Truck Depot Developer Wants to Restart His Bid for ‘Affordable’ Housing — But How Affordable?

Manhattan Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan at a rally to stop the truck depot last month at the site where a developer wanted to build two towers (inset). Photo: Julianne Cuba
Manhattan Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan at a rally to stop the truck depot last month at the site where a developer wanted to build two towers (inset). Photo: Julianne Cuba

A would-be developer who opened a truck depot after his quest to rezone a Harlem lot for housing was blocked by the neighborhood’s Council member is peddling a new proposal that would result in more affordable housing than the original effort — but not as affordable as the lawmaker wants.

In pitching the new proposal — renamed One45 Harlem for ALL — real-estate bigwig Bruce Teitelbaum is putting the pressure back on Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan, who had opposed the initial One45 plan for a pair of 32-story buildings comprising more than 900 units of housing and a Museum of Civil Rights.

In a letter to the Council member, Teitelbaum, once an aide to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, made a few things clear: He wants to build slightly more below-market-rate units than the first go-around, but if he doesn’t get the support of Richardson Jordan, he’s more than happy to continue operating the as-of-right truck depot and build market-rate housing, which is also allowed without a zoning change.

The ultimatum was clear. The project at W. 145th Street and Lenox Avenue has two “parallel paths,” he told Richardson Jordan in a Feb. 2 letter:

“Either One45 Harlem For ALL, or, if you choose to scuttle affordable housing for Harlem again, 145th Street’s limited existing as-of-right entitlement (a similar choice as last year). At the same time, we are also going to continue to work on our as-of-right plan (a truck depot on the partially vacant site and, once vacated, a mix of 100 percent market rate housing, a self-storage facility, parking, and retail). It is time for you and all of those who have a say in whether One45 Harlem For ALL lives or dies to make a decision.”

Teitelbaum’s missive comes just a few days after New York Attorney General Letitia James said she may order the truck depot to be shut down because the big rigs bring in so much more pollution to the neighborhood that it may constitute a “public nuisance” under New York State law. James’s announcement came just days after Richardson Jordan and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams rallied with community members to call for Teitelbaum to shut down the truck depot.

Teitelbaum’s initial proposal included 915 units of housing, of which 12 percent (or 112 units) would be pegged at 30 percent of the area’s median income, meaning for individuals making as low as $28,020 annually, and 28 percent (or 255 units) at 50 percent AMI, meaning for individuals making $46,700. Another 10 percent (or 91 units) were scaled to 125 percent AMI, meaning for those making $116,750, according to the developer and city records. The rest would be reserved as market rate and luxury units.

That wasn’t good enough for Richardson Jordan — and it still might not be. She called for about 60 percent of the entire project to be set at 60 percent AMI, with 30 percent of the units to be set at 30 percent of the AMI. Teitelbaum’s new plan would set aside 50 percent of the units, or 458, as below-market-rate housing. But how much below is the question: in the new plan, about 19 percent of the units (or 174 units) will be set at 30 percent of the AMI, and another 18 percent (or about 164 units) will be pegged between 60 percent and 80 percent AMI, a range of annual income for individuals from $56,040 to $74,720. Another 120 units would be set aside as “income-restricted homes for union households.”

But the proposal could still fall apart if Richardson Jordan continues to refuse to meet with Teitelbaum to seal the deal. The pol told Streetsblog during the rally last month that she had no plans to sit down with him if the community wasn’t also  invited.

“My theory of change is based in people power so I believe that if we organize, if we lobby the state legislature around this truck depot and we shut this down, and then we put pressure on this developer that they will come back and build something that this community actually needs,” Richardson Jordan said at the time. “I don’t believe in private back-door deals with developers, I don’t see it as something where I need to individually coax him, I see it as not personal but community. We have seen our community displaced, rejected, a dumping ground for environmental waste like this truck stop.”

For Teitelbaum, that’s a non-starter.

“I am therefore asking you again to join me in direct talks with no pre-conditions, no ultimatums or rigid demands, so that we can try to find a resolution to the issues that divide us by choosing the path of reconciliation and understanding. … Unless we quickly engage in meaningful dialogue, progress toward a solution is unlikely,” he wrote in his letter. “Let’s get together and talk. Face to face. Please feel free to include genuine community leaders who should be part of our discussion.”

A spokesperson for Richardson Jordan told Streetsblog that she will meet with the developer as long as it is in “good faith” — meaning the truck depot is no longer there — and alongside community leaders.

“Right now, the truck stand cannot be on the table whatsoever. That is not good faith,” said Clark Pena. “Everything will be met and agreed upon with community leaders.”