Music rippled through a procession heading out of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett on a beautiful sunny afternoon last Thursday, when community members gathered to formally dedicate 40 units of affordable senior housing.
Singing a special processional hymn the church’s pastor, Reverend Dr. Katrina Foster, Gerry Mooney, the manager of the Windmill Village senior housing development in East Hampton and Bishop Robert Rimbo led the procession to a spot outside the apartment complex. After speeches by politicians who helped move the development through a sea of red tape, resident of the senior housing community cut a ceremonial blue ribbon.
Before the procession, a special service took place in the packed church, with community members praising the project through speech and song, with the congregation joining Charlie King in singing “If you want peace, work for justice, if you want peace, work for justice, if you want peace, work for justice
everyday…” Amagansett School children also made a brief appearance to sing a song.
A decade of planning, coordination and more than a little faith helped give life to the affordable senior housing project at St. Michael’s. Mr. Mooney called last Thursday “a day of celebration,” a “day of victory” and “a day of thanks.” He thanked in particular Reverend Foster and Marge Harvey, the president of the St. Michael’s Lutheran Church Council.
“It was a tremendous effort and combination of people coming together and say we’re going to make this happen,” Mr. Mooney told community members.
Michael DeSario, president of the housing board of St. Michael’s and Windmill Village, also chimed in, saying the project is “a testimonial of what can be accomplished if we work together.” Rev. Dr. Foster said “all we did was pursue happiness for others.” She said it was not impossible to replicate such a project in another neighborhood.
“We can do this in other places,” she stressed.
Tenants first got the green light to move into the facility from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year. More than 400 people applied for the complex’s apartments. The project cost about $10.8 million, and was funded by $5.8 million from HUD, about $4 million in a bank investment repaid through tax credits and $300,000 from the Suffolk County Office of Community Development. The idea for the project originated more than 10 years ago with church members.
Ribbon-cutting day was full of speeches from various community members who expressed thanks for the project. East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman also delivered speeches praising the project.
Emily Cullum, a resident of the complex and a Montauk native, said it’s “good to have a home.” She remembers being very interested in the project when she first learned about it, and was elated to receive word two years ago when her application for an apartment was approved.
“I was so happy to get the news that the tears came,” she said.
Another resident, Hermes Barbagallo, thanked many people, saying she felt “very grateful” and “lucky” to have a home. She turned to her fellow neighbors and asked, “Such a peace of mind, isn’t it?”
Bishop Rimbo commended the congregation for moving the project forward.
“What you’re doing is God’s work,” he said. “And that is to open the doors for everyone.”