially given the likelihood of not having children, possible rejection from family, and lack of caregivers,” added Kilmnick. “Many of our LGBT elder adults tell us that if they have to go back to the housing that exists right now, they’re going to have to go back into the closet. No one should ever feel like they cannot be their true authentic selves…and we need to make sure every single senior citizen and older adult on Long Island is able to live their golden years with the highest quality of life. And that is what this project is going to achieve.”
Currently, there are a total of 20 other affordable housing developments that either cater to LGBT older adults in the U.S. that have either been announced or built already. Peter Florey, principal of the Levittown-based D&F Development Group – which is partnering with the LGBT Network to build the $30 million development – said that the new facility would be located in a four-story building with apartments designated towards tenants making 60 to 80 percent of the area median income ($35,000 to $85,000 annually). Rent is expected to range from $1,000 to $1,600.
“As you can see from the design, we’ve taken elements from what we feel are the best features of architecture in Bay Shore and incorporated it into the building,” said Florey, who noted that funding for the project would come from a combination of private and public funding. The housing staff would follow all Fair Housing Act state and federal guidelines and a housing lottery would probably be utilized to select occupants near the completion of the project.
Kilmnick asserted that the new development would be a welcome addition to downtown Bay Shore, which has undergone a resurgence of its own in recent decades. The LGBT Network has been centered in Bay Shore for a total of 25 years, with the first 10 on Main Street and the last 15 at its current location.
“At the property now, you see empty and vacant buildings, so this certainly will continue in the revitalization of downtown Bay Shore,” said Kilmnick. “We will be able to enhance the programs we’re doing now at our community center because we’re going to be able to have more space and more focus with the residents of the complex as well.
“We’re part of the Bay Shore community, we feel safe, and we all take care of one another,” added Kilmnick. “It’s been a long time coming, and we’re looking forward to getting the shovels in the ground for the project.”
Donna Periconi, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore, said that she was in favor of the project.
“Since the LGBT Network legally started in our Main Street 25 years ago, I thought it was appropriate that they should build this first-of-its-kind development in our town,” said Periconi. “I think it’s a good project, the design is stunning, and I’m happy about it.”
In the wake of the planning board’s recommendation, the Islip Town Board is projected to place its own vote on the project sometime this fall. Pending final approval, the development will take about two years to complete.
Last year, the LGBT Network broke ground in Patchogue at their new state-of-the-art, energy-efficient, comprehensive facility to provide services to the growing LGBT community.
The next Islip Town Planning Board meeting will take place on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m.
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