Local youths help rebuild Riverside — while earning diplomas

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Kyshawn Trent helps install a mixture of newspapers and borate as insulation in an affordable rental property in Riverside.

Ask Kyshawn Trent what he thinks of the YouthBuild Long Island program.

With a huge smile across his face he will tell you simply, “The world.”

YouthBuild Long Island — a federally funded program that helps troubled youths — partnered with the Southampton Town Housing Authority in an environmentally conscious gutting and renovation of a three bedroom, two bathroom house on Ludlam Avenue in Riverside.

Mr. Trent, 23, of Riverhead, has been helping rehab the house, which will be the Southampton Housing Authority’s first single-family home to be used for affordable rental housing. And he’s earning his GED and vocational skills along the way.

YouthBuild members and town officials gathered at the house Wednesday afternoon to demonstrate the work they’ve done by pumping into its walls a shredded newspaper and borate mixture that, when compressed, is denser than cement. That airtight insulation is fire resistant and hated by insects and other pests.

Officials hope the home, which they describe as obtainable or a combination of sustainable and affordable housing, will be livable by the end of January.

“They see the transformation of not only themselves,” said Rick Wertheim, senior vice president of the United Way of Long Island, which oversees the youth program. “With their own hands, they transform their community.”

The house, with its recycled insulation, will be 30 percent more energy efficient than the average house, Mr. Wertheim added. It will also will be ready for solar panels, which housing authority officials said will be added when their budget allows.

The renovation of the long-vacant home was much-needed, town officials said.

“It was in need of repair for a very long time,” said Southampton Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, the Town Board liaison to the housing authority.

It is not clear exactly how much the housing authority, which aims to one day become economically self-sufficient, will charge for rent. But Ann Gajowski the housing authority’s assistant director said it will be within federal Housing and Urban Development guidelines. Bonnie Cannon, the authority’s chairperson, assured the rate would be affordable for needy town residents.

“This is the first of, we are hoping, many projects to move forward,” Ms. Cannon said.

She said that when the authority finally places tenants there, it may be able to show residents who have resisted the idea of affordable rental units in their neighborhoods, that it can be a positive for the community.

“Our intention is to make this a poster child,” Ms. Gujawski said.

She could not immediately provide figures as to the price of renovating the house, but she said the housing authority put up a substantial portion of the cost. The authority, which Ms. Gujawski describes as a “quasi-government agency,” is funded in part through seed money from Southampton Town.

Ms. Cannon and Ms. Gujawski said they hope to partner with YouthBuild on future projects and to continue having local youths rebuilding their community.

“It’s taught me a lot of values, about myself, family, education,” said 24-year-old Riverhead resident Jasmine Chambers. “It turned out to be a lot more than a GED.”

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