NEW YORK – The St. Michael’s home for the elderly, one of the most beloved institutions of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, took a giant step into the future on November 20 when it closed on the property for its new state of the art continuing care facility in Uniondale, NY.
Archbishop Demetrios of America was present, along with Bishop Andonios of Phasiane, the Director of St. Michael’s, Haeda Mihaltses and Peter Lambros, president and vice president, respectively, of the Home’s Board and other Board members.
Also present were attorneys for Alma Bank, which provided a $2 million loan to facilitate the purchase of the $7 million property, and the Home’s attorneys, of the firm of Ruskin Moscou Faltischek. Dean Skelos, New York State Senate Majority Leader, who is of counsel to the firm and has been helpful to the Home’s efforts, was also at the closing.
The purchase and rehabilitation of the 11 acre property, including the main 90,000 sq. ft. building will lead to the creation of 26 one bedroom independent living apartments, at least 50 studios for independent or assisted living, and a dementia wing and a nursing home wing.
There will be a total of 150 residents – the current facility has about 60.
The Board is looking into ancillary services, including day care.
It is estimated that $18 million is needed to convert the building, which was previously owned by Catholic Church.
“It’s an expensive proposition but we feel it needs to happen. For too long we have not provide our elderly with the type of facility they deserve. We have so many people scattered in different secular and non-Orthodox facilities,” Bishop Andonios said, adding that “it’ time the Greek Orthodox community in the Tri-State area,” had a first rate facility – “Tis Prokopis” he said in Greek.
It is hoped that everything will be completed in 5 years. In addition to the construction the time-consuming work of obtaining two or three state licenses has to be completed.
Currently located in Yonkers, the Home was established in 1957 by Archbishop Michael of blessed memory and effectively and humanely meets a vital community need.
Bishop Andonios, who also serves as Chancellor of the Archdiocese, told TNH that, “More than a decade ago the Board of Trustees and His Grace realized the current facility was not sufficient for the community. We often had a waiting list for rooms but the main concern was that the current license as a residential adult care facility created issues because it could not retain many residents who because of the aging process needed more care than we wer licensed to offer.”
When they were unable to find the right property in Westchester, they expanded the search.
In late 2012 they were made aware about a facility at 1220 Front Street in Uniondale, NY, close to several parishes including St. Pauls in Hempstead, St. Demetrios in Merrick, and the Church of the Resurrection in Glen Cove.
In June 2013 they reached an agreement and a $700,000 deposit was made as a binder.
There were contingencies that had to be met to make sure they their plan would be approved by the local zoning board, so they proceed with their due diligence and hired the right consultants and experts. The Town of Hempstead reviewed the application in September, 2014.
Closing costs totaled $315,000.
Bishop Andonios said all The Board was involved, led by Haeda Mihaltses , the President. People with valuable expertise, who were brought on board through the years with the project in mind, spearheaded particular parts of it.
Bishop Andonios said it is fortunate that among the past Board members was Saki Yakas, a partner of SLCE architects, which designed the George Douris Tower, a senior citizens residence in Astoria. After some initial pro bono work he was hired to design the new facilities.
The project’s timeframe will be dictated by the pace of the fundraising. Once they have a sizable portion off the funds they will start the total gutting and renovation of the existing building.
There will be 26 one bedroom independent living apartments, at least 50 studios for independent or assisted living, and a dementia wing and a nursing home wing, all located in the main building
The builder will be selected in an open process down the line. ”We know quite a few builders in the community and we will give everyone an opportunity to bid on the project,” the Bishop said.
Asked if thought had been given to keeping the old facility open, Bishop Andonios explained, “it doesn’t make sense to keep two facilities with duplicate administration. He pointed out the current facility’s limitations, including the fact that some rooms are doubles and not all rooms have private baths.
He expects the fundraising activity to ramp up now. Major donors to date include the estate of Irene Ladas, and Elenie Angelopoulos, who each donated $1million.
The Bishop noted that “People are more receptive to giving when you have something to show them and until he had a piece of property and a building and the plans for the building.”
Most of the Home’s regular fundraising is geared to subsidizing the people who cannot afford to be at the home.