Orient native closes on hamlet’s first Habitat for Humanity house

Karl, Melissa and Angie Ruhry with Michael Bredemeyer at Monday's ceremony. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

It’s not often that someone is handed the keys to a new home while 40 people are standing in the living room waiting for them.

Then again, few houses are constructed with the same level of community effort as Michael Bredemeyer’s new home on Greenway East in Orient. 

Angie Ruhry said she heard about the house, the first Habitat for Humanity project in Orient, through an article she read in The Suffolk Times. Ms. Ruhry, who along with her husband, Karl, and daughter, Melissa, run the Peter K. Ruhry Keys to Hope Foundation in memory of their son, made a “substantial donation” to help fund construction of Mr. Bredemeyer’s home, according to Habitat for Humanity.

On Monday, the part-time Southold residents handed Mr. Bredemeyer his new set of keys.

“We knew this was something Peter would want us to do,” Ms. Ruhry said of her son, who lost his battle with addiction in December 2010. Since then, the family uses the funds their organization raises to support one project a year they believe he would have supported.

Ms. Ruhry said several surreal moments occurred during demolition of the abandoned house that previously occupied the property to cement the family’s belief this was a project Peter would have supported. One took place when Ms. Ruhry learned that Mr. Bredemeyer, now 28, was the same age as her son. Another was when local photographer Randee Daddona, shooting for Newsday, captured the moment an excavator pulled from the rubble a single acoustic guitar that looked eerily similar to the one shown in their foundation’s logo.

“What we saw at the teardown showed us there is no such thing as coincidence,” Ms. Ruhry said. “That was God winking at us.”

To show their appreciation for the Ruhrys’ support, Mr. Bredemeyer’s parents, John and Beverly, planted a Cherokee Brave dogwood in the front yard of the new home Monday and dedicated it in memory of Peter.

The Ruhrys weren’t the only local family or organization to be thanked during the dedication of Mr. Bredemeyer’s new home on Monday.

Habitat for Humanity director of development Les Scheinfeld and CEO Diane Burke noted the contribution of Latham Sand & Gravel, which donated its services for the demolition effort in memory of late Soundview Inn founder Jack Levin. Southold Plumbing and Heating and Flanders Heating and Air Conditioning also donated labor to see the project to completion. Town, county and state officials were also recognized at the event, during which Pastor Garrett Johnson of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church blessed the house.

Monday’s ceremony brought to a close a more than three-year effort to revitalize the property with an affordable house. It was in March 2013 that Suffolk County’s 72H affordable housing program identified the parcel as a candidate for a Habitat for Humanity project.

The county then offered the property to Southold Town for affordable housing and also allocated community development grant funding to assist with the costs.

The previous house had been abandoned since 1988 and was in a state of disrepair, Ms. Burke said. Mr. Scheinfeld added that while not all Habitat for Humanity builds are met with support from neighbors, that was certainly not the case in Orient.

“In this instance it was very positive and wonderful,” he said

Mr. Bredemeyer, center, stands in front of his new house with the Ruhry family and local business, government and Habitat for Humanity officials Monday.
Mr. Bredemeyer, center, stands in front of his new house with the Ruhry family and local business, government and Habitat for Humanity officials Monday.

Mr. Bredemeyer, a state parks department employee from Orient, was one of five qualified applicants who applied for the opportunity to purchase the home. He said he’d long desired to buy a home in Orient, but hadn’t found an affordable way to do so. He also noted that many of his friends had left the area, unable to afford a home here.

To qualify, Mr. Bredemeyer had to show that he had no excessive credit card debt or multiple bills in collection, hadn’t declared bankruptcy in five years and had maintained a stable income for 12 months. He also had to prove that his gross income fell within the guidelines for Habitat housing.

As part of his agreement with Habitat, Mr. Bredemeyer also had to contribute 300 hours of hands-on build time, or “sweat equity,” and will continue to work with the organization on other buildouts.

Mr. Bredemeyer, who closed on the house Friday, is now responsible for paying his own mortgage — which is calculated based on the final cost of construction and takes the homeowner’s income into consideration. Habitat continues to hold a stake in the property so that if it’s sold, much of the appreciation will be used by the organization to continue its programs. Habitat also writes a covenant in the deed requiring that the house be sold at an affordable price to another family eligible for affordable housing.

Before construction of Mr. Bredemeyer’s home, the 22 houses at The Cottages in Mattituck were the only residences in the Town of Southold covered by resale price restrictions, town officials have said.

Southold’s government liaison officer, Denis Noncarrow, who attended Monday’s event on behalf of Supervisor Scott Russell, said he hopes this particular project is only the tip of the iceberg for bringing affordable housing to the town.

“I know there are so many people in town who were excited to be a part of this,” he said. “So many people who worked on this, even though they will never live here.”

Mr. Bredemeyer joked that more than two years after he learned he’d been selected to purchase the home, he was handed the keys in the midst of a heat wave.

“I’ll probably move in this week but it’s been pretty hot,” he said with a smile. “I was moving boxes the other day and I could only get one bedroom done.”

Of course, it’s tough to complain, he acknowledged, when he can finally move out of mom and dad’s house and into his own home in the community where he was raised.

“We know he’s going to have many wonderful years here,” Ms. Ruhry said.

Top Caption: Karl, Melissa and Angie Ruhry with Michael Bredemeyer at Monday’s ceremony. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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