Long-time Harlemites, along with Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan, have been incredibly vocal about their disapproval of the proposed One 45 development at 145th Street and Lenox Avenue. In Tuesday’s city council meeting on zoning, opposing views continued to butt heads on the future of central Harlem.

Richardson Jordan aggressively questioned the developers’ representatives during the meeting. During her panel, she pointed out that the developers have not completed a racial impact study and said they refused to have a public meeting with community stakeholders with her on the project. Councilmembers Amanda Farías and Kamillah M. Hanks voiced their concerns about the project as well.

“This is our role as government to serve the people and not special interest and not corporate greed,” said Richardson Jordan in the meeting. “We are the last Black community on the island of Manhattan and we need to take a stand. If I sound angry about this it’s because I am.”

The current design for the development has two towers, one 27 stories and the other 31 stories, and promises over 800 apartments with 217-282 “permanently affordable units.”

The large-size of the development and special permits necessitate a rezoning of the area. There are currently no residential tenants living on the site and the commercial tenants on the block can choose to relocate elsewhere in Harlem with One 45’s help or they can return to the site. Richardson Jordan said that it was “unacceptable” to have such a large upzoning without proper community input. She demanded that the developers pull the proposal and start from scratch with more community collaboration.

A handful of Harlem residents, such as 19-year-old Jared Davis, were in favor of the project. However, overwhelmingly, community residents who spoke in the city council meeting were against the development.

“I live directly across the street,” said Patricia Sanchez of Espinal Gardens, “We feel that the two proposed towering buildings, also known as skyscrapers, are not welcome and do not fit in our community. Our area is already taxed with congestion, noise pollution, and pollution. Adding over 900 housing units to what I consider a small amount of land will be overwhelming to the block as well as our community.”

Sanchez said that people were not aware of the One 45 project. In her testimony, she said that no housing should be built on the site that’s taller than the storage facility on the block.

“We are constantly faced with idling buses on Lenox Avenue,” said Sanchez. “We are faced with a lot of traffic on 145th Street trying to cross over the bridge, also adding to our pollution.”

Most residents in the meeting were equally concerned about the gentrification of Harlem, potential transportation issues at the nearby bus depot and train station, and a lack of parking in the neighborhood due to congestion. They heavily criticized One 45 developers throughout the meeting for adding on “misleading” “affordable” housing units that “weren’t really affordable.”

Developer Tristan Nadal and others said in the meeting that they are striving to create the “first residential green energy district” in Central Harlem as a step towards addressing the environmental injustice in the area.
Elected officials and residents called the newly put out energy plans from developers, released Tuesday morning before the scheduled 10 a.m. meeting, a “last minute greenwashing” in terms of a promise of green energy jobs, clean energy efficiency, and mentorship programs.

The proposed building has commercial, community space, event space, and most controversially, will house the new headquarters for the National Action Network founded by famed civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton. The original plans from the developer included a Museum of Civil Rights, but the Civil Rights Foundation Inc. pulled out of the project on Monday, May 2 in favor of advocating for more affordable and senior housing units.

“We have decided to pursue the two other very live, viable options for the Museum of Civil Rights to be at the size and commitment we want,” said Sharpton, who is co-chair of the Civil Rights Foundation. “Our commitment to opening this museum in New York remains the same, because this city has been the crossroads for all social justice and inclusion movements. We look forward to announcing a decision soon on a space that allows us to properly tell the story of civil rights in America.”

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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