Sawpit Senior Apartments, an affordable housing development in Port Chester targeted for senior citizens, had its formal dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 27, with some seniors already having moved in.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer along with other county, municipal and state officials were on hand to officially open the apartments at 37 S. Regent St.
The name Sawpit Senior Apartments pays tribute to both the village of Port Chester, which before being known as Port Chester was known as the Sawpit, and the classic Italian restaurant Sawpit that had been next door to the site of the new apartments. A new iteration, the restaurant Sergio’s Saw Pit, now operates at 25 S. Regent St.
The developer of the affordable housing project is Lou Larizza, whose company is Lazz Development, based in Port Chester. Larizza has created affordable housing projects in many Westchester communities. Lazz repurposed a parking lot that had been used by the adjacent strip mall to become the site of the Sawpit Senior Apartments.
Last year, the Housing Action Council in Tarrytown promoted a lottery for the 34 rental apartments in the four-story building. There are 31 one-bedroom units and three two-bedroom units. Six of the apartments are designed specifically for people with mobility impairments while two are designed for people with sensory or hearing impairments.
Literature showed that rents began at $619 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $739 for a two-bedroom apartment. Rents topped out at $1,241 for one-bedroom units and $1,484 for a two-bedroom. Income eligibility was limited to $52,860 for a one-person household, $60,420 for two people, $67,970 for three people and $75,480 for four people.
Residents must be at least age 62. Amenities that the building offers include a community room, fitness center, balconies and fully equipped kitchens.
New York state’s Commissioner of Housing and Community Renewal (HCR), RuthAnne Visnauskas, placed the cost of the development at $17 million. In May 2019, Latimer announced that $5 million had been awarded to the project in a grant from HCR. The county had already committed $4.3 million in funding for land acquisition and infrastructure.
“A developer who has experience in developing affordable housing is not easy to find,” Latimer said. “There are many people out there who do very good development work; they can build buildings 30, 40, 50 stories high in a market that has a sure guarantee of return on investment. You’re seeing a lot of that kind of development going up around train stations across Westchester County with proximity to New York City being the important situation.”
Latimer praised Larizza for having the vision and persistence to create the Sawpit project as well as other affordable housing complexes he’s built in Westchester communities such as North Castle and Rye.
Latimer said that the problems associated with getting an affordable housing project off the drawing board and keeping it financially viable are enough to make the average person say, ‘I’m not going to do this. It’s not worth my time and energy and effort.’”
Larizza said he has dedicated his entire construction career of 38 years to affordable housing.
“Everything in my life is dedicated on the ‘Ds’ — dedication, determination and discipline,” Larizza said, adding that there’s a fourth D, especially in football: defense.
Noting that he has worked on projects in 18 different municipalities in Westchester, Larizza said, “Some take longer than others but we continue to push forward to create affordable housing. And, it couldn’t happen without my partner, Mike Martino.” He also praised his wife and other Larizza family members for their efforts.
Norma Drummond, the county’s planning commissioner, said, “It’s always great to work with developers who understand not just the financing of affordable housing and the land use approvals, but understand how important it is to each and every person that’s going to move in the door and call these units home.”
County Legislator Nancy Barr emphasized that Westchester County is far short of the number of affordable housing units it needs.
“Affordable is usually considered a good word and yet somehow when we talk about in the context of housing it has a different meaning,” Barr said. “Some people think it’s not as good because it has the word affordable in front of it. But, as you can see from the outside and if you get a chance to look inside, in no way is this a place that is any less than any other place you might look at.”