Representatives of the developers of a proposed low-income apartment building on West Main Street made their pitch for financial assistance from the Riverhead Industrial Agency during a public hearing last night at Riverhead Town Hall.
The development partners, Rochester-based Conifer Realty and the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island in Centereach, are seeking real property tax abatements, as well as mortgage and sales tax exemptions for their proposed 48-unit apartment building, called “Peconic Crossing,” at 11 West Main Street.
Conifer and CDCLI plan to build 32 two-bedroom units and 16 one-bedroom units on the site, which is currently owned by the Long Island Science Center. The existing building would be razed to make way for the new five-story building overlooking Grangebel Park.
Artists who meet income guidelines and credit and background tests will be given preference over non-artists, the developers said. East End Arts has agreed to help the developers market the units to the artist community.
The two-bedroom units, with a maximum occupancy of four people, will be offered at rents ranging from $1,141 to $1,528 per month. The one-bedroom units will have a maximum occupancy of two people and will be offered at rents of $952 to $1,133 per month. Heat and hot water will be included in the rent.
Rents will be regulated by the N.Y. State Homes and Community Renewal agency which would grant low-income tax credits to investors in the project, which Conifer vice president Allen Handelman said is the “primary engine” for financing.
To qualify for the tax credits, the developers must make the rentals affordable to targeted income groups. Six of the units must be affordable to households earning no more than 50 percent of the area median income, Handelman said. Thirty-three units must be affordable to households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income. Nine units would be rented at “market rate.”
The median income levels used to calculate the maximum incomes for the target population are the area median incomes for Suffolk County published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Garvin testified. The area median income for a household of four is $105,000. Area median incomes for a one-person household is $73,600; for two people, $84,100; and for three people, $94,600 according to the census.
For the bulk of the apartments — the 33 units that must be affordable to households earning no more than 60 percent of area median income — the maximum household incomes would be: $44,150 for one person; $50,450 for two people; $56,750 for three people; and $63,050 for four people.
Those limits are the “ceiling,” Garvin said. Households can have lower household incomes as long as the prospective tenants can document income and credit worthiness, she said. Tenants also have to pass criminal background checks. Income from all sources, including government assistance such as social security, is considered, she said.
Asked about impacts to the school district, Garvin said she expects the impacts to be minimal. “That’s been our experience with unit mixes of this type,” she said.
Ray Dickhoff, of Summerwind Square developer Eastern Property Investor Consultants, asked if the incomes “could go as low as 30 percent” of the median income levels and if the tenants would be allowed to have government assistance.
“Yes, if they can demonstrate that they can pay the rent,” Garvin answered. Government assistance is counted, she reiterated.
East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder said her organization is ready and willing to offer its assistance to the developer in marketing the project to artists.
Former supervisor James Stark objected to IDA tax abatements for the proposal.
“As a resident and taxpayer of the Town of Riverhead I am strongly against the taxpayer footing the bill for this development. If under the zoning it is correct, they can build, but I don’t think we have to subsidize it.”
The hearing was adjourned and will be continued on Jan. 5.
Citing the pendency of the application the IDA board declined the developers’ request for a letter of support, which Handelman said Conifer and CDC wanted for the N.Y. State Homes and Community Renewal application that will be submitted on Thursday. He said the developers have a letter of support from the L.I. Regional Economic Development Council and hope to get letters of support from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.
Handelman said Conifer’s engineers and architects have made some changes to the site plan for “Blue River Estates,“ prepared by Riverhead architect Martin Sendlewski and originally submitted by Simshabs Capital Partners in 2013. Simshabs said it planned to build “luxury rentals” on the site. The building has been “pulled back from the river” somewhat, he said. The roadway between the building and the river “becomes green space and a boardwalk,” he said. “It would become parkland effectively.” There is no recorded easement or right of way for the roadway, Handelman said. “People who are using it are doing that by their own invitation.”
The number of ground-floor parking spaces has been reduced from the 48 depicted on the original site plan to 40, Handelman said.
“The plan shoe-horned 48 spots into the space, but didn’t provide adequate space for the machine room and lobby, some of the things you need to run a building,” he said.
The developers are confident they will gain approval from N.Y. State Department of Transportation on their plans for vehicular access to the site, which call for entrance-only from eastbound N.Y. 25 (West Main Street) and ingress and egress from Peconic Avenue via a recorded easement over property owned by Chase Bank. “The bank is working with us in all respects,” Handelman said.
Construction, which will take an estimated 14 to 16 months, should begin by December 2015 or early 2016, he said.
The Science Center would continue to operate from the site in the interim, while that group renovates its new location for occupancy. The Science Center is in contract to buy the former West Marine building on East Main Street.
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