Developers of a controversial 31-story complex in Central Harlem said they would add an additional 150 rent-subsidized apartments to the sprawling complex they want to build on West 145th Street and Lenox Ave, including an additional 90 apartments for the lowest income New Yorkers, ahead of the City Council hearing Tuesday morning.
Still, Harlem-based Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan slammed the last-minute changes to the plan as “11th hour breadcrumbs,” urging her colleagues in the Council to block the proposal and imploring the developers to go back to the drawing board.
“It’s not too late to do the right thing,” Jordan, a progressive Democrat, said during a subcommittee hearing on the project. “[It] is going to [cause] displacement to my community.”
The project has been a lightning rod as it’s made its way through the city’s multi-layered land rezoning process and was opposed by both the local community board and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine in recent months. While Levine and the board's recommendations are purely advisory, Jordan's position arguably matters most as Council members typically defer their positions to their colleague whose district would be impacted by a proposed project.
At issue is a development dubbed One45, a 915-unit project spread across two towers, spanning most of a city block and including retail space and a rooftop event space. The block currently houses low-slung commercial spaces, including the headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the soul food restaurant Sweet Mama, and some vacant land, but no residences.
The Council has until June 14 to review the proposal and vote on whether to allow the developer to move ahead.
Bruce Teitelbaum, one of the project’s developers who is also pushing to redevelop a swath of the Long Island City waterfront, added last-minute tweaks to the plans in an effort to sweeten the proposal, increasing the percentage of subsidized apartments to 40% of the total development, or 367 apartments. That was up from the 25% required through the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program.
Some of those additional units are now slated for part of the plot where Sharpton and his Civil Rights Foundation were planning a new Civil Rights Museum. The group rescinded its plan last week, deciding the community would be better served by having more affordable apartments on the site, Patch reported.
“We’re trying to be responsive to local concerns,” Teitelbaum said in an interview with Gothamist.
Teitelbaum said the development would run on geothermal energy that surrounding buildings could tap into to lower their carbon footprint, creating a “Green Energy District.”
“There’s a massive, huge, acute housing crisis in New York,” he said. “It is getting impossible to find an affordable apartment.”
But critics argued that at least half of the development’s apartments should be rent-regulated, and they should be available at lower rent rates that regular Harlemites can afford.
“Much has been said to the community that we should embrace this proposal because of the added number of affordable units,” said Manhattan Community Board 10 member Karen Dixon, at the Tuesday hearing. “Why should we settle when the needs in the community [are] greater than what is proposed?”
The revised plan sets aside an estimated 173 apartments, or about a fifth of the complex, for “very low” and “extremely low” income households, defined as a family of two that earns $53,400, though about half of Harlem households land below that threshold. The rest of the 194 subsidized units would be open to New Yorkers earning between 60% and 80% of the area’s median income, $64,080 and $85,440 for a family of two, a spokesperson for the developers said.
Levine reiterated his concerns after learning of the latest plan put forth by One45’s developers.
“We have a desperate need to build more affordable units to help alleviate our city’s housing crisis, which is why my office has made increasing the affordability component of One45 to 50% of total units our top condition,” he said. “The project must also include meaningful open space resources for the community and transportation improvements. Until then, this project won’t adequately reflect neighborhood or boroughwide needs.”