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$25 million renovations meant to keep Buffalo affordable senior housing affordable

Tom Dinki/WBFO News
Michael Rooney Jr. (from left), Tim Henzy, Leonard Skrill, Vernadine Hinton, Mayor Byron Brown, state Sen. Tim Kennedy and Common Council member David Franczyk cut the ribbon at Piotr Stadnitski Gardens Thursday.

Vernadine Hinton has lived at Piotr Stadnitski Gardens, a 100-unit affordable senior housing complex on Buffalo’s East Side, for 15 years. She said she’s seen the apartment building when “it really wasn’t too much.”

Now she has new windows to keep the heat in and a bigger stove for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.


“Look at it now,” she said. “You’d be very surprised and happy that you’re living here.” 


Her building and another low-income senior housing complex, Riverview Manor in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood, recently underwent a total of $25 million in renovations.


The private owner of the two buildings and New York state officials, both of whom invested money into the project, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday at Stadnitski Gardens to show off the upgrades, which include new flooring, appliances, bathroom fixtures and windows, as well as replacement of the building’s roof and elevators. 


Officials said the renovations will help make sure the properties stay federal, low-income housing for the foreseeable future,


“These projects were built in the ’70s, and they have been well maintained,” said Leonard Skrill, upstate development director of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the state’s public housing agency. “Hopefully this investment will make sure they function as effective, affordable housing for the next 30 years.” 


Stadnitski Gardens and Riverview Manor are designated as affordable housing for elderly and disabled people under the federal Section 202 program, and are covered by a Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 


The properties' 210 total units are for people 55 or older, or who have a disability, with incomes at or below 60% of the area median income. Under federal guidelines, rent is just 30% of the household’s income.


The two buildings were purchased last year from the Frank Ciminelli estate for about $8 million by downstate developer Metropolitan Real East Development. The company was assisted by Smith and Henzy Advisory Group, a firm that assists both nonprofit and for-profit organizations plan affordable development projects.  


Michael Rooney Jr., CEO of Metropolitan Real Estate Development, said crews remodeled individual units and cleaned up all in one day, allowing residents “to sleep in their own beds that same night.”

“With senior residents, it was even more imperative we provide the absolute least disturbance to their routines,” he said.


Roughly $23 million of the $25 million in upgrades came from New York State Home and Community Renewal. It’s part of the state’s five-year plan to spend $20 billion to build and preserve more than 100,000 affordable homes throughout the state.


Skrill noted there are other state-funded housing projects in Buffalo, including $3 million for upgrading the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center, a low-income senior housing complex, and $14.6 million for helping build the Jefferson Avenue Apartments, which will be for people with developmental disabilities.


“That’s a lot of activity,” Skrill said.


State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said generations of Buffalonians have waited for investments to be made in the city, and that seniors should be able to afford to stay in the city now that it’s finally seeing some revitalization.


“You stuck it out in our community through the toughest of the times and now this is your reward,” he said.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.