BY MARIA BROWNSELL
What is going to happen to our seniors? Recently there has been a lot of talk about a senior housing complex in Nanuet called Middlewood Senior Citizen Park. Many people have been concerned about the fate of the building as talk of selling it has been spreading.
The Town of Clarkstown currently owns the 107-unit affordable senior housing complex on North Middletown Road. The town’s possession of this sort of institution did not occur on purpose and is not very common. There are several other senior citizen housing complexes in Clarkstown that are privately owned.
“We never built this, we just got it out of pure circumstance when the entity building it 40 years ago, the carpenters union, went defunct and transferred its management and it went to the town,” said Supervisor Alexander Gromack. “Forty years later when the mortgage was up, the opportunity came to transfer this complex from town ownership and management to another entity.”
Gromack said they are looking into others purchasing the property, but have not made a final decision as of yet. There are many bids coming in, but they are all from companies that already run senior citizen housing.
“A new entity would become the owner and ultimately the manager and the one thing is it would stay exactly what it is: a senior citizen complex. It would be exactly the same as Monterey Gardens, the senior complex at Squadron Boulevard, the senior complex at Lakeview Village, the seniors at Maplewood Gardens,” he said.
Clarkstown resident and blogger Michael Hull accuses the town of “selling out the seniors.” He says they are selling the complex off to help fix money problems and preserve the town’s AAA bond rating.
Hull asks about the underlying reason to sell this property. If the new owner will put money into the complex, he will expect a substantial return on that investment. With that being the case, why would the town sell this property unless for an immediate financial concern? Why not earn the income for the town?
“I think some people like to stir the pot and get people upset, like Mr. Hull and his articles. Everything he says is inaccurate. And I think its just a disturbance to try and spook people to think something nefarious is going to be done when in fact it is all very positive,” said Gromack.
Not everyone in Clarkstown government thinks Hull is full of hooey. One high-ranking town official told the Rockland County Times anonymously that Hull’s outlook was
“almost all true.”
Hull also says that the town is leaving the seniors in the dark and people are worried what may happen. They don’t want to leave the homes they figured they would spend the rest of their lives in.
According to Gromack, members from the town have met with seniors at Middlewood several months ago and told them that there would be no changes that they would feel. They wouldn’t have to move, their rents wouldn’t change, and life wouldn’t be affected. If anything, he said things may get even better, as far as upgrades on the complex from a new owner. Town Attorney Amy Mele assured that the positive changes would occur as a stipulation of the 4 percent tax credit structure, which requires a new owner to put money back into the building.
Gromack explained the process of a potential sale as thus: “They [the buyer] would have to pay the town a negotiated amount, but the good news is that the town, from a financial point, would get some money in the town budget from this transaction. And it would stay a senior complex going forward for 20, 30, 40, 50 years, so nothing would change.”
He continued, “Rents wouldn’t be changing from the HUD guidelines so it’s really just a transaction that will benefit everybody, even them. There will be a possibility that they will get certain repairs and upgrades in the coming years that will be made by new owners.”
“It’s just a matter of what kind of improvements, how many, and to what extent. The proposals we have received are all calling for a lot of very nice improvements to the property,” said Mele.
After 40 years, Gromack admits the complex could use some upgrades, but says the building is in excellent condition.
The apartments would remain under the same HUD guidelines they are under now. The town never set the rents all along, it was HUD. The town doesn’t even run the property now, a hired management company does. Basically the town has been the owner on paper, but hasn’t had much to do with its actual running.
“I understand that residents get nervous about change, but we did meet with them. We will meet with them again. When we have a buyer, the buyer will meet with them as well to relay any fears that they may have,” said Mele.
When there is a buyer in settled upon, all improvements will be outlined with the residents. They are hoping for whoever buys the property to keep it for a very long time.