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City announces historic deal to convert JFK Hilton Hotel into 318-unit affordable housing complex

Dec. 18, 2023 By Bill Parry

The city announced Monday that it has closed a deal with developer Slate Property Group and the nonprofit RiseBoro Community Partnership to convert the shuttered JFK Hilton Hotel in South Jamaica into 318 apartments of permanently affordable housing for low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers.

The old JFK Hilton Hotel in South Jamaica will be converted into permanent affordable housing for hundreds of low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers. Rendering courtesy of Slate Property Group

Construction on the project will begin next month with completion expected just 21 months later, compared to 36 months for a conventional ground-up construction. The conversion of the shuttered hotel complex into an affordable housing facility is a first for the city.

Rendering courtesy of Slate Property Group

“Digging our city out of this severe housing shortage will require every tool in our toolbox, and our administration helped win an important fight to add this hotel conversion,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “Advancing this plan to turn a vacant hotel into more than 300 new, affordable homes is a sign that we can think outside the box and take advantage of the opportunities in front of us. I want to thank our partners in Albany for making it possible to turn empty hotels into affordable homes and our development partners who will deliver on the promise of this idea for hundreds of New Yorkers.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that $48 million in state funding is being allocated toward the project that will see the hotel converted into what will be known as the Baisley Pond Park Residences.

Rendering courtesy of Slate Property Group

“This significant investment will help bring our state one step closer to building the affordable, supportive, and sustainable homes that New Yorkers deserve,” Hochul said. “My administration is continuing to back transformative projects that unlock our state’s housing potential — including the first-ever hotel conversion project through the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA) — and we will use every tool at our disposal to build the housing we need to make New York more vibrant and affordable.”

Rendering courtesy of Slate Property Group

State Sen. Michael Gianaris authored the pandemic-era HONDA legislation that allows the state to finance the purchase and conversion of distressed hotels and vacant commercial office space into permanent affordable housing. He said he was proud that a hotel in Queens would be the first in the city to be converted under the program.

Rendering courtesy of Slate Property Group

“We need creative solutions to New York’s housing crisis – and the HONDA program is an important tool in the toolbox,” Gianaris said. “I am pleased it is being used to increase affordable and supportive housing stock and look forward to more projects availing themselves of this funding.”

After its conversion to Baisley Pond Park Residences, all apartments will have full kitchens and ADA-compliant bathrooms. Building amenities will include multiple community rooms, a computer lounge, fitness room, and on-site laundry facilities.

“Working with our non-profit and governmental partners, we have cracked the code of converting former hotels into permanently affordable homes,” said David Schwartz, principal of Slate Property Group. “As we face down a national housing and homelessness crisis, this project is a model that points the way to rapidly bring new apartments online years faster than ground-up construction.”

As part of its conversion, Slate is replacing all major building and mechanical systems. The new systems will include all-electric heating and cooling systems, which will dramatically reduce emissions. The building will also have new rooftop solar panels installed and efficient Energy Star appliances. The project was designed by Aufgang Architects and will be certified by Enterprise Green Communities.

Following construction, RiseBoro Community Partnership will retain long-term, non-profit ownership and management, which was made possible through the Department of Social Services’ new Affordable Housing Services Program. The Baisley Pond Park Residences project marks the first time this model has been utilized to fund the creation of non-profit owner permanently affordable housing.

“Creativity is necessary to fill New York City’s need for affordable housing and, with Baisley Pond Park Residences, all parties have met that challenge,” RiseBoro Community Partnership CEO Scott Short said. “We’re thrilled to be a part of the first successful hotel conversion in New York and look forward to taking another step in bringing affordability and access to the people of this city.”

RiseBoro will also provide onsite support and wrap-around services for residents as they transition from homelessness to permanent affordable housing. The nonprofit will provide case managers and onsite programming.

The former hotel’s commercial kitchen is also being converted into a facility for Meals on Wheels that will support RiseBoro’s clients.

“Quality, affordable housing is a prerequisite for a healthy and stable life, but the dearth of affordable housing options across New York City has kept far too many of our vulnerable neighbors from obtaining the housing they deserve,” Department of Social Service Commissioner Molly Wasow Park said. “We are incredibly proud to play a role in this project and, for the first time, utilize our innovative Affordable Housing Service Program to support the creation of permanent affordable housing units with on-site services and place shelter residents with CityFHEPS vouchers directly into 192 of these homes.”

Total development costs, including acquiring the hotel site, are projected to be $167 million, of which $48 million is provided through the HONDA program. Speaker Adrienne Adams hailed the conversion project.

“To ease our city’s growing housing and affordability crisis, it is imperative that we utilize every tool at our disposal to build and preserve housing, with a focus on maximizing affordability,” Adams said. “With the historic conversion of the JFK Hilton Hotel into 318 units of permanently affordable housing for low-income and formerly homeless New Yorkers, our city is taking a critical step forward to ensure even more of our neighbors have access to the stability and support they need. The Baisley Pond Park Residences represents what can be achieved when our city and state governments work together with a shared goal of housing New Yorkers. While this is the first hotel conversion project facilitated by the Housing Our Neighbors with Dignity Act (HONDA) program, I am hopeful that it will not be the last.”

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