Lorne Simon said he had been homeless for most of the past 31 years since leaving the Marines before he moved several months ago into Liberty Station in Port Jefferson Station.
The 77-unit apartment complex on State Route 112, which opened earlier this year with a focus on providing homes for veterans and people who ordinarily would not be able to afford to live near where they work, has given Simon a chance at what he called "serenity."
"I came out here for a fresh start," said Simon, 52, a former New York City resident who shares his new apartment with his dog, King. "I didn't know anything about Long Island. … All I know is it's what I need."
Medford-based nonprofit Concern Housing built the $27.8 million complex on a previously wooded 11-acre plot, near other apartment complexes and shopping centers. Grand opening ceremonies, delayed by pandemic concerns, were celebrated on Sept. 15 after tenants had begun moving in earlier this year, executive director Ralph Fasano said.
Liberty Station includes 25 units reserved for veterans and an additional 20 apartments for which veterans are given preference. The remaining 32 units are "workforce" apartments set aside for people whose incomes are less than 50% of the region's median income. Suffolk County's median household income in 2019, the most recent year available, was $101,031, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Monthly rental prices range from about $350 to $900, Fasano said. Units are 700 square feet, and 900 square feet for handicapped residents.
"There’s so little affordable housing" on Long Island, Fasano said. "There’s so little housing that is accessible to Long Island veterans as they’re getting older."
The complex includes a small community room and indoor and outdoor exercise facilities, as well as a library and computer room. A staff of seven provides on-site services and can arrange transportation for residents.
Concern Housing, formerly Concern for Independent Living, has built dozens of single-family and multifamily homes over the past 50 years, including three others that cater to veterans in Amityville, Ronkonkoma and Brooklyn. Another is planned in Southampton Town, Fasano said.
Concern receives applications from prospective tenants through government programs such as those administered by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, Fasano said.
"We had hundreds of applications for the 77 units," he said. "The sad part is the demand is so much higher than the supply. The good part is that we know we can keep doing what we’re doing because we know there are enough people to serve."
Another resident, Edward Reardon, 72, a retired cook and carpenter, said he was happy to move to Liberty Station after struggling to pay rent on a previous apartment in Patchogue.
"I have a roof over my head," said Reardon, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam. "People care about people. When you need something, you can talk to somebody."
Simon, who said he can't work because of disabilities, said that after years of bouncing between temporary domiciles that "didn't feel like home," he's grateful to have a place of his own.
"It gives you dignity," he said.
Home sweet home
Liberty Station in Port Jefferson Station opened earlier this year at 1599 State Rte. 112 in Port Jefferson Station. Here are details of the project:
Cost: $27.8 million
Total units: 77
Veterans units: 25:
Units for which veterans have preference: 20
Workforce housing (for tenants who make less than the median income): 32
Veterans rental prices: $350 per month
Workforce rental prices: $900 per month
Standard unit size: About 700 square feet
Handicap-accessible unit size: About 900 square feet