Organization Name: The Community Development Trust and Proto Property Services
Project Title: Ocean Towers
Project Location: Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY
When Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard in October 2012, it caused billions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses in New York City. Ocean Towers, a 19-story former Mitchell-Lama property in Coney Island, was one building impacted by the storm. The Community Development Trust (CDT), a private real estate investment trust (REIT), partnered with Proto Property Services to acquire and rehab Ocean Towers. Ocean Towers represents CDT’s first project in New York City. CDT and Proto purchased the building from an owner who had previously taken the property out of the Mitchell-Lama program. CDT and Proto planned to address decades of deferred maintenance, improve energy efficiency, improve tenant quality of life via more attentive management, and bring the property under a long-term affordability regulatory agreement. Because the rehab work was tenant-in-place and required multiple in-unit visits, it was crucial for Proto to establish a strong, trusting relationship with tenants.
Ocean Towers houses 360 families, the majority of which are very low-income. When CDT and Proto took over Ocean Towers, most building systems were original to the 1970s construction and were in need of full replacement. None of the common areas had been updated since the original construction. CDT and Proto invested nearly $12mm in the rehabilitation, which included converting the heating system from electric to gas-fired hydronic, constructing elevated rooms to house the new boilers, installing a new domestic hot water plant, individually metering unit electric, and beautifying all common areas. Total project cost was over $50mm, and the rehabilitation was completed without the use of tax credits and was a highly efficient use of other City subsidies. Rehab began in late 2013 and completed in late 2015. To finance the acquisition and rehab, CDT and Proto partnered with the New York City Acquisition Fund, Enterprise, HPD, NYC City Council, NYSERDA, CPC, SONYMA, and NYCERS.
The majority of the tenants at Ocean Towers are long-term residents, residing here before the prior owner removed the building from the Mitchell-Lama program. These tenants lived through the physical decline of the property over decades, which Hurricane Sandy exacerbated. Proto engaged the tenants’ group to explain the purpose and plan for the building renovations and improvements to management practices. In-unit visits were coordinated by Proto to install plumbing for the new heating system and to address deferred maintenance in response to tenants’ requests. An extensive new security camera system was installed which, in conjunction with a single entry access point for residents/guests, greatly enhanced site control for management and resulted in improved tenant safety. CDT and Proto focused on improving the common areas, with new tiles, doors, and finishes throughout all of the common areas and the community room, which will be open to tenant use for the first time in years.
The Community Development Trust is a national lender and investor in affordable housing. Working with local, regional, and national partners, CDT makes long-term equity investments and originates and acquires long-term mortgages. In its sixteen years, CDT has invested over $1.1 billion in debt and equity capital to properties in 43 states and regions -- helping to preserve and create nearly 39,000 units of affordable housing. CDT is a private real estate investment trust (REIT), a certified Community Development Financial Institution, an approved Fannie Mae affordable housing lender, and a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. Proto Property Services and its affiliates have over 30 years of experience developing, owning, and managing affordable properties in New York City. Proto has managed over 4,000 apartments and currently owns over 1,500 units in New York City. Proto’s affiliate, Stateside Construction, was the general contractor for the redevelopment of Ocean Towers.