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When Bridge Street Development Corporation began their effort to preserve the Kings Covenant buildings in February 2016, they knew they had to do more than just save the apartments. They also had to win over skeptical tenants.
Some tenants were doubtful that Bridge Street could successfully preserve their apartments, according to Emilio Dorcely, Bridge Street's executive director. "When we first met with them, people had a lot of concerns," he said. "We were trying our best to mitigate as many issues as we could."
LISC NYC is helping Bridge Street to prove to those skeptical tenants that their needs will indeed finally be met after living in dilapidated conditions for years. A recent big milestone is bringing them one step closer to that goal: In February Bridge Street closed on a $2.9 million construction loan provided by LISC NYC, which will be used to renovate nine buildings with a total of 74 apartments in Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Park Slope.
The apartments were part of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Third Party Transfer (TPT) Program, which targets properties that have substantial tax arrears and are in poor physical condition. After the city’s foreclosure process, the properties under the TPT program are transferred to Neighborhood Restore, and are then transferred to a qualified developer after the construction loan closing.
After closing on its LISC loan, Bridge Street became the developer for the Kings Covenant apartments. The extensive renovations will include roof abatement, boiler replacement, fire escape repairs and new windows in the bathrooms and kitchens. The renovation project is scheduled to be complete in 2018.
Dorcely said that Bridge Street chose to partner with LISC NYC because of its deep relationship with Bridge Street. "Bridge Street Development Corporation has a long, ongoing history with LISC," he said. "LISC had a competitive product that we thought was a good fit with this project." He added: "One of the things we enjoy about LISC is that there's a very collaborative process, with everyone there interested in getting to the finish line, which I think is crucially important when you're doing work like this."
Bridge Street was established in 1995 by the Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, one of the oldest black congregations in New York. Its mission is to develop safe, attractive and affordable housing, create and retain neighborhood retail businesses, and educate residents on business and home ownership.
But Bridge Street faced a challenging project in preserving the apartments, said Richard Ross, the director of real estate. Two of the buildings will require gut renovations, and many of the other buildings had significant damage, including crumbling stairs, leaking roofs, and faulty electrical wiring. In order to complete the necessary construction, Bridge Street helped some residents relocate to other units during the rehab process.
Ross said that some of the older tenants in the buildings did not want to go through a long renovation period. To alleviate their worries, Bridge Street created a counseling process to properly inform the tenants of the work, answer their questions and to convince them to support the project. He said the renovations will include new wiring, appliances, insulation, lighting and apartment floors.
"An important part of this work, in order to prepare for the renovations and to close on the construction loan, was to make sure that the tenants were aware of what was going on and that there was a path forward," Dorcely said. "The tenants had to be prepared for the idea that they're going through a renovation process."
The renovations will impact residents like Vetria Davis. Ms. Davis, 70, has lived in her apartment at 248 Madison Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant for 40 years, and has seen the building go through a number of changes, not all of them for the better, she said.
Indeed, in the past, her apartment suffered from a lack of heat, leaking pipes, a broken refrigerator and even a non-working oven, she said. “The previous owners, they didn’t pay you no mind,” she said. “ I don’t want to move. I don’t want to hop from place to place.”
Like many tenants, Ms. Davis received counseling during the process from Bridge Street, after which she said she was convinced Bridge Street will do a great job on her home.
Ms. Davis lives now with one of her 18 grandchildren in her apartment, and said she was excited about the new changes coming from Bridge Street. The renovations will include new apartment doors, windows and kitchen flooring. “I live day to day,” she said. “With my grandson and me, I’m happy there will be great changes.”