Sprinkling holy water on the entrance of a new apartment building in the Bronx and ringing a bell that once sounded from the church tower on the site, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York dedicated 112 new affordable housing units Monday.
St. Augustine Terrace, built on the site of St. Augustine’s Church, which was demolished in 2013, is the first phase in a multi-year plan to develop church properties in New York into about 2000 low-income and affordable housing units.
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York, said that the Catholic Church in New York began working for affordable housing since the “war on poverty” began in the 1960s. Since that time, Catholic Charities has provided “thousands” of units of affordable housing in different parts of New York City.
Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, which is separate, also has been turning former parish properties into low income housing. Since 1976, the Diocese of Brooklyn has dedicated 26 church properties for housing developed by Catholic Charities, said Lucy Garrido-Mota, a spokeswoman for Brooklyn Catholic Charities. “The result is 4,330 units of permanent and affordable housing for low-income seniors and families, many of whom were at risk of becoming homeless.” In its latest project, Catholic Charities is planning to build 135 units of affordable housing for seniors on the site of a former church in Brooklyn, she said.
The new projects come at a time when dioceses have consolidated parishes and closed churches on the one hand, and are seeking ways to respond to the demand for housing, which has pushed many lower-income families out of the city.
One of the new residents of St. Augustine Terrace, designed by Magnusson Architects + Planners, is James Jennings, who could not afford an apartment in New York, in spite of working two jobs. For six years, he lived in his car.
At St. Augustine Terrace, a third of the units will be set aside for adults with mental illness, who will be serviced by the Beacon of Hope Division of Catholic Charities Community Services.
Catholic Charities of New York plans to build four additional homes in the Bronx and one in Manhattan.