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Village unveils new Moxey Rigby housing complex

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The Village of Freeport unveiled the new Moxey Rigby affordable housing complex, dedicated to the late Judge Moxey Rigby and his family, on March 3.   

The new building, just 300 feet away from the old one on Buffalo Avenue, has 101 apartment units and is Nassau County’s largest-ever affordable housing development. 

Joe Cattano, chairman of the Freeport Housing Authority, said the project took two years to complete, and hundreds of residents moved in by the end of 2019. The ceremony in honor of Rigby, the village’s first African-American court judge, had been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It’s an honor that his name is being kept alive,” said John Williams, one of Rigby’s cousins. “Our family is indebted to Freeport, and we are humbled.” 

“I’ve been in Freeport for about 77 years now and got to see the old Moxey Rigby building go up,” Cattano said. “It served its purpose, but we needed to either repair it or replace it . . . and now we have a new, state-of-the-art complex for our residents.” 

The new building, which has a New England shingle-style design, sits on 2.44 acres, and has a footprint of 34,634 square feet. Apartments range from one to four bedrooms, and are about 25 percent larger than the units in the old complex. Rent is based on a tenant’s income.  

The $65 million project features a new playground, 100 parking spots, a basketball court, two trash rooms on each floor, laundry rooms, community rooms, individually controlled heating and air conditioning in each unit, key fob entry, security systems, elevators and an intercom system.

John Hrvatin, the director of the FHA, who was credited with overseeing successful completion of the project, said the new building is very different from the old, dilapidated one.   

The old complex was built more than 70 years ago as Rigby’s vision on what public housing in Freeport could be. Rigby, an immigrant from the Bahamas, grew up in Freeport and graduated from Freeport High School. With a love for the village and law, Rigby became a lawyer and rose through the ranks as Freeport and Nassau County’s first African-American elected judge. He went on to serve Freeport as vice chairman of the FHA. 

While the first Moxey Rigby complex signified a commitment to affordable housing, the years began catching up with the building, as its lack of central heating and cooling, elevators and adequate parking increasingly became a burden for residents. 

While the FHA maintained the building, the problems were only exacerbated when Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012 and flooded the lower levels with as much as 10 feet of saltwater. Rather than spending millions to repair the old building, the FHA built the new Moxey Rigby. 

Hrvatin oversaw the planning and construction for the next seven years, working with local, county and state officials to secure the funds and necessary permits to build the project. 

“It was a tremendous undertaking, but I know this is going to be a model for the community on what affordable housing can be,” Hrvatin said.   

Aside from modernizing the building, Hrvatin explained that the new Moxey Rigby needed to be able to spare its residents from reliving the nightmare that was Superstorm Sandy.  

Robert Pascucci, president of Jobco Inc., which led the construction of the building, said the request was a key element of the new complex. The new Moxey Rigby was raised by six feet, and no residential units are located on the first floor.  

“Even in a 1,000-year storm, there would be no flooding in the residential area,” Pascucci said. 

The building’s mechanical equipment is also stored on the roof to protect it and ensure its continued operation in the event of a flood.  

When residents moved into the new building on Dec. 10, 2019, Freeporter Claribel Baez told the Herald that her family was in awe of the contrast between the new building and the old one. 

“I feel more motivated to live here,” Baez said. “I feel so clear and happy. Everything is new, and we’re the first people to use everything. It’s like a fresh start for us.”