BY DASHIELL ALLEN | At their Nov. 17 meeting the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation board of directors moved one step closer to finalizing the development of a mixed-use residential and commercial tower at 5 World Trade Center.
Don’t expect to see cranes anytime soon, though. The exact details are scheduled to be hashed out sometime next spring.
The currently approved project plan, by Silverstein and Brookfield Properties, would include up to 300 units of so-called affordable housing for people making 50 percent of area median income ($53,700 for a family of three).
The board voted unanimously to modify the World Trade Center’s General Project Plan to allow for mixed-use development, as well as to accept an environmental assessment, authorize a public hearing — slated for Jan. 12 — and to adopt “mixed-use development guidelines.”
When Todd Fine, a historian and member of the Coalition for an Affordable Tower Five, which demands a 100 percent affordable tower for a variety of income levels, saw the mixed-use guidelines on the meeting’s agenda, he was immediately concerned.
The guidelines — which state, among other things, that “The Tower Facade shall have a glassy character” — made Fine worry they might limit the development’s ability to include a greater amount of affordable housing units.
Vittoria Fariello, one of the coalition’s leaders, said in a publicly submitted comment that the guidelines tie “the L.M.D.C. and Port Authority to a luxury-style building, which building costs could make a truly affordable building prohibitively expensive [to develop].”
In response to the concern that the proposed guidelines, drafted by Silverstein Properties, one of the project’s provisionally approved developers, could limit the amount of affordable housing, elected officials Brian Kavanagh, Yuh-Line Niou, Margaret Chin and Gale Brewer sent a letter to the chairpersons of the L.M.D.C., Empire State Development Corporation and Port Authority, requesting that “the respective boards refrain from adopting any restrictive building guidelines at this week’s meetings.”
The politicians are also holding a public forum on Nov. 30, where, they noted, “our local community activists will have the opportunity to share their ideas for expanding affordability.”
During the board meeting, 5 W.T.C. Site Director Tobi Jaiyesimi assured, “These design guidelines may be adjusted consistent with the ultimately approved project,” moving ahead to approve them nonetheless.
“It’s important to note that affordable housing has been a major discussion point over the last few months,” Jaiyesimi said.
“Community representatives and elected officials have called for increased affordable housing, including some demands that the project be 100 percent affordable, with a preference for 9/11 victims and first responders,” she added. “The project team is in ongoing discussions about these requests.”
At the same meeting the L.M.D.C. also voted to allocate more than $1 million of available funds to the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation for ongoing work at New York City Housing Authority properties.
In their letter the politicians stressed that any additional non-allocated funds should go toward affordable housing at 5 W.T.C., also requesting “an accounting of what funds remain available to the L.M.D.C. and how they are currently expected to be expended.”
In her public comment, Mariama James, a member of Community Board 1 and the Coalition for an Affordable Tower 5, defended her demand for 100 percent affordability.
“[Council District 1] is majority affluent White, only 2 percent Black and needs to integrate,” she said, “but representatives of the L.M.D.C. continue to go on record saying, in so many words, that poor/Black/Brown people shouldn’t have nice places to live, that Lower Manhattan is too expensive to integrate and should remain almost exclusively White, rich and in a bubble not reflective or representative of the true Black population of New York City as of 2021 of 24.31 percent.
“Particularly Black and Brown New Yorkers, locked out of the district due to the gross lack of genuinely affordable housing and loss in recent years of 5,000-plus area Mitchell-Lama and other affordable units, but 9/11-impacted nonetheless, deserve equity and equality and should benefit from these public funds and lands,” she added.
“It’s literally costing survivors and first responders our lives and that of our loved ones to have rebuilt the area where 5 World Trade Center will stand. Make 5 World Trade Center 100 percent affordable!”