BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — During the 18 years that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio led the Diocese of Brooklyn, 1,629 affordable housing units were created in 22 buildings that were built or renovated.
In recognition of his leadership, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens has renamed its very first affordable housing structure for low-income senior citizens.
The name change was made official with the Feb. 10 ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Bishop DiMarzio, who retired in November, and his successor, Bishop Robert Brennan. It is now called the Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio Residence, located at 55 Pierrepont St., Brooklyn Heights.
It once was the Pierrepont Hotel, built in 1928, but CCBQ turned it into a home for seniors in 1979. It has since gone through several renovations. CCBQ’s Progress of Peoples Development Corporation (POP) builds and manages the organization’s affordable housing portfolio.
Tim McManus, senior vice president of POP, said all the work achieved under Bishop DiMarzio’s leadership “totaled over $595 million in housing investment” for low-income seniors and families.
“It’s also essential to understand this comprehensive approach to housing,” McManus added. “None of this is straightforward stuff, and none of this is easy. And to be clear, none of this is possible without the giants — specifically, individuals like Bishop DiMarzio — who have provided guidance and leadership to make all of this possible.
“I like to say I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Bishop DiMarzio downplayed his role in developing the affordable housing that CCQB achieved during his tenure.
“I’m so proud of what has happened there at Catholic Charities,” Bishop DiMarzio told the audience before snipping the ribbon. “It sounds like I did all of it, but no, I just said ‘yes.’
“When the projects came, I said, ‘Go for it. Do it. It sounds good.’”
But Bishop Brennan, during his remarks, added some perspective. He explained that simply saying “yes” is not that simple. It involves recognizing talent, understanding good ideas, and trusting people to see them through completion.
Bishop Brennan is a former auxiliary bishop for the nearby Diocese of Rockville Centre. He said being “neighbors” from across Long Island gave him the chance to observe Bishop DiMarzio’s work.
“Bishop DiMarzio is known as a strong voice for the poor, particularly for the immigrant,” Bishop Brennan said. “He really does stand behind everything he says.”
Later, Bishop Brennan said parishioners and pastors consistently express their concerns about affordable housing as he travels throughout the diocese. He said he sees it as a great need that will command his attention, as it did his predecessor’s.
“It really is a source of great pride for me to be able to follow in the steps of Bishop DiMarzio,” Bishop Brennan said.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio Residence is 17 stories high with 188 units in Brooklyn Heights, a neighborhood known for its pricey brownstones.
This residence, however, provides low-income seniors with housing, support services, a community center, and dining facilities. Its penthouse patio offers sweeping views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and lower Manhattan.
“St. John Paul II said a home is much more than a roof over one’s head,” Bishop DiMarzio told the audience. “It’s a place for seeking one’s life and building one’s life. You just can’t have a room to stay; you need to have the companionship of other people, to help others when they’re in need. And that’s what’s unique about Catholic Charities’ housing — the supportive services that go with it really make it very, very unique, and very, very important.”
Later, Bishop DiMarzio expanded on the honor of seeing his name attached to the building.
“It was good we didn’t have to take anybody’s name off of it,” he said with a chuckle. “It hadn’t been named. It was just Pierrepont, after the street.
“It’s a beautiful place. So it’s nice to have something of beauty named after you. Hopefully, people will continue to enjoy it for many more years in service.”