Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is throwing his weight behind resurrecting a controversial housing project in Harlem that was derailed last year over concerns about gentrification.
With the project sidelined, primarily due to concerns about affordability from local Councilwoman Kristin Richardson Jordan, the developer instead is opening a truck depot on W. 145th St. — a use permitted under current zoning regulations. The apartment proposal required a zone change.
“We need housing on this site,” Levine, a Democrat, told the Daily News after making clear he wants to restart a so-called Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for the scuttled project known as One45. “Families are leaving Northern Manhattan every day because they can’t find an affordable apartment.”
Levine’s support is significant in that his approval weighs heavily in the ULURP process that One45 would have to go through, should it relaunch.
But a source directly familiar with the matter told The News that Levine’s move comes at a difficult time.
After the One45 deal fell apart in spring 2022, the project’s main developer, Bruce Teitelbaum, opted to start building the truck depot on the site since it wouldn’t require rezoning — and the source said that depot is set to open this week.
“Tuesday or Wednesday, the depot opens,” said the source, who’s close to the One45 developers and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter without authorization.
In an interview last week, Teitelbaum declined to talk about the timing of the depot’s opening. He did say it’s “good to hear” Levine is supportive of revisiting the One45 rezoning, which would have paved the way for more than 900 new apartments on an underutilized stretch of 145th St. between Malcolm X Blvd. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.
“But the more time that passes and the further into our plan B we get, the more difficult it would be to pivot and go back to housing,” Teitelbaum said, referring to the truck depot.
The rezoning would have allowed for the construction of two large-scale residential towers with 917 apartments. Roughly half of those units would have been classified as affordable and set aside for low- and middle-income New Yorkers under the plan floated by Teitelbaum’s team.
The plan had backing from a variety of stakeholders, including Mayor Adams, who has pushed for rezoning and development citywide as a way to turn the tide on an affordable housing crisis fueled by low construction outputs and skyrocketing rents.
But Richardson Jordan, the socialist Council member who represents the area, said at the time that One45′s affordability levels weren’t deep enough, and that she would oppose Teitelbaum’s plan at all costs.
Richardson Jordan’s resistance — which weighed heavily due to the Council’s member deference tradition — prompted Teitelbaum to withdraw the proposal altogether on the eve of a key subcommittee vote last May.
Shortly thereafter, Teitelbaum rolled out his depot plan, drawing intense outrage from Harlem community leaders and residents who said a truck stop would bring more pollution to a neighborhood where children are already suffering from asthma at a rate four times the national average, according to federal studies.
“There is massive damage that this would bring to the community. It would harm the community, especially when it comes to asthma rates,” said Harlem resident Marquis Harrison, who lives near the One45 site and chairs the local community board.
Levine, a former Council member who used to serve as the body’s Health Committee chair, agreed with Harrison and said he was dismayed to learn of the truck depot’s imminent opening.
“Harlem has some of the highest asthma rates in the city. It can be a debilitating and life-threatening sickness, and it’s all about air quality,” he said. “To have diesel trucks idling in the neighborhood can only make things worse and will make more kids sick. It’s a disgrace, and we have to do better. We need to start the process again of finding a way to turn that site into housing.”
A key sticking point in last year’s doomed One45 talks was how many of the project’s apartments would be set aside for those earning less than 30% of the area median income, which translates to about $36,000 for a family of three.
Teitelbaum’s offer before pulling the plug on One45 was earmarking 112 units for 30% AMI earners — a bid Richardson Jordan said was nowhere close to enough.
To prevent gentrification and displacement of Black working class residents, Richardson wrote in a Medium post last May that she’d only support the development if at least 57% of the project’s units were reserved for 30% AMI earners. She also wrote the “development team and labor union’s response has reeked of white supremacist tactics” in efforts to advance the project.
“Approving projects like these will further the housing crisis,” she wrote. “This will cause actual harm and accepting this is nothing less than white supremacy.”
Richardson Jordan, who has also been vehemently opposed to the truck depot alternative, did not return a request for comment last week on Levine’s push for reviving the housing plan.
Levine declined to offer specifics on what type of AMI breakdowns he’d like to see in a new One45 project. But he said he’s committed to “maximizing affordability at levels accessible to the community.”
“The alternative of allowing this site to languish in the heart of Harlem — or worse, to remain a truck depot — is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
Teitelbaum, who was once a top adviser to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said he’s unwilling to make any more concessions on the One45 plan he withdrew in May.
“We’ve made at last four different compromises, but [Richardson Jordan] has repeatedly and consistently refused to even consider them,” he said, noting that his team, for instance, bumped the project’s affordable unit share to 50% from the originally proposed 25%.
“Restarting an unpredictable process now is not in the cards given Richardson’s unworkable demands and refusal to even consider our plan, which is what led us to the truck depot in the first place.”
With Josephine Stratman
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