By Trone Dowd
The First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica broke ground last week on a $74 million affordable housing project located on 164th Street at Jamaica Avenue, adding to the growing number of affordable housing units being constructed in southeast Queens.
The Tree of Life is the first project to get off the ground for the First Jamaica Community and Urban Development Corporation (FJCUDC) non-profit, which has a mission to “ensure quality affordable housing for New Yorkers” as well as “connect people with vital social service needs.” The 12-story building will feature 174 units, 53 of which will be permanently affordable. It will also have 64 parking spaces for residents and 13,000 square feet of community facility space. The development will also meet energy efficiency standards of the Passive Housing Institute—a voluntary measure for reducing a building’s ecological footprint—to ensure that it is entirely eco-friendly.
According to the FJCUDC, apartments will be available to individuals with a maximum income limit ranging from $33,400 to $73,480 and families with combined incomes of $42,950 to $94,490. It will feature a number of amenities, including a community center, daycare facility and a yet-to-be-determined health care entity. Due to efforts by the church, the property will also feature a food pantry, soup kitchen and clothing closet to help those in need.
Programs will be made available to residents free of charge and include basic educational programs, financial literacy classes and other enrichment workshops meant to “grow the lives of Jamaica residents.”
A number of elected officials—including state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilmen I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest)—attended the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday in the First Presbyterian parking lot.
Reverend Patrick O’Connor told attendees at the groundbreaking that the Tree of Life building was a long time coming. In fact, he and his congregation began work on the development in 2005.
“We wanted to build something that would help the community,” O’Connor said.
Once known as “The Vitamin Tree,” O’Connor and his congregation worked with a number of investors and spoke to local residents in Southeast Queens, who made the need for housing, healthcare and childcare clear.
“The concept of the Tree of Life came out of those surveys,” he said. “And over the years, those relationships grew and developed the project that we’re starting today.”
Construction on the building is expected to conclude in winter 2018.