Westchester County is working with The LOFT, a White Plains-based LGBTQ+ organization that operates the The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center to create a 140-unit apartment building for senior citizens that also will serve as Westchester’s first housing development designed to be friendly to the LGBTQ+ community. The apartments will be priced in the affordable housing category.
The announcement of the project was made on June 22 at The LOFT’s current headquarters on Bryant Avenue in White Plains. The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center will occupy more than 7,000 square feet of the new building.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “This partnership will lead to the creation of a safer space for everyone, not just for LGBTQ+ people. We want our Westchester neighbors, no matter what age they are, to know this county is inclusive, their identity is accepted and they can make a home here.”
The county is contributing a piece of its land that currently is used as a parking lot at the Board of Elections building at the southwesterly corner of Court and Quarropas Streets in downtown White Plains. Latimer indicated that other county land that it not being productively used might in the future be considered for similar projects.
The firm Monadnock Development, located in Brooklyn, and HANAC, Inc., a social services organization that originally was founded as the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, are involved in the project as developers of the building. HANAC will provide some specialized services to residents. They have worked together on similar developments.
Latimer explained that the housing will not be exclusively for members of the LGBTQ+ community. However, he said that this will be the first housing complex in the county that is friendly and supportive to LGBTQ+ residents.
He said that the new building will provide adequate parking to replace the spaces lost from closing the current parking lot.
“In this redevelopment plan there is going to be sufficient parking for the people who are going to reside there,” Latimer said. “There will be sufficient public parking for the people who have reason to go to the Board of Elections and it’s going to be a little tricky during the construction phase of it but when it is done we will have done something that is important and also right to do.”
Judy Troilo, executive director of The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center, said, “There was a time in our history, in the not so distant past, when members of the LGBTQ+ community weren’t living long enough to need senior housing. There was also so much fear associated with identifying as LGBTQ+ publicly. This housing today is a symbol of how far we have come.”
White Plains Mayor Tom Roach noted, “Diversity produces vibrant communities. White Plains is a special place to live, work and play due in large part to its diversity.”
Stacy Bliagos, the executive director of HANAC, explained that since its inception in 1972, the organization has provided various services to all New York City residents who are in need without discrimination as to race, creed, national origin, or other defining characteristics.
Former Yonkers City Councilman Michael Sabatino, who now is that city’s director of community and government affairs and who is an LGBTQ+ Advisory Board Member, said, “I have been advocating for LGBTQ+ senior housing for a very long time with Judy Troilo of The LOFT. The majority of our seniors do not have extended families and are in great need of affordable housing and a living situation with like adults and supportive programs like The LOFT offers.”
It is anticipated that the project will be completed by 2024.
Latimer said that the new building actually represents something much more important than just 140 new senior apartments coming to a Westchester city.
“This is a brick in the wall that says government can work, government can work when it partners with a not-for-profit community, when it partners with the for-profit community, when it understands that there is expertise in the development community that it doesn’t have but it can bring to the table the resources that we have,” Latimer said. “This is a piece of county land. You’ve passed by this corner how many times and seen it used as a flat-level parking lot. Now it’s been envisioned as something greater and it’s going to become that.”