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More than 900 looking for affordable rentals apply to live at Peconic Crossing

Frances Twyman is a great-grandmother from Riverhead.

She lives in emergency housing and more than 80 percent of her income goes to rent.  

If selected to live in one of the new affordable apartments at Peconic Crossing in downtown Riverhead, Ms. Twyman would see a significant decrease in what she pays for housing.

“It would mean a lot,” she said. “I’m a senior and I have a part-time job, but I’m on social security. So hopefully, I will have a little change in my pocket.”

Ms. Twyman was one of 901 applicants for space in the 45-unit mixed income Peconic Crossing apartments on West Main Street.

Frances Twyman, right, is congratulated by Paul Fink of CDCLI.

On Friday, the Community Development Corporation of Long Island, which is building the structure in partnership with Conifer Realty, held a lottery in Riverhead Town Hall to help determine who gets to live in those apartments.

They picked the names of applicants out in a lottery, starting with number one, and going all the way to 901. Ms. Twyman came in at No. 19.

Most of those people were not in attendance, which is not unusual in lotteries, according to Gwen O’Shea, the president and CEO of CDCLI, because most people are working in the daytime.

But there were enough there to fill the Riverhead Town Hall meeting room.

“We recognized that here on Long Island, between 45 and 50 percent of us say we have difficulty covering our rent or our mortgage, and we know that more than 50 percent of us spend more than 30 percent of our income on housing costs,” Ms. O’Shea said. “That means we then have to cut corners in other areas.”

People who were selected in the lottery aren’t necessarily guaranteed a spot in the apartment complex.

They still must meet income requirements and be subjected to a very limited criminal check, said Ms. O’Shea, who expects the apartments to be open by July.

Top preference would go to someone who is both an artist and was displaced by a storm, such as Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Irene, of which there were five entries, she said.

Artists were the next highest preference, of which there were 99 entries, and storm survivors who aren’t artists were next, with 11 entries.

Michael Panagakos and Anilee Bishop hope to live in Peconic Crossing

That’s good news for Anilee Bishop of Aquebogue and her boyfriend, Michael Panagakos.

She’s an artist and photographer, and he was displaced from his home during Superstorm Sandy.

“For the past six years, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom,” Ms. Bishop said. “Everything has been focused on the kids and focused on cleaning.

“I need a place that’s affordable. The rents around here are absolutely ridiculous. People are renting basements for $2,000 a month.”

A lower rent would translate to more time for her art and children, she hopes.

Mr. Panagakos, who moved to the East End a year and a half ago, was living in Long Beach in Nassau County during Sandy.

“I lived in a one-bedroom apartment that was level from the ground,” he said. “We had four-feet, 11-inches of salt water, oil and sewage go through the apartment. We lost everything.”

Lottery hopefuls said there’s a limited supply of places to rent, most of which are not designated affordable.

“It’s very expensive to live out here, but I want to stay here,” said Julie Morris, 23, of Bayport, who is also an artist. “Many people my age have to live with their parents.”

Peconic Crossing will have a 1,200-square-foot artist’s gallery on the ground level, Ms. O’Shea said. It will be managed by East End Arts Council and the art displays will be open to the public.

Residents of Peconic Crossing must meet area median income ($76,160 for a family of two) levels ranging from 50 percent of AMI in five of the units, 60 percent in 35 of the units, and 90 percent in five units. Rents will range from $976 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,562 for a two bedroom apartment.

Since federal money is being used, there are no local residency preferences, officials said.

Among the amenities planned for the apartments are a fifth-floor community room with scenic views of the Peconic River, access to the Long Island Rail Road and Grangebel Park, on-site laundry facilities and a fitness center.

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