BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Local politicians, Community Board 1 and advocates condemned the state’s decision to proceed toward the development at 5 World Trade Center without securing greater affordability.
State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Congressmember Dan Goldman, Assemblymember Charles Fall, Borough President Mark Levine, Councilmember Christopher Marte and Community Board 1 — all of whom represent the 5 World Trade Center site — along with the Coalition for 100% Affordable 5 World Trade Center, on May 3 unanimously opposed the joint announcement by Empire State Development, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that they would proceed toward residentially developing the site without increasing the project’s affordability.
The agencies originally proposed developing a building with 1,200 apartments, 300 of which would be affordable and 900 of which would be market rate. Saying they have identified no new funding source to increase affordability, they are now proposing either to move forward with the original proposal or with an alternative that would include 360 income-restricted units — but with much fewer units affordable to lower-income residents.
Over the past two years, local politicians, the community board and community advocates have urged the agencies to find a way to provide more affordability in the proposed building.
“It is completely unacceptable that these agencies are attempting to move forward with a public-approvals timeline without coming to an agreement on how to maximize affordability at the site,” state Senator Kavanagh said. “It is reasonable to expect that public agencies that control a major development site in a community where affordable housing is so scarce would work to provide significantly greater levels of affordability than we might expect from the sorts of deals that have typically been done on private development sites. I am disappointed that these agencies are now rejecting that premise, and I strongly urge them to reconsider.”
“The current housing crisis in New York City already leaves far too many households unable to pay rent and places huge financial strain on the most vulnerable families,” Congressmember Goldman said. “Access to affordable housing is a lifeline, and is sorely needed in the area surrounding the 9/11 site. The Lower Manhattan community, including 9/11 survivors and elected officials, has repeatedly stressed the need for maximizing affordability at 5 WTC. It is imperative that this project not move forward until there are significant steps to achieving that goal.”
“While 5 World Trade Center is primarily designed to be built as a residential tower, the surrounding community has made its voices heard in making sure there are affordable units,” said Assemblymember Fall. “Ensuring real affordable housing for 5 World Trade Center gives us the unique opportunity to give back to the 9/11 responders, survivors and their families who have sacrificed so much. I stand with my colleagues in government and community partners to strongly oppose any agreement that doesn’t prioritize actual affordability for 5 World Trade Center.”
Borough President Levine said, “With 5 World Trade, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide a significant amount of affordable apartments in Lower Manhattan. While I recognize that this project must move forward, I also believe that we cannot undermine this opportunity by imposing a one-year time frame to maximize affordability. Empire State Development and the development team must hold off on approvals and work with stakeholders to find the funding that will maximize the number of affordable homes in this project. In doing so, they will win the support necessary to have a successful development.”
“It is unacceptable that E.S.D. would seek approvals for 5 World Trade Center when the unanimous call for more affordability on site has not been addressed,” said Councilmember Marte. “There is no reason to move forward now while the state has failed to answer our call to find necessary funds for this essential project. We are not asking for the potential for more affordability, but for a serious commitment from E.S.D. to find the financing we need before entering any approval processes. I
am confident that a combination of state and city tools can result in significantly more affordable units at lower-income brackets, and I will continue to support the community in their call for a truly affordable 5 World Trade.”
“C.B. 1 doesn’t take rain checks for affordable housing,” said Tammy Meltzer, chairperson of Community Board 1. “Punting the conversation to some uncertain date, while moving forward on all the other approvals, is tantamount to E.S.D. shrugging its shoulders. We are not ready to give up, and we ask the state to match our willingness to find a solution before proceeding.”
In a statement, the coalition said, “The Coalition for 100% Affordable 5 World Trade Center is appalled that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation would put forth a plan that ignores the community’s needs. This community has fought for over two decades to build fully, deeply affordable housing that would promote diversity and give 9/11 survivors and first responders a home in the neighborhood they helped rebuild. The proposed plan is unacceptable both in quantity of affordable units, as well as the level of affordability. And it is unacceptable that the public agencies effectively wash their hands of any responsibility for the search for and provision of funding for this desperately needed affordable housing.”