A 70-unit affordable housing project is slated to begin construction this spring in Bellport, the beginning of a plan to revitalize the area, provide economical residences for young and old alike, and build a transit-oriented development.
The 100 percent affordable housing project is being lauded as a first step in a plan crafted years ago to revitalize the area north of Montauk Highway and south of Sunrise Highway in the hamlet.
“This is potentially the biggest private investment in this portion of Bellport in decades,” Town Councilman Dan Panico said in a work session. “This is what people have been clamoring for.”
The use of this property was recommended in a Greater Bellport Land Use Plan, a policy paper to guide decision-making that, according to an introduction to the plan, is meant to “sustain and improve the Montauk Highway and Station Road corridors of the Greater Bellport area and the surrounding areas over time.”
The plan allowed for areas of multifamily housing to retain and attract people to the area within walking distance of the LIRR and other community services.
“This is the first step in the revitalization of this community,” Panico said.
A public hearing during a Brookhaven Town Board meeting in November concerning a request for a zoning change brought out unanimously positive reaction from the public and politicians alike.
The board voted to allow the change of zoning from A Residential 1 — which calls for one residential housing unit per lot — to Multifamily, another step in moving the project forward.
The project, called Bellport Residences, is being developed by Levittown-based D&F Development Group. D&F has overseen the construction of other notable projects, including the new Village Walk assisted living complex in Patchogue and an affordable housing development in Melville.
Residents and stakeholders were invited by D&F to tour their other developments to see what the company could do with similar types of affordable housing.
Speakers at the Brookhaven Town meeting said they were happy to see the quality of the homes D&F has built, and described them as beautiful.
Tawaun Weber, the assistant director of Vision Long Island, said that Bellport Residences embodies the smart growth principles her organization promotes.
“Affordable housing is a no-brainer,” she said. “This area is very much primed for this.”
Almost 20 speakers commented at the meeting, all of them commending the developer for working with the community and the company’s transparency, saying the area needs an affordable housing option like the one proposed — especially for recent college graduates who want to stay in the area and seniors looking to downsize their homes.
The 7.9-acre site sits between Atlantic and Patchogue Avenues in Bellport, just to the east of the Boys & Girls Club and west of Post Avenue, which is just north of Montauk Highway.
The plans call for nine building in total, consisting of 70 two-story units, all of them deemed affordable housing. There is also a proposal for a community center within the complex. Rents will range from $900 to $1,700 per month.
An application filed with the town in 2018 estimates the cost to build at $32 million.
Clyde Parker of Bellport said he supported the project and has been canvassing the area for months asking people what they wanted to see in the area.
“The word we heard over and over again is affordable housing,” he said.
Joann Neal, a 46-year resident of Bellport who does work for Habitat for Humanity and raised eight kids in the hamlet, said her children all have trouble affording a house in the area. Her son is a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq and lives with her — with his wife and his own child.
“He would love to get into one of these apartments,” she said.
“Nobody should ever fool themselves into thinking Long Island doesn’t need affordable housing for its young people, it’s vets and its seniors,” commented Councilwoman Jane Bonner.
Councilman Michael Loguercio, who represents the district, complimented representatives from D&F who were at the meeting for their efforts to involve the community in decision-making along the way.
“You made them a partner in this,” he said.
Loguercio said the affordable aspect of the community also extends to transportation.
He worked with the Long Island Rail Road requesting they extend the fare zone out to Bellport from Patchogue so passengers don’t have to pay more to take the train from that station.
Projects like Bellport Residences were not always a welcome idea. Residents who opposed the Greater Bellport Land Use Plan in 2014 wrote to say the town and hamlet needed to address the high rate of crime, drug use and blight before putting any plan into effect.
Boarded up homes that had been foreclosed on were a particular concern for many residents.
Some speakers addressed these concerns and said they noticed the effects — over the intervening years — of improvements made by code enforcement and plans to renovate abandoned homes in the area.
Waveney Klaiber, a Bellport resident for 17 years, said there was a marked improvement in the area and said that she is finally having hope that the project is going to happen.
Some have hopes that the project and others like it will help their children stick close to home.
Regina Crawford raised three children in the area and lives on Atlantic Avenue. She wants her daughter to be able to come back to Bellport when she graduates college.
“The area definitely can be uplifted by having the apartments here,” she said.