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Matt Urban Center plans $3 million renovation of East Side senior housing

An aging East Side apartment building for low-income seniors is about to get $3 million in needed upgrades and new services, as the nonprofit agency that owns and runs it benefits from two state sources of funding.

The Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center is planning a series of improvements that will make the T.J. Wojnar Parkview Apartments more handicapped-accessible and energy efficient, said the agency's executive director, Marlies A. Wesolowski.

Work will include new lighting, roof repairs and gutters, but officials also plan to modify kitchens for seniors in wheelchairs to enable them better access to the sinks. Some of the older, high-walled bathtubs will also be switched out for showers, as some residents struggle to get in and out of the tubs, Wesolowski said.

"It's a major improvement to the property," she said.

The funding includes $2 million from New York State Homes and Community Renewal and $1 million from the New York State Attorney General's office.

The latter funding comes from a legal settlement by Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley several years ago that stemmed from alleged housing finance abuses, and the Parkview project is one of several recent beneficiaries statewide. The money will be used to pay for a full-time social worker on site for five years, as well as to replenish the accounts used to pay for ongoing maintenance and improvements to the complex.

"The seniors had more needs than originally expected," Wesolowski said, referring to the social worker.

She said the agency hopes to close on the financing by early spring, and then start the work. "We're excited about this funding," Wesolowski said. "It's an investment in the property that we haven't had before."

Located at 104 Lewis St., the Parkview complex looks out onto Franczyk Park, and contains 32 apartments for low-income senior citizens aged 62 and up. It was constructed in the 1990s, but has not seen significant reinvestment since then, Wesolowski said.

The project was owned by an investor group called Related Capital and managed by the Matt Urban Center until five years ago, when the local nonprofit bought out the 99% investor stake. This week, the organization consolidated its ownership into a single entity in a paper transaction valued at $1.6 million.

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