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The first large-scale new construction in the reinhabited Love Canal area and the first new senior citizen housing in the city in a decade officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony today on the site of the former Griffon Manor housing project at 95th Street and Frontier Avenue.

The $5.3 million, 80-unit Vincent Morello Senior Citizen Housing apartment complex is about 40 percent complete and already is 75 percent leased, according to Rocco R. Termini, director of development for Burke Brothers Construction Inc., the developer of the project. "It's amazing. We haven't even done any advertising," Termini said.

The project was named after the late City Councilman who died unexpectedly in June 1998.

Four buildings officially opened today with the remaining six scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving, Termini said. The first tenant moved in two weeks ago. Termini described residents as elderly persons who have been living in substandard housing "because they couldn't afford anything else." He said they are coming from within a 3- to 4-mile radius. Rents are $295 for a one-bedroom unit and $375 for two bedrooms. Maximum income to be eligible for the affordable housing rents is $19,000 a year per person.

Many senior citizens in Niagara Falls live on much less, some of them as little as $600 a month, he said. A rental office on the site is open daily. All first floor apartments in the two-story structures are handicapped accessible. The project was funded with $400,000 in federal HOME funds from the city, $395,000 from Federal Home Loan Bank, $3.2 million from the sale of tax credits through Alliance Capital, and a $1 million first mortgage from Community Lending Corp.

"We're very happy with everything. The city bent over backwards. The unions have been just wonderful. You always hear Niagara Falls is a tough town to do anything in because of the unions, but they have been wonderful," he said.

Larry Krizan, community development director, said he hopes that Burke Brothers will continue with planned single-family housing for the area. Termini said an application to the state for funding was not approved. No further plans are on the drawing board at the moment but the company will meet again with the city after the senior citizen housing is completed, he said.

The City Council approved the use of $400,000 for the senior citizen project from the city's HOME funds allocation in the Community Development Department's budget. It also granted a 15-year payment in lieu of taxes schedule for the 80 subsidized units, including 15 units for households at 50 percent of the median income and 64 units for households at 60 percent of the median income. The remaining 16 units will be rented at market rates and be fully taxable.

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