An Intergenerational Colocation: Senior Affordable Housing and a Childcare Facility in Queens, New York
The Corona neighborhood of Queens, New York, faces some significant challenges, such as providing affordable housing for seniors and reducing overcrowding in local childcare and education facilities. A predominantly low-income community with a large share of immigrants, Corona is southwest of nearby Willets Point, an industrial area that is home to Citi Field stadium and is undergoing a planned large-scale redevelopment. As part of that process, the Willets Point Community Benefits Agreement included a pledge to develop affordable housing in Corona that will help meet some of the neighborhood’s needs. HANAC Corona Senior Residence, named after its developer, the Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee (HANAC), is one outcome of that agreement and meets the neighborhood’s growing demand for both affordable senior housing and learning facilities for preschoolers. The 8-story, mixed-use development opened in October 2018 and includes 67 units of affordable housing for seniors along with a ground-floor pre-kindergarten program that accommodates 54 students. In addition to onsite supportive services and common areas that cultivate community for residents, the development promotes healthy living through its extensive energy-saving and environmental sustainability features. HANAC Corona Senior Residence is the largest building of its kind in the nation to achieve Passive House certification, a rigorous global building standard for reducing energy usage.
HANAC Corona Senior Residence
Most of the residential component of the development consists of one-bedroom units affordable to residents aged 62 and up who earn between 40 and 60 percent of the area median income. Twenty-one units are reserved for seniors who previously experienced homelessness. The enclosed pre-kindergarten facility, which has an entrance separate from that of the residences, is approximately 5,000 square feet and features 3 classrooms, staff rooms, a community space, and a kitchen area. Children have access to an outdoor yard and play area in the rear of the building.
The residential building’s community amenities are intended to foster connections among residents and prevent social isolation. Interior common spaces connect to exterior common spaces. On the first floor, an indoor community room opens to an outdoor rear yard that is separated from the school’s backyard space by a gate. On the fifth floor, transparent glass separates a laundry room from an indoor lounge, which then opens out onto an outdoor terrace. According to Jack Esterson, principal for Think! Architecture & Design, linking indoor and outdoor multipurpose amenities makes the most of the available space on the development’s relatively small plot of land and encourages social interaction because the spaces are accessible, filled with light, and connected to nature. The first-floor community space has been used for both educational and social events, including health fairs, arts and crafts, and yoga.
Residents benefit from a range of onsite supportive services. HANAC social workers, operating from an office on the first floor, are available to residents five days a week. Supportive services include case management and individual counseling to help prevent unnecessary hospitalizations. Staff also refer residents to outside services at local clinics and other HANAC partner organizations. According to Paola Duran, director of housing development for HANAC, providing for tenant needs such as meal services, transportation assistance, and immigration-related resources is at the core of the organization’s mission. During the COVID-19 pandemic, HANAC social workers have provided services virtually, using phone calls to connect with senior residents, who are less likely to use smartphones or similar devices.
Energy Savings and Sustainability
One major goal of the development was to reduce costs by reducing the building’s energy use. To achieve this goal, the developer pursued Passive House certification, a global standard for energy performance that promotes healthy indoor air quality and minimizes energy consumption. The project includes several sustainable elements. To minimize energy usage with an airtight envelope, HANAC Corona Senior Residence features thick insulation on the roof, foundation, and sides of the building; efficient heating and cooling systems; and triple-paned windows. These features not only promote residents’ physical health but also reduce noise. According to Duran, the early results indicate that the building consumes 75 percent less energy than another similarly sized building in Queens.
HANAC relied on community and city support in both the planning and development phases of HANAC Corona Senior Residence. Building an eight-story development on this site required rezoning to allow greater height and density. Anticipating concerns about having such a large building in a traditionally low-rise neighborhood, the project’s architect intentionally set the building back above the fourth floor. According to Esterson, this significant setback, combined with the building’s mix of materials, colors, and planes, gives the impression of a smaller-scale structure that is less imposing from the street. “When you back up, it looks like a series of small buildings collaged together,” said Esterson. The project’s goals of providing affordable housing for seniors and much-needed early childhood education facilities in a sustainable building factored into the local community’s support for the project.
The $36 million project depended upon a mix of federal and local sources of financing. Low-income housing tax credits accounted for approximately $13 million of the total, with additional city funding coming from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Office of the Queens Borough President. New York City’s Senior Affordable Housing Tenant Services program provided funding for resident social services.
Sustainable Housing for Seniors
The first affordable housing project for seniors in Corona in 30 years, HANAC Corona Senior Residence received approximately 35,000 applications for its 67 units, demonstrating the considerable need for affordable senior housing in Queens and throughout New York City. According to Duran, affordable housing developers have become more interested in senior housing that promotes aging in place, healthy living, and social interaction. Although one original goal for the development — to create shared spaces for supervised and scheduled interaction between senior residents and the students — was not realized due to school safety and privacy protocols, Duran maintains that HANAC has learned valuable lessons from this project and will continue to explore the possibilities of intergenerational interaction in the organization’s other projects.
New York City Planning, Community District Profiles. n.d. “Queens Community District 4: FY 2021 Needs Statement.” Accessed 11 November 2020; New York City Planning, Community District Profiles. n.d. “Queens Community District 4.” Accessed 11 November 2020; New York University Furman Center. 2020. “State of the City 2019: Elmhurst/Corona QN04.” Accessed 11 November 2020; New York Mets. 2020. “Mets/Willets Point Station.” Accessed 11 November 2020; New York City Economic Development Corporation. n.d. “Neighborhood Planning: Willets Point.” Accessed 11 November 2020; Interview with Paola Duran, director of housing and community development, HANAC, 30 October 2020; HANAC. n.d. “HANAC Corona Senior Residence.” Accessed 11 November 2020; Document provided by HANAC; Correspondence from Paola Duran, 27 October 2020; Passive House Institute. 2015. “About Passive House: What is a Passive House?” Accessed 11 November 2020.×
New York City Housing Connect. n.d. “Affordable Senior Housing for Rent: HANAC Corona Senior Residence.” Accessed 11 November 2020; Document provided by HANAC; Correspondence from Paola Duran, director of housing and community development, HANAC, 6 November 2020; Interview with Jack Esterson, principal, Think! Architecture & Design, 30 October 2020. ×
Interview with Paola Duran, director of housing development, HANAC, 30 October 2020; Interview with Jack Esterson, 30 October 2020; Document provided by HANAC; Correspondence from Jack Esterson, 6 November 2020. ×
Interview with Paola Duran, 30 October 2020; Correspondence from Paola Duran, 6 November and 27 October 2020.×
Document provided by HANAC; Interview with Jack Esterson, 30 October 2020; Interview with Paola Duran, 30 October 2020; Passive House Institute. 2015. “About Passive House.” Accessed 11 November 2020; Correspondence from Paola Duran, 6 November 2020.×
Interview with Paola Duran, 30 October 2020; Correspondence from Paola Duran, 27 October 2020; Interview with Jack Esterson, 30 October 2020; Correspondence from Jack Esterson, 6 November 2020.×
Document provided by HANAC; Correspondence from Paola Duran, 6 November and 27 October 2020; Interview with Paola Duran, 30 October 2020.×
Correspondence from Paola Duran, 6 November and 27 October 2020; Document provided by HANAC.×