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Ground broken on project for homeless vets

Senator Charles Schumer speaks during a press conference

Senator Charles Schumer speaks during a press conference where he and other officials joined Concern for Indepenent Living to host a groundbreaking ceremony for Concern Amityville, a new 60-unit affordable, supportive housing development for veterans and their families. (Oct. 23, 2012) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

The groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday for a 60-unit housing project for homeless military veterans and their families at a former Army Reserve base in North Amityville, with Sen. Charles Schumer joining dozens of Long Island government and business officials.

As many as 1,000 veterans are homeless across Long Island, he said. "This won't end the scourge of homelessness, but it will make a difference to these men and these women while addressing the problem on a national level," he said.

The $21 million project on Albany Avenue will offer a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments along with outreach, legal and vocational services. One-bedroom apartments will cost about $575 monthly and two bedrooms will be about $710.

Medford-based nonprofit Concern for Independent Living is the developer of what is to be called Concern Amityville.

Officials from Concern and Babylon Town enlisted Schumer, a Democrat, this year when funding for the project seemed to be threatened by the slow pace of transferring the 15.72-acre property from the Defense Department to the town and then to the developer.

His office sent letters to federal officials; it may have helped, he said Tuesday, that he used to room with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

The base closed in 2011 as part of a federal drive to consolidate military resources, and Tuesday's groundbreaking was celebrated under gray skies on a weedy parking lot.

An artist's rendering of the project on display promised a sunnier future with a collection of bright white condo-like units clustered around a central lawn with a playground.

Sgt. 1st Class Guillermo A. Castellon of the Bronx, who came with a handful of soldiers from the Farmingdale-based 310th Military Police Battalion, said the project could be a lifeline for veterans transitioning to civilian life. "You're used to military quarters, clothing, meals, and now . . . you have to adjust."

While the project has received official support, some neighbors said at a Babylon Town meeting last summer that they worried about residents with substance abuse or mental health problems.Concern's executive director, Ralph Fasano, said in response that they will screen out potential tenants who are "disruptive to the community."

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