Housing for seniors slated for empty Whitestone plot

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For nearly four decades it was a summer camp and country club. The 13 acre at the north end of Whitestone off the East River were home to dances, baseball games and swimming lessons.

Fifteen years after the camp and country club closed, the land is finally beginning to take shape.

A development of two-story homes is nearly complete on the northern portion of the property, which sits north of 6th Avenue and to the east of 150th Street.

On the southern side of the property, a collection of homes for seniors will soon be built.

From 1950 to 1988, the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens, operated a camp and country club on the site.

The camp was a destination for youth from throughout the city, said Margaret Keaveney, director of communications for Catholic Charities, the non-profit arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

But in the 1980s demand for its use declined, and it shut down.

"It was just a different era in time," Keaveney said. "Kids used to not work in the summer, and now they work in the summer."

While demand for summer camps is waning, the need for senior housing has steadily increased as the city's population has gotten older.

Catholic Charities, which operates 3,000 units of lower-income senior housing in Brooklyn and Queens, realized there was a need for middle-income senior housing, Keaveney said.

Catholic Charities decided to sell the northern half of its property to the Mattone Group, based in College Point. Using the funds raised from the sale, the organization decided to construct senior housing on the southern half.

The Mattone Group is nearing completion on Waterside Estates at Cresthaven, a collection of more than 30 two-story homes.

A brochure for Waterside Estates advertises the development as "low-profile and laid back" and "an enclave of fine homes in Whitestone's most prestigious area."

The brochure also says that "after you buy your Waterside home, please don't tell the world about Cresthaven. We want to keep it a secret so that it keeps its unique charm and character."

Mattone did not return phone calls for comment.

While the Mattone project is drawing near completion, the senior housing has yet to be constructed.

Construction is scheduled to begin within the next two years, Keaveney said.

The housing is designed to attract residents from the area, Keaveney said.

"A lot of seniors don't want to move out of their old neighborhood," she said. "This way they have the best of both worlds. They continue to live in the city, and they don't uproot themselves completely."

The housing is designed for seniors who have too much money to qualify for low-income housing.

There will be 200 units of housing, designed as two- and three-story garden apartments, Keaveney said.

Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7, which covers Whitestone, Flushing and College Point, said the housing would help meet a demand for elderly residencies.

"There's a tremendous need for senior housing."

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

Updated 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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