The developers behind the proposed One45 project at 145th Street and Lenox Avenue withdrew their plans for the site in Harlem just before the land use vote last week. Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan, and brother-in-arms Councilmember Charles Barron, applauded the decision. They said they stand resolutely by the choice to fight for more truly affordable housing in the community as opposed to more “gentrification.”

“Doing a big project in that space with great affordability is not impossible when we take greed out of the equation,” said Richardson Jordan in response to Amsterdam News’ inquiries, “and 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 initial plans for the development project included three mixed-use buildings with two towers, one 27 stories and the other 31 stories high, that spanned five lots of land space on 145th Street between Lenox Ave./Malcolm X Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. The site, according to the city’s Zoning and Land Use map (ZOLA), had a C8 commercial overlay often used in heavy commercial and manufacturing facilities, like in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Castleton Corners on Staten Island. These C8 districts are mapped mainly along major traffic arteries, such as Boston Road and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx and Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn.

Developers’ plans also included a new National Action Network headquarters signed off on by the Rev. Al Sharpton, a green energy component, and after much heated debate, a portion of affordable housing that wasn’t market rate.

On March 10, Richardson Jordan attended a public hearing with the zoning committee, to hear concerns about the One45 project. A majority of community members present testified either against the development or for more supportive and affordable housing to current residents in the neighborhood. One45 developers shared last minute changes in the plans to include more green energy and sustainability built into the building, but that didn’t satisfy many at the hearing.

After multiple contentious meetings, Richardson Jordan had asked developers to pull plans and start over with more affordable housing. Towards the end, developers had conceded at least to including 50% affordable housing to the Area Median Income level of residents within the community. However, they decided to call off the project hours before the land use vote.

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said that he certainly still had “outstanding questions” about the project as it was going into the final hours. He said with the need being so great, it was incumbent on everyone to push for more housing. Community Board 10 especially, said Levine, worked really “long hours” poring over development plans. As the proposal evolved to include more affordable housing units, Levine said he heard from community members who were “rethinking” the project more positively.

“That happened so late in the game. That really happened on a Friday night before a three-day weekend, Memorial Day weekend, when the final vote was on that Tuesday. That was just too late for the community to be working through,” said Levine about finally getting 50% affordability. “It was too rushed at the end.”

Levine said the city put in resources to the developer’s “bottomline” so that they could accommodate the agreed upon 50% affordability.

At the moment the future of the few 1-story buildings, NAN Headquarters, Islamic Center, stores, restaurants, vacant gas station, abandoned storefronts, and a large vacant lot currently on the 145th block is uncertain.

Levine theorized that nothing is likely to happen on the vacant land in the next few years, except possibly a storage facility and about 50 market rate apartments. He said the developers have indicated they have no intention of coming back with a renewed proposal at the time.

Richardson Jordan has expressed interest in working with the developers again on a “better project that matches community needs in the future.” She also noted that industry insiders have told her that the 145th block would be a great site for an ELLA Term Sheet/ Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) project. An ELLA is the construction of a low-income multi-family rental project where a minimum of 80% of the units are at low income rents for people earning up to 80% of the AMI, said HPD.

Barron called Richardson Jordan a “she-ro” for advocating for her community. He balked at the project and all of its supporters because of its inevitable “gentrification” of the neighborhood. Barron made an unsubstantiated claim that local civil rights leaders and the speaker of the city council were in cahoots to push the land use application through. Barron added that the “arrogant developer” was concerned with how he was going to make money off the project in a confrontation he had with them.

“Once the land use chair said he wouldn’t support it, the chair of the zoning committee said he wasn’t going to support it, and the local council woman, Kristin, said she wasn’t supporting it,” said Barron. “There’s no reason the application should have been submitted.”

Barron seconded the idea to support smaller story buildings with 100% or closer to 100% affordability.

“On May 31st, we withdrew our applications pending before the City Council for land use actions in connection with the ONE45 project,” posted the Pointsfive developers on the One45 website.

“Despite our best efforts it is not possible to proceed with a project that would have created an unprecedented and enormous amount of truly affordable housing, high paying union jobs, year-round paid youth internships, access to health care, career training and NYC 1st Green Energy District for the village of Harlem,” said the development company.

Sharpton’s office didn’t respond in time to a request for comment.

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:

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