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Living Off 5th Avenue

Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue Committee brought its board members and financiers on a Prevost bus this week for a tour of its latest construction projects, and its staff members were repeatedly greeted with the same question: When can we move in?

Since 1978, the Gowanus-based housing development non-profit has been construction and rehabilitating buildings for low and middle-income South Brooklyn residents.

The organization has been holding steadfast in its mission to provide affordable housing in Park Slope, Gowanus, Sunset Park, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook and Fort Greene, often side by side with luxury developments that have arisen this decade.

This year, several projects including Atlantic Terrace (669 Atlantic Avenue) in Fort Greene and 575 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope are close to coming online and accepting new residents right in the middle of two quickly gentrifying neighborhoods.

“We have never had this level of construction where we are bringing 300 units online with $110 million in construction.It’s a unique moment in time in our organization’s history,” said Fifth Avenue Executive Director Michelle de la Uz.

On Tuesday, October 20, a crowd of 20 FAC board members, bankers, city and state housing officials, elected official representatives, and press boarded a coach bus to tour Atlantic Terrace and 575 to see how far along the projects were progressing.

The 10-story Atlantic Terrace, a former brownfield site on city-owned land, is set to open in spring 2010.The building will have 11,200 square feet of ground floor retail space and 80 units available for homeownership for low-income and middle-income families.When completed, Atlantic Terrace will be the largest affordable housing complex in Brooklyn that is LEED certified, a notable turnaround for the site of a former gas station.

“It is always hard to know the extent of contamination,” said de la Uz.“We pulled seven tanks and an oil drum out of here.”

The building is currently an active construction site, still waiting for elevators, building fixtures and walls in some areas, but the framework is there, and the stunning rooftop views are clearly apparent.It was easy for board members to imagine what would be there.

“We’re not interested in renting to Starbucks or Duane Reade,” said FAC staff member Heather Gershen, who led a tour of the construction site. “We want to rent to local business owners.We’re interested in permanent lasting affordability for homeowners.The person who purchases our units will be in the same income brackets the person who sells them.”

In South Slope, at 575 Fifth Avenue, the construction work was similar but the aims of affordability were very different.The building is a 49-unit supportive housing development for individuals with special needs and the formerly homeless.When the building is completed in spring 2010 and tenants move in by winter of next year, supportive services will be provided by the Center for Urban Community Services.According to Fifth Avenue Committee staff, all tenants must be single adults and earn less than $32,280 per year, and applicants will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

“People who will live here are capable of independent living but they may need social services occasionally, such as job search help or reminders to take medicine,” said Gershen.

Fifth Avenue staff were particularly excited about helping individuals with AIDS and mental illness be able to live in affordable fully-furnished unitswhile also meeting LEED Gold or Platinum certification and featuring a green roof.

Being environmentally conscious while providing affordable housing for low and middle-income Brooklyn residents are the twin philosophies that Ffith Avenue embodies and hopes to pursue for future projects.

Fifth Avenue Committee is located at 621 Degraw Street.For more information, visit www.fifthavenuecommittee.org or call 718-237-2017.

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