The Harlem community continues to rally against a truck depot that a “retaliatory” real estate developer placed on W. 145th Street after Councilmember Kristin Richardson Jordan and the community board voted down his proposed One45 housing project.
“What we’re asking for is that this developer meets the standards like everyone else,” said Richardson Jordan. “It’s not about a personal tiff, backroom deals, and power and money. It’s definitely not about me. It’s about the community and meeting a standard so that we can have our Harlem be Harlem.”
The most recent rally was held this past Saturday in front of gated trucks on W. 145th. The group was joined by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who spoke on the necessity of housing as the key to combating housing instability and homelessness.
“The owners of this should be ashamed of themselves,” said Williams. “Communities like the ones in Harlem are dealing with a lack of housing and environmental issues, like asthma, that are connected, of course, to trucking. So why would you bring…a truck depot (to Harlem)? What you’re saying is that you never really cared about this community.”
Williams said that at first, he was a little concerned about the initial housing plans being voted down, but then he found out that most of the planned apartments were going to be studios and one-bedrooms not meant for families. 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 W. 145th Street between Lenox Ave./Malcolm X Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
Developer Bruce Teitelbaum’s plans also included a new National Action Network (NAN) 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.
Richardson Jordan and Teitelbaum had fraught negotiations over the proposal’s lack of affordable housing that could benefit the Area Median Income (AMI) level of residents already in the community. The developer made some last-minute changes to the building plans to satisfy angered residents, but eventually withdrew the plans for the site just before the land use vote on May 31, 2022. The developer then dumped a truck depot in the middle of where the housing project would have been and has not indicated that he will come back with a renewed housing proposal.
Richardson Jordan is known for not believing in “private back door deals with developers” and will only hold meetings with developers with community members. Richardson Jordan said she has not been in contact with Teitelbaum, the mayor’s office or state officials, but has reached out to all stakeholders. She said other developers with projects have decided to meet community standards for affordability and that Teitelbaum is an outlier who is not used to being told no.
“At one time, no one wanted to come to Harlem. Now everyone wants to come to Harlem because Harlem is now considered an opportunity,” said Community Advocate Dolina Duzant at the rally. “These opportunists do not have the community’s care and concern in mind. Harlem continues to deal with issues of high crime, affordable housing, health disparities and environmental injustices. This truckstop is a tantrum.”
Another housing advocate, Delsenia Glover, described Teitelbaum as “arrogant, disdainful and disrespectful” during meetings and hearings.
Several speakers at the rally were upset that leaders such as NAN and other Black electeds hadn’t been more vocal about the developer or the truckstop.
“The media should be asking all of the mainstream entrenched politicians in Harlem why they are silent about this,” said Don Curtis of the Unified Black Caucus (UBC). “They should be asking Rev. Al Sharpton, who’s right there, why he’s not saying anything about toxic poison and fumes in this community. Why is he silent on it?”
A NAN spokesperson said that to their knowledge, no one from NAN was invited to Saturday’s rally, but there is the possibility that members from the office walked over; NAN headquarters is a few doors down on the same block from the truckstop.
“NAN has grave concerns and those who are directly impacted by the possible environmental concerns over a truck stop have relayed those concerns in conversations with the Borough President’s office, Community Board 10 and the lawyers for the developers,” said the spokesperson.
NAN is in intense negotiations with the developers over whether it’s a matter of where and when NAN has to move its headquarters, said NAN. They are also holding a meeting with the Board of Directors of the Esplanade Gardens who will be affected by this.
Assemblymember Inez Dickens, who is running for City Council District 9, said she applauds Manhattan Borough President Levine and others for drawing attention to the “very real and very serious issue” of affordable housing in the Harlem community.
“Those in positions of power need to recognize the importance of not just refusing what they consider inadequate proposals but also bringing solutions to the table,” said Dickens in a statement. “I have done this time and time again, most recently through negotiations to have more affordable housing built right here in Harlem at the National Urban League development on 125th Street. This type of success doesn’t come from constantly moving the goalposts when you don’t get your way. Harlem families are at stake here and that needs to be the priority.”
Similarly, Assemblymember and City Council candidate Al Taylor said the city is facing a housing and affordability crisis, and Harlem is facing a health crisis with asthma and respiratory issues as well as injuries and deaths from vehicular traffic.
“A truck depot is absolutely unacceptable to this community,” said Taylor in a statement. “I am willing to work together with stakeholders on every side in order to get this community what it needs: safe, healthy and truly affordable housing. I believe that we can and we must work together to build up neighborhoods in ways that strengthen the communities on the ground, provide resources and jobs, and create a more livable New York City.”
The Amsterdam News reached out to Teitelbaum’s company, the Royal Promotion Group (RPG), for a comment. There was no response by press time.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics 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://bit.ly/amnews1.