The developer of a controversial Harlem complex that would have brought 915 new apartments to an underutilized stretch of 145th Street — half of which would have been income restricted — has scuttled the plan ahead of a subcommittee vote on the project Tuesday morning.
The City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted to remove One45 from the Tuesday's agenda because, “the developer submitted a letter saying they’re withdrawing it,” attorney Angelina Martinez-Rubio told subcommittee members at a public hearing.
Bruce Teitelbaum, with PointsFive developers, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
From the get-go, the proposed 31-story residential towers slated for a stretch of West 145th Street and Lenox Avenue — which currently houses Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and several other businesses — had faced fierce political headwinds.
Teitelbaum had envisioned a combination of retail and residential space along the sprawling lot, with a rooftop events space and an “ECO-green Quad.” But the local community board and newly installed Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan vehemently opposed the project.
Amid the pushback, the developer made several rounds of last-minute concessions, first bumping up the percentage of subsidized units from 25 percent — required through the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program — to 40 percent ahead of the presentation to the City Council earlier this month. Finally, on Friday, developers agreed to increase the level of subsidized units again up to 50 percent of the development.
The final proposal included 457 market rate apartments, 91 apartments for two-family households earning around 125 percent of the Area Median Income or AMI, 255 apartments at up to 50 percent AMI, and 112 apartments for the city’s lowest income residents, who earn less than $32,040 for a family of two. Supporters of the project say its withdrawal will likely result in no affordable housing being built at the location.
But Councilmember Richardson Jordan insisted the affordability levels still weren’t in line with the needs of her district. She argued all of the apartments in the new complex should be rent regulated with 57 percent of them set aside for lowest income New Yorkers, in a Medium post. The plot of land would be a prime candidate for the city housing agency's Extremely Low & Low-Income Affordability subsidy program, or ELLA, where 80 percent of the units are for low income tenants and 20 percent are for moderate income households, she said.
“Doing a big project in that space with great affordability is not impossible when we take greed out of the equation,” she said. “If the developers are willing to work with me and the community on something that matches our needs better, I look forward on working with them in the future."
The project had received support from the unions 32BJ and Laborers Local 79. And not all city officials were happy about its demise. Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who’d initially opposed the development, lamented the project’s loss, given that Teitelbaum had agreed to increase the number of subsidized apartments up to half, the main thing he’d advocated for.
“The site will indefinitely remain as is — a vacant lot, an abandoned gas station, and a small amount of single story retail. If the owner of the property proceeds with development under as-of-right limits, it will likely become a self-storage facility,” Levine said in a statement. “The desperate need for additional affordable housing in Harlem, and citywide, is getting ever more acute.”
Council spokesperson Mandela Jones said city lawmakers remain committed to creating affordable housing.
“There is a baseline expectation for how applicants can work constructively with the Council, local communities, and the administration to advance projects through the land use process that requires active and meaningful engagement," he said in an emailed statement. "We hope the applicant’s withdrawal of the current proposal, given its challenges and lack of community support, opens an opportunity to chart a successful path forward for affordable housing.”