New Bedford Park Housing Complex is a Bridge for Young and Old

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The new Serviam Gardens complex sits on the campus of Mt. St. Ursula Academy in Bedford Park. (Photo by Adi Talwar. See slideshow below for more.)

The seedlings in the raised garden beds behind the campus of the Academy of Mount Saint Ursula have just begun to sprout; lettuce and tomato plants sowed over the last few months by an unlikely team: the seniors who live here and the teenage girls who go to class next door.

Residents call this scenic spot the “Intergenerational Garden” because it straddles the space between the historic all-girls' high school and a brand new, $65 million affordable housing project for seniors that officially opened yesterday. Here, the students are encouraged to stop by after class to mingle with the older residents or volunteer their time to help out in the garden.

“The girls love coming over here,” said Sister Mary Alice Giordano, a teacher at Mount Saint Ursula's and a member of the Ursuline Sisters, the group that runs the Bedford Park school. “One of them said to me the other day, 'I love learning about the old days from someone who actually lived through it.'”

The Ursuline Sisters leased the property surrounding an unused former convent to the Fordham Bedford Housing Corporation, which, recognizing the neighborhood's need for more senior citizen housing, spent the past several years converting the space-which includes two newly built buildings-into a stunning 296 unit apartment complex, named Serviam Gardens.

“This is a terrific project for so many reasons,” said Abby Jo Sigal, of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a Manhattan-based organization which collaborated on and helped secure funding for the ambitious undertaking. “It's really a testament to Fordham Bedford's work.”

The end result is luxury-style living for the 296 seniors who now call Serviam Gardens home. The complex is the first city subsidized affordable housing development that meets certain “green building” criteria required by HPD for new construction projects, to minimize waste and maximize energy efficiency and water conservation.

Tanks collect rain to water plants on the rooftop garden, which offers views of the nearby Botanical Garden, Fordham University and a hazy Manhattan skyline off in the distance.

The three buildings that make up the development are all connected, so residents can visit their neighbors in bad weather without having to step outside. Other on-premise treats: a movie theatre-style entertainment room, fitness room and gym, library and a game room with billiards and ping-pong tables.

“No one, including myself, actually dreamed of having this quality of living and this quality of housing at this stage of our lives,” said Tony Carter, who was the first tenant to move into Serviam Gardens when the first building was completed in 2009. When he first moved in, he marveled at how each apartment has it's own thermostat and air conditioner, recalling New York City apartments of his youth where the temperature was