Brooklyn Church Breaks Ground On Affordable Senior Housing Project

The Bishop Philius and Helene Nicolas Senior Residence at 1488 New York Avenue (Renderings: Heritage Architecture and Rodney Leon Architects)

The Bishop Philius and Helene Nicolas Senior Residence at 1488 New York Avenue (Renderings: Heritage Architecture and Rodney Leon Architects)

EAST FLATBUSH – A Brooklyn community broke ground on an affordable housing development Sunday afternoon, a project that’s been in the making for more than a decade.

The project is the brainchild of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Nicolas of The Evangelic Crusade of Fishers of Men (Evangelical Crusade Christian Church).  Nicolas first envisioned the project in 2008 but failed to partner with “the right” developers until 2017. Now, the multi-million development project at 1488 New York Avenue is slated for completion in a year and a half.

Named for the founding couple, the Bishop Philius and Helene Nicolas Senior Residence will have 89 units of affordable senior housing. Nicolas, the current pastor and son of the founding bishop, spoke to the decline of the quality of living amid Central Brooklyn’s affordable housing crisis.

“It means that people 62-years and older don’t have to settle for paying $1,400 for a basement apartment,” Nicolas told Bklyner. “The community needs it and the community deserves it,” adding the building will add to a better quality of life for local residents.

The 7-story mixed-used building will house seniors aged 62 and older whose income is less than 50 percent of the area’s median income. There are 88 studio units with a single one-bedroom apartment for an on-premises superintendent. The building will also have a community and laundry room, a common-area space and on-site social services.

As per Mandatory Exclusionary Housing (MIH) regulations, 10,575 square feet of the ground and cellar space is dedicated to community facilities. The church’s congregation envisions a medical suite that provides geriatric primary care for the area.

The church first purchased the land and building on New York Avenue in 1977 for $65,000. In 1985, when the congregation outgrew that location, the Haitian church purchased another property at 557 E. 31st St. where the congregation holds its weekly services. In November 2017, the church received $2.9M for the sale of the New York Avenue lot and buildings which sat on the property. The church then reinvested $1.9M back into the development project.

Borough President Eric Adams’ office chipped in $1 million towards the project. City Councilman Jumaane Williams’ office allocated $500,000. Williams along with Councilman Mathieu Eugene and Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte were at the groundbreaking.

Rodney Leon, of Rodney Leon Architects, who also designed the monument at the African Burial Ground in Manhattan, teamed up with Heritage Architecture to design the building. Born in Flatbush, Leon referred to the project as “historical”.

“It’s really about all of us coming together to make something happen for the community,” Leon said.

Developers Brisa Builders Corp. aka BEL Communiy Housing, LLC. first applied for permits in August 2017, according to Managing Member Ericka Keller. The Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) member is an East Flatbush native and Brisa Builders is a family-owned business first opened in 1997.

“It’s a tremendous victory to have the ability to come back and develop in the community I grew up in,” said Keller.

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