Bridge Street AME Church: Bringing holistic assisted living to Brooklyn seniors

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Bridge Street AME ChurchUpon entering the 94-unit, six-story Quincy Senior Residences at 625 Quincy Street in the Bedford Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn, N.Y., one immediately gets the impression that growing old does not have to be the traumatic experience some make it out to be. The ground floor of this assisted-living facility for low-income adults 62 years and older is filled with vibrant colors. A photo exhibit, titled “Words and Wisdom,” celebrates some of the community’s most notable African-American seniors while accentuating the dignity and vitality of the residents.  You get the feeling that your own parents would enjoy living here if they had to be placed in an “old people’s home.”

Indeed, the message emanating from the environment seems to be “we’ve lived great lives up to now and we would like to continue doing so for our remaining years on this earth.” It is a message the visitor receives more by design than by accident, according to Rhonda A. Lewis, president and chief executive of the Bridge Street Development Corp., the economic development arm of the 240-year-old Bridge Street AME Church that owns and operates Quincy Senior Residences. “I’ve been to some other senior buildings and everything is one muted color. We made this building  vibrant on the inside because we wanted to help keep that sense of invigoration for the seniors,” she says.

Monthly rent for the one-bedroom apartments ranges from $310 to $546, depending on the resident’s income. Seniors with an annual income of  $13,200 to $25,100 qualify for residence.

Quincy is Bridge Street’s second housing facility for seniors. The 10-year-old, faith-based corporation, spawned by the church’s commitment to economic development in the communities of Central Brooklyn, also runs a 90-unit facility not too far away, on Gates Avenue, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Lewis notes that the partnerships established for construction of the $14.8 million Quincy facility were critical. “Our housing model is based on partnerships to create a holistic living environment for our residents.  The YMCA of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the New York Public Library, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center, Rusk Institute and others, will work with BSDC to offer on-site wellness programs, horticultural therapy, exercise, and arts and crafts programs. The Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center will run the on-site clinic for the residents,” Lewis says.

New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development sold BSDC the land (seven vacant city lots; an eighth lot was purchased from its private owner) and gave it a 0 percent  interest loan for the project. Loans also came from the Community Preservation Corp. and from New York State’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal as well as its Housing Trust Fund Corp. Lewis is particularly proud of the state’s $11 million in housing trust fund and low-income tax-credit dollars, the highest allocation of tax credits for the year in which they applied. “It was a very competitive process. We were selected the first time we applied, so we were really pleased,” she says. Other partners include Deutsche Bank and the foundations of M&T and Independence banks, which gave a mix of grants and low- or no-cost funds to complete the project.

Lewis and her team are determined to meet every need of Quincy’s residents. “More partnerships are being formed to enrich this living environment,” she says.