The proposed Alegria North project in Wyandanch will include nine...

The proposed Alegria North project in Wyandanch will include nine units of affordable housing for formerly incarcerated women. Credit: Beatty Harvey Coco Architects LP

Getting back on your feet on Long Island after jail or prison often requires three things: a job, a car and place to lay your head at night.

Advocates say it's that last one, housing, that can be the most difficult to secure here.

The proposed 81-unit Wyandanch affordable housing complex Alegria North offers a novel option for people in that situation, with nine units reserved for the formerly incarcerated.

Those units would be offered through a partnership with the Brentwood nonprofit New Hour for Women and Children, which works with formerly incarcerated women. Project developer D&F Development Group offers a similar program in Queens, although this is its first on Long Island.

Supporters say the program offers a second chance to women who have served their sentences, and that providing stable housing can reduce recidivism.

“Incarceration, unless you want to keep someone in prison or jail forever, is not meant to be a lifelong barrier,” New Hour executive director Serena Martin-Liguori said. “You have to think about the fact that if you stabilize a mother, you're now stabilizing her children and her family.”

But some members of the Suffolk County Legislature question why subsidized units are reserved for people who have been convicted of crimes instead of for groups such as veterans or seniors. They also express concern about the safety of other tenants such as those in units reserved for people with mental illness.

“They should not be mixed into the same population as those with mental disabilities,” Suffolk County Legis. Trish Bergin (R-East Islip), who voted against a recent funding request for the project, told Newsday. “You have kids who come home from school … they are all now vulnerable to this incarcerated population.”

The $50 million project, featuring one- two- and three-bedroom apartments, will receive federal, state and county funding, plus traditional private financing, said Peter Florey, principal at project developer D&F Development Group. Located on Merritt Avenue near Wyandanch’s Long Island Rail Road station, the project will receive $35 million in state Homes and Community Renewal funding, according to backup documents provided by the county.

Monthly rents will range from $1,300 to $1,900 for eligible tenants earning between $35,000 and $90,000 per year, he said. Construction is slated to begin in the fall.

The average asking rent on Long Island in mid-April was $2,855 for all apartment types, according to CoStar, which publishes commercial real estate data.

Alegria North also allocates 12 units for people with mental illness, nine for the mobility impaired, four for people with visual and hearing impairments, and four for military veterans.

Florey noted his company also works with New Hour’s sister organization, Long Island City-based Hour Children, to offer 26 units for formerly incarcerated women at two developments in Locust Manor, Queens.

“They’ve really been excellent tenants and residents,” Florey said of the formerly incarcerated women. “They really want to prove that they are good citizens.”

Florey is a past president of the Long Island Builders Institute, a trade group whose political action committee gave $218,000 to Democratic and Republican candidates statewide and in Suffolk and Nassau counties in 2023, according to state campaign finance reports.

The builders institute last year donated between $250 and $1,000 to each Suffolk County legislator who voted in favor of the project as well as to Bergin and Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown), who did not. The builders also contributed $27,500 to Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine’s campaign.

Romaine spokesman Mike Martino said there was no connection between Florey's campaign support and the Alegria North project. Romaine, a Republican, “believes in the legislature as an independent governmental body, which has already twice approved this project,” Martino said.

Florey said he has “been an active member of the home building industry for years,” and has “always supported a bipartisan group of elected officials who understand the complex needs of home building and support affordable housing policies.”

At Alegria North, New Hour will select the tenants, and conditions for formerly incarcerated women will include stable employment, no history of parole or probation violations and participation in a monthly support group. Those convicted of sex offenses are not eligible.

Some research shows that formerly incarcerated individuals face greater obstacles in securing housing due in part to limited work histories, low incomes and stigma.

A 2018 report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Prison Policy Initiative found the formerly incarcerated are nearly 10 times more likely than the general population to experience homelessness. A report by the organization in September concluded that housing is key to reducing future incarceration.

“Housing is absolutely critical for reentry,” said Megan Moore, a policy analyst at the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke University Law School who studies the intersection of the justice system and access to housing. “It really benefits the whole community to invest in these kinds of housing programs with wraparound services.”

The Alegria North project was before the Suffolk County Legislature last Tuesday as officials sought $2.8 million in county funding. Lawmakers approved the request in a 12-5 vote over objections from some lawmakers who questioned why Suffolk would subsidize housing earmarked for people convicted of crimes.

“We have senior citizens, young people, who are struggling to get apartments,” Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. “But no, we are going to give it to people who had been arrested. It makes no logical sense.”

Some also questioned how those in units for people with mental illness would interact with the formerly incarcerated.

“I think it's dangerous,” Bergin said during the legislative meeting. “While I get that your goal is kindhearted, I don't think this model is going to work and I fear for the safety of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.”

Elizabeth Lunde of Concern for Independent Living, the Medford nonprofit that will select and provide services for Alegria North tenants with mental illness, downplayed such concerns, saying clients were capable of living on their own and would receive frequent visits from staff. 

Bergin also expressed concern that New Hour's agreements with the state and county do not explicitly prevent it from working with formerly incarcerated men.

Martin-Liguori stressed that her organization only works with women and would only select female tenants for the nine units.

Romaine signed the bill Friday.’

Getting back on your feet on Long Island after jail or prison often requires three things: a job, a car and place to lay your head at night.

Advocates say it's that last one, housing, that can be the most difficult to secure here.

The proposed 81-unit Wyandanch affordable housing complex Alegria North offers a novel option for people in that situation, with nine units reserved for the formerly incarcerated.

Those units would be offered through a partnership with the Brentwood nonprofit New Hour for Women and Children, which works with formerly incarcerated women. Project developer D&F Development Group offers a similar program in Queens, although this is its first on Long Island.

Supporters say the program offers a second chance to women who have served their sentences, and that providing stable housing can reduce recidivism.

Serena Martin-Liguori, executive director of New Hour.

Serena Martin-Liguori, executive director of New Hour. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

“Incarceration, unless you want to keep someone in prison or jail forever, is not meant to be a lifelong barrier,” New Hour executive director Serena Martin-Liguori said. “You have to think about the fact that if you stabilize a mother, you're now stabilizing her children and her family.”

But some members of the Suffolk County Legislature question why subsidized units are reserved for people who have been convicted of crimes instead of for groups such as veterans or seniors. They also express concern about the safety of other tenants such as those in units reserved for people with mental illness.

“They should not be mixed into the same population as those with mental disabilities,” Suffolk County Legis. Trish Bergin (R-East Islip), who voted against a recent funding request for the project, told Newsday. “You have kids who come home from school … they are all now vulnerable to this incarcerated population.”

Alegria North

The $50 million project, featuring one- two- and three-bedroom apartments, will receive federal, state and county funding, plus traditional private financing, said Peter Florey, principal at project developer D&F Development Group. Located on Merritt Avenue near Wyandanch’s Long Island Rail Road station, the project will receive $35 million in state Homes and Community Renewal funding, according to backup documents provided by the county.

Suffolk County Legis. Trish Bergin asks a question at a meeting...

Suffolk County Legis. Trish Bergin asks a question at a meeting of a legislative committee on March 29. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Monthly rents will range from $1,300 to $1,900 for eligible tenants earning between $35,000 and $90,000 per year, he said. Construction is slated to begin in the fall.

The average asking rent on Long Island in mid-April was $2,855 for all apartment types, according to CoStar, which publishes commercial real estate data.

Alegria North also allocates 12 units for people with mental illness, nine for the mobility impaired, four for people with visual and hearing impairments, and four for military veterans.

Florey noted his company also works with New Hour’s sister organization, Long Island City-based Hour Children, to offer 26 units for formerly incarcerated women at two developments in Locust Manor, Queens.

“They’ve really been excellent tenants and residents,” Florey said of the formerly incarcerated women. “They really want to prove that they are good citizens.”

Florey is a past president of the Long Island Builders Institute, a trade group whose political action committee gave $218,000 to Democratic and Republican candidates statewide and in Suffolk and Nassau counties in 2023, according to state campaign finance reports.

The builders institute last year donated between $250 and $1,000 to each Suffolk County legislator who voted in favor of the project as well as to Bergin and Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown), who did not. The builders also contributed $27,500 to Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine’s campaign.

Romaine spokesman Mike Martino said there was no connection between Florey's campaign support and the Alegria North project. Romaine, a Republican, “believes in the legislature as an independent governmental body, which has already twice approved this project,” Martino said.

Florey said he has “been an active member of the home building industry for years,” and has “always supported a bipartisan group of elected officials who understand the complex needs of home building and support affordable housing policies.”

At Alegria North, New Hour will select the tenants, and conditions for formerly incarcerated women will include stable employment, no history of parole or probation violations and participation in a monthly support group. Those convicted of sex offenses are not eligible.

Some research shows that formerly incarcerated individuals face greater obstacles in securing housing due in part to limited work histories, low incomes and stigma.

A 2018 report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Prison Policy Initiative found the formerly incarcerated are nearly 10 times more likely than the general population to experience homelessness. A report by the organization in September concluded that housing is key to reducing future incarceration.

“Housing is absolutely critical for reentry,” said Megan Moore, a policy analyst at the Wilson Center for Science and Justice at Duke University Law School who studies the intersection of the justice system and access to housing. “It really benefits the whole community to invest in these kinds of housing programs with wraparound services.”

Opposition

The Alegria North project was before the Suffolk County Legislature last Tuesday as officials sought $2.8 million in county funding. Lawmakers approved the request in a 12-5 vote over objections from some lawmakers who questioned why Suffolk would subsidize housing earmarked for people convicted of crimes.

“We have senior citizens, young people, who are struggling to get apartments,” Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. “But no, we are going to give it to people who had been arrested. It makes no logical sense.”

Some also questioned how those in units for people with mental illness would interact with the formerly incarcerated.

“I think it's dangerous,” Bergin said during the legislative meeting. “While I get that your goal is kindhearted, I don't think this model is going to work and I fear for the safety of the most vulnerable individuals in our society.”

Elizabeth Lunde of Concern for Independent Living, the Medford nonprofit that will select and provide services for Alegria North tenants with mental illness, downplayed such concerns, saying clients were capable of living on their own and would receive frequent visits from staff. 

Bergin also expressed concern that New Hour's agreements with the state and county do not explicitly prevent it from working with formerly incarcerated men.

Martin-Liguori stressed that her organization only works with women and would only select female tenants for the nine units.

Romaine signed the bill Friday.’

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