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NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development
Press Room


July 21, 2000

From: Leewood Real Estate Group

Press Contacts:Jennifer Lipari, The Marino Organization Inc. (212) 889-0808


-$10.8 Million in New Developments Returns Mom & Pop Retailers to Neighborhood, Adds New Housing and More Retail Stores-

Commissioner Roberts to Join Community Leaders to Celebrate the Blossoming Rebirth of Mermaid Avenue

(Coney Island, NY)Coney Island, New York's original playground by the sea, is booming thanks to a series of development projects now taking shape along Mermaid Avenue - the community's main shopping strip. Construction of retail stores on two vacant blocks began today, and sales of mixed-use, "Mom & Pop" buildings have hit the 50 percent mark.

Collectively known as Mermaid Commons, the developments - which run from West 15th Street to West 28th Street, represent $10.8 million in public and private investment. A total of 43 residential units, 10,000 square feet of retail space and eight "Mom & Pop" buildings are now underway. The project is part of the Alliance for Neighborhood Commerce, HomeOwnership and Revitalization ("ANCHOR") / Partnership Plaza- a joint effort of the City of New York and the New York City Housing Partnership.

"Mermaid Commons exemplifies the remarkable turnaround of neighborhood commercial strips throughout the city. The ANCHOR / Partnership Plaza program has achieved its goals of attracting private investment, strengthening neighborhoods, providing housing and generating economic activity," said New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Richard T. Roberts. "We are thankful to all the players who have helped make this project a reality."

The "Mom & Pop" buildings are a prototype of an effort to reintroduce "Mom & Pop" retailers to neighborhood commercial strips throughout New York. The concept was introduced and implemented by Commissioner Roberts and consists of eight, three-story buildings each with ground floor retail space and two residential units on the upper floors. The owner of the buildings will operate the retail establishment on the ground floor, live in the second floor apartment, which is connected to the retail space, and lease the third floor to another family. Due to the success in Coney Island, similar projects will be launched in the other boroughs.

Each building will have a 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom owner's unit on the second floor and a 1,000 square foot ground floor retail space. In addition, there is a 1,200 square foot, three-bedroom rental unit on the top floor.

The buildings are being sold for $274,000. Factoring in the rent from the third floor, it is estimated that the net monthly carrying costs, including the owner's retail space, will be $1,055 - making the homes affordable for qualified purchasers with a total annual income as low as $48,000. Occupancy is slated for Winter 2000 / 2001.

"My wife and I are already in business in the neighborhood," said Chun ill Cho, a retail operator. "Now, under the City's new Mom and Pop initiative, we have the opportunity to not only operate a store, but we can live there as well and make it affordable by renting out the top floor apartment to another family. We are very excited to get started."

The new freestanding retail space is being constructed on a long-vacant blockfront bounded by West 15th and West 16th Streets, and an additional site on West 20th Street. With a total of 10,000 square feet of space, the facilities will include neighborhood retail services such as an optical center and a sign store.

Commenting on the new retail sites, Dr. Cohen and Dr. Azrikan, who are opening up the optical center, stated, "We look forward to being able to expand our professional services to better serve the Coney Island community, which we have been a part of for over half a century."

In addition to the "Mom & Pop" housing and the retail sites, 43 residential units - 19 of which are already under construction - are part of Mermaid Commons. The homes will be located between West 21st and West 24th Streets, and on West 28th Street. Construction will begin on the additional 24 units later this Fall. The funding for these 43 residential units will be provided by the City of New York through HPD and the State of New York through the Affordable Housing Corporation. The homes are part of the New York City Housing Partnership / HPD New Homes Program, and will sell for about $140,000, making them affordable to families with total incomes as low as $39,000.

The Affordable Housing Corporation (AHC) granted funds totaling $294,800 to assist with the development of 82 homeownership units on Mermaid Avenue. The grants were make in two phases in June of 1998 and June of 1999. "AHC is committed to providing financial resources that help hard working New Yorkers become homeowners. These grants are an example of how the AHC is carrying out Governor Pataki's commitment to create affordable housing in New York State," said Stephen J. Hunt, President and CEO of AHC. "Affordable housing is the cornerstone of a strong community. These grants are investments in the future of New York State and will have positive social and economic benefits for the homeowners and the Coney Island community for years to come."

Mermaid Commons is a development of R. Randy Lee, president and CEO of Leewood Real Estate Group and Seymour Sadkin. The marketing agent is the not-for-profit Astella Development Corporation.

In addition to Commissioner Roberts, the celebration for Mermaid Commons was attended by special guest New York City Housing Partnership President Charles A. Brass. Other attendees included elected officials, community leaders, and the families who will occupy the new homes and run the "Mom & Pops."

"Mermaid Commons is a prime example of public-private partnerships working together to revitalize residential and commercial areas throughout the City," said Brass. "We at the Partnership are very excited to be a part of the redevelopment of Mermaid Avenue and Coney Island."

"Encouraged by the success of its affordable housing projects, the City of New York, HPD and the Housing Partnership should be congratulated for implementing the ANCHOR / Partnership Plaza program," said R. Randy Lee, president and CEO of Leewood Real Estate Group. "We are especially thankful to Commissioner Roberts who was instrumental in designating Mermaid Avenue as part of the ANCHOR program." Lee continued, "This is a successful program that uses a new and innovative approach to community redevelopment by integrating the rebuilding of commercial corridors with the development of homeownership housing. We are proud to have been selected to work with the City on such a wonderful initiative."

"These last few years, through the development of new stores and homes, we have really seen how Mermaid Avenue has revitalized," said Judi Orlando, Executive Director of Astella Development Corporation. "Coney Island is being reborn. It's a great community with a bright future and we are excited to be a part of it."

To learn more about the available retail space, or to inquire about the "Mom & Pop" units, please call Astella Development Corporation at (718) 266-4653 or visit the office at 1618 Mermaid Avenue in Brooklyn.

The Leewood Real Estate Group of companies was founded in 1967 by R. Randy Lee. For over thirty years, Mr. Lee has been involved in every phase of the real estate and building industry, having developed/constructed over 4,000 units in New York City. As CEO of Leewood, he provides hands-on management to the Group's projects including design, construction, marketing and operational management, as well as acting as General Contractor. In addition, R. Randy Lee is the founder and managing partner of the Staten Island-based law firm Lee & Amtzis, LLP, which regularly represents real estate owners, lenders, developers, and home builders throughout the New York metropolitan area.

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