Bruce wasn’t bluffing: Truck depot opening at scuttled housing site
Teitelbaum welcomes rigs to Harlem block where Council rejected apartments
A Harlem City Council member trucked with the wrong developer.
Seven months after Council member Kristin Richardson Jordan killed a 50-percent affordable apartment project planned for West 145th Street and Lenox Avenue, Bruce Teitelbaum’s big-rig truck depot will open at the site Monday.
Site preparations were underway Thursday, when Teitelbaum planned to put up a sign reading “Park your fleet” — an allowed use of the commercially zoned parcel.
This spring he had sought a rezoning to build a two-tower complex dubbed “One47” with 917 apartments, half of them affordable. Some 40 percent of the apartments would have been reserved for tenants earning 50 percent of the area median income or less.
But Richardson Jordan said the project would not be affordable in Harlem, where she said half of households earn 30 percent or less of the area median income. She wanted all of the units affordable to them — rendering the project unprofitable and forcing Teitelbaum to withdraw his rezoning application in May.
Dan Garodnick, the city’s planning chief, later called it a “missed opportunity” to alleviate the city’s housing crisis.
Private developers can typically only make affordable units pencil out by including market-rate apartments in their projects to cross-subsidize them. Under the Council tradition of member deference, a rezoning application almost always fails without support from its local Council member.
The rejection of One45 prompted City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Mayor Eric Adams to intervene in subsequent rezonings in Throggs Neck and Astoria when the local Council members threatened to block them, but it was too late for Teitelbaum’s project. Rather than start the years-long process anew, he began fielding inquiries for uses allowed under existing zoning, as he had warned Richardson Jordan he would.
It turns out he was not bluffing. According to Teitelbaum, the truck depot will be operational Monday.
The Astoria rezoning will allow Innovation QNS, a $2 billion project by Silverstein Properties, BedRock Real Estate Partners and Kaufman Astoria Studios. It appeared that if the local Council member, Julie Won, continued to insist that 55 percent of its units be affordable, her colleagues would have overridden her.
Pressure from the speaker was not needed to win Council member Tiffany Cabán approval in September of Hallets North, in part because Cabán recognized the developer could have instead built warehouses that generated a steady stream of truck traffic. That now appears to be the fate of the Harlem project site, which also has low-scale retail, including a KFC.
Given the shift in the city’s housing politics and the strong demand for housing, it is conceivable, if not likely, that Teitelbaum and his investors will try again to rezone the site, especially if Richardson Jordan loses her re-election bid next year. She is expected to face challengers in the June Democratic primary.