On November 11, the recently completed Agudath Israel Community Services Center, at 4006 18th Avenue (corner of East 5th Street), welcomed its first “tenant,” as it became the new home of Agudath Israel’s Southern Brooklyn Community Organization (SBCO). Known for over three decades as the pre-eminent housing organization in Borough Park, SBCO, together with its sister agency the Ocean Parkway Community Development Corporation (OPCDC), which serves the Kensington community, will as a result, be able to deliver services in a more efficient manner and more friendly environment, according to agency officials.
“Surprising as it may seem,” says executive director Rabbi Yaakov Lebovits, “we had been in our original offices for 32 years. Not only was office space limited, but our agency’s activities have expanded exponentially over the years to meet the ever growing housing needs of the community.
“To put it mildly, we felt overcrowded. And, at times, it affected the efficiency of our operations. This new, modern and more spacious facility will enable SBCO’s staff to work more efficiently, and help clients feel more comfortable as they receive the help we provide.”
Agudath Israel of America developed the Community Service Center with the assistance of grants from New York City and New York State, to better accommodate the growth in the number of Agudath Israel divisions, facilitate the expansion of services and better serve the citizens who comprise its client base. The consolidation of several divisions under one roof will result in substantial “economies of scale” (economic benefits that result from expansion), increased efficiency of operation and reduction in rental costs – and will provide the capacity to further expand services to the community.
The Center’s location is another advantage. A mere block from Ocean Parkway, a main thoroughfare extending off the Prospect Expressway, and easily accessible by public transportation, clients and program participants who live in Borough Park or rely on public transportation will find getting to SBCO’s offices a breeze. The 18th Avenue stop on the F train is just three blocks away, and the B-8 bus stops directly at the site.
SBCO’s activities include the development of affordable housing (the latest project in the pipeline is the development of 68 affordable, four-bedroom condominium units); mortgage counseling – including down payment grants for eligible first-time homebuyers; foreclosure prevention counseling for homeowners at risk of losing their homes (over 100 clients were assisted over the past ten months); assistance in obtaining housing entitlements, home improvement and energy conservation loans; and senior services at SBCO’s senior housing projects.
“The premises are fully handicapped-accessible,” adds Tom Bauer, OPCDC’s Administrative Director, “enabling us to serve the disabled in a comfortable and confidential setting. This becomes especially important given the fact that when families in southern Brooklyn call 311 regarding a Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE), our number is the one they are often given to obtain assistance.”
“We at SBCO and OPCDC,” adds Rabbi Lebovits, “are excited over the move. And we are determined to make the most of our new offices, to the benefit of the entire community.”