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Coveted apartments for seniors come to Flushing

The 73-year-old retired real estate salesman and his wife recently moved into the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Apartment, Flushing’s newest senior housing run by Selfhelp Community Services.

By Alexander Dworkowitz

Yoon Park considers himself a lucky man.

The 73-year-old retired real estate salesman and his wife recently moved into the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Apartment, Flushing’s newest senior housing run by Selfhelp Community Services.

Park had applied to live in one of Selfhelp housing units four years ago, and last year the Korean immigrant learned he had finally made the cut.

“I waited for years before I got here,” Park said. “But so many people are still waiting.”

The opening of the Weinberg Apartment is part of Selfhelp’s program to provide housing for the borough’s seniors. While Selfhelp’s administration celebrated the opening of the building, they cautioned that Queens, and in particular Flushing, needs more of such housing to adequately take care of its seniors.

The Weinberg Apartment, a five-story, $7.5 million building at 45-35 Kissena Blvd., is the sixth apartment house for seniors run by Selfhelp. Four other apartment buildings stand within walking distance of the Weinberg Apartment, and a fifth is located on 26th Avenue in Bayside.

As the name implies, Selfhelp’s apartments provide independent living for seniors, with social workers offering assistance. Selfhelp organizes community activities, but the seniors live independently in their own apartments.

The apartments are subsidized by the federal government, allowing for low rents. At the Weinberg Apartment, residents pay on average about $430 a month for one-bedroom apartments, but the monthly rent can be no more than one-third of their income.

The combination of low rents, well-maintained buildings, and free language, art and exercise classes have made Selfhelp’s apartments extremely attractive to seniors.

Selfhelp received more than 2,250 applications for the Weinberg Apartment for just 70 units.

The 70 winning applications were selected at random. The remaining applicants were added to Selfhelp’s waiting list.

“The waiting lists vary between three and eight years,” said Grace Nierenberg, Selfhelp’s vice president for housing and senior centers.

Nierenberg said Selfhelp was fighting to provide housing for the city’s aging population.

“One of the challenges in New York City, and particularly Queens, is that the population is getting older, and they want to live in a safe, affordable community,” she said. “And Selfhelp provides that in a wonderful way but in a limited way when you look at our waiting list.”

On Friday, Selfhelp employees threw a party for the new residents of the Weinberg Apartments.

The residents, all of whom are over the age of 62, speak nine different languages. Most of the residents are Chinese or Korean, but some are immigrants from Russia.

Seniors said they were happy with their new living situation.

“It’s very good,” said Mariya Diment, a 70-year-old Russian immigrant. “The building is very nice, the people are very nice.”

Phyllis Tobin, Selfhelp’s assistant vice president of housing and senior centers, said the Weinberg Apartments represented a dramatic change for many of the residents.

“Many of them come from very substandard housing,” she said. “We’ve had stories of people coming from leaking basements. This is really a blessing for them.”

Becky Zhao, 66, said she lived with four other people in a one-bedroom apartment in Chinatown before moving to the Weinberg Apartment.

“The bedroom was very busy,” she said.

Thousands of seniors who lived like Zhao are still sitting on Selfhelp’s waiting list.

Selfhelp is hoping to house more of those seniors. But the group has run out of room at its Flushing campus and have to look to other locations for further expansion.

Park sympathized with those whose names, unlike his own, were not picked out the hat.

“So many people would like to have housing like this, but there is not enough for everybody,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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