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Nonprofit celebrates new tower, man who inspired it

As members of the nonprofit group HANAC Inc. cut the ribbon on their new, 15-story tower, they celebrated not only the new affordable senior housing in Astoria but their organization’s founder, George Douris.

“This is HANAC’s new home and what a wonderful home this is,” said Evangeline Douris, chairwoman of HANAC’s board of directors and the founder’s widow.

At the grand opening of the George T. Douris Tower, at 27-40 Hoyt Ave. South in Astoria, officials from HANAC, which stands for the Hellenic American National Action Committee, the numerous current and former elected officials spoke of the legacy of George Douris.

A journalist and public relations executive, Douris created HANAC in Astoria in 1972. The organization now serves elderly and young people as well as families and new immigrants.

“George Douris was a man of warmth, gusto and vision who wanted the best for all New Yorkers,” said John Kaiteris, executive director of HANAC.

Yet the vision for the tower, which contains 183 one-bedroom apartments for seniors who earn up to 58 percent of the area median income — right now $32,132 for a person living alone — was begun almost 10 years after Douris’ death. Kaiteris said HANAC conceived of the project in 2004 and after the plans solidified in 2005, construction began and the building started taking in residents in 2009.

HANAC built the tower on the site of a 43,829-square-foot municipal parking lot in exchange for building a public parking garage, construction of which will begin in July, said Kaiteris. In addition to the apartments, the building contains an exercise room, a meditation room, a game and TV room, a computer room, a conference room and a library. HANAC’s JVL-Dimotsis-Vallone Senior Center was also moved into the first floor of the building.

The Douris Tower also incorporates “green” features to save energy, including a plant-covered roof, water-conserving plumbing, appliances approved by the U.S. government under the energy-efficient ENERGY STAR label, solar lighting and more. Paula Rosenberg, of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said the tower uses 20 percent less energy than equivalent buildings to New York State code.

“The tenants will pay less for utilities, making this truly affordable housing,” Rosenberg said.

The building, which cost approximately $42 million, was funded in numerous ways by the NYC Housing Development Corp., Citi Community Capital, Enterprise, the state Division of Housing and Community’s Renewal, former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr., state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), the city Department of Housing, the Federal Home Loan Bank and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria). Sections of the building have been named after Maloney, Gianaris, Borough President Helen Marshall and the Vallone family.

The project was not without controversy. Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said some residents objected to the loss of the municipal parking lot at the time of its creation.

But another resident, 86-year-old Irene Phillips, said she loved living at the tower.

“My little piece of paradise,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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