The Broadsheet - Lower Manhattans Local Newspaper
‘Completely Unacceptable’
Local Leaders Slam Decision to Move Ahead with Mostly Market-Rate Housing at World Trade Center Site
Community Board 1 chair Tammy Meltzer: “CB1 doesn’t take rain checks for affordable housing. We are not ready to give up and we ask the State to match our willingness to find a solution before proceeding.”
A phalanx of Lower Manhattan elected officials and community leaders are condemning the announcement by the administration of Governor Kathy Hochul that residential development at Five World Trade Center (5WTC) will move ahead with only a slight increase to the State’s original commitment for affordable housing at the site, while also reducing how affordable those apartments will be by boosting tenant’s income limits.

The controversy focuses on a plan, approved in 2021 by the Port Authority and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), to erect a 900-foot-plus tower on the publicly owned vacant lot that occupies the three-quarter-acre block bounded by Greenwich, Albany, and Washington Streets, and Liberty Park. That plan originally called for a 78-floor building, including 69 floors of rental units, comprising 1.2 million square feet of residential space. Of the 1,200 apartments planned for the structure, 25 percent (or 300 units) were initially slated to be permanently affordable homes, set aside for households earning an average of 50 percent of the area median income (AMI), or below $66,700 for a family of four.

Since this original plan was announced, a chorus of leaders have called for a greater percentage of the units in 5WTC to be reserved for people unable to pay unregulated, market rents.

Under a revised version of the plan unveiled Wednesday at a meeting of two government agencies overseeing the project—the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and LMDC—the number of affordable units at 5WTC will increase to 30 percent (360 apartments), but income limits will rise to an average of 85 percent of AMI, or $113,390 for a family of four.

At the ESDC/LMDC meeting, State officials argued that increasing the number of affordable units at 5WTC beyond the new threshold of 30 percent would require massive subsidies. The presentation by ESDC staff indicated that increasing the total affordable units to between 35 and 50 percent (or 420 to 600 apartments) would require a subsidy between $58 and $500 million, depending on the income limits imposed on the tenants. They then announced that ESDC was moving ahead with the revised plan by seeking legal, regulatory, and financial approvals, with a timeline that will aim to lock in these proposed terms by next April.
Elected officials and community leaders who have been working for two years to formulate a way to increase affordability at 5WTC (see rendering) reacted with fury. “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,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh. “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.”

“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,” said U.S. Congressman Dan Goldman. “Access to affordable housing is a lifeline, and is sorely needed in the area surrounding the September 11 site. The Lower Manhattan community, including September 11 survivors and elected officials, have repeatedly stressed the need for maximizing affordability at 5WTC. It is imperative that this project not move forward until there are significant steps to achieving that goal.”

“Ensuring real affordable housing for Five World Trade Center gives us the unique opportunity to give back to the September 11 responders, survivors and their families who have sacrificed so much,” said State Assembly Member Charles Fall. “I strongly oppose any agreement that doesn't prioritize actual affordability.”

Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine observed, “with Five 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 timeframe to maximize affordability. ESDC 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.”

City Council member Christopher Marte said, “it is unacceptable that ESDC would seek approvals for Five World Trade Center when the unanimous call for more affordability on site has not been addressed. 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 asking for a serious commitment from ESDC 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.”

Community Board 1 (CB1) chair Tammy Meltzer said, “CB1 doesn’t take rain checks for affordable housing. Punting the conversation to some uncertain date, while moving forward on all the other approvals is tantamount to ESDC 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.”
A rendering of the residential tower proposed for Five World Trade Center, from the vantage point of Liberty and Greenwich Streets, looking south down Greenwich.
A representative for the Coalition for a 100 Percent Affordable Five World Trade Center, a grassroots community organization pushing for maximum affordability at the site, said, “we are appalled that LMDC 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 September 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 public agencies effectively wash their hands of any responsibility for the search for and provision of funding for this desperately needed affordable housing.”

The plan approved by ESDC and LMDC is predicated on a policy axiom dictating that any development at the site must generate as much (or more) revenue on a per-square-foot basis as the office developments that have been erected elsewhere within the complex. This arbitrary requirement effectively renders it administratively impossible that 5WTC be dedicated to any public service purpose that does not maximize financial return.

Such a policy is contradicted by multiple other nearby uses. The leases granted by the Port Authority and LMDC to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center, and the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine (all located within the World Trade Center complex) rent many acres of publicly owned land—worth hundreds of millions of dollars—at a price of one dollar per year to each of the non-profit organizations that operate those facilities.

Matthew Fenton
Anything But Pedestrian Concerns
Faith and Food, Ganymede and Glaucus Inspire Pedagogic Perambulations

The Downtown Alliance has designated the winners in its Walking Tour Incubator Grant Program. Each finalist will receive up to $12,500 to develop new walking tours in Lower Manhattan. Read more...

[Re: After School, April 30, 2023]

To the editor,

The statement that Alliance University will lose its legal authority to offer for-credit classes and grant degrees if it loses Middle States accreditation is wrong. The legal authority for Alliance University to offer for-credit classes and grant degrees has been granted through its charter by the New York State Board of Regents. Loss of accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education would mean that Alliance University’s students would be ineligible to receive federally-funded financial aid. And while the NYS Education Department would certainly ask the University for a report if it lost Middle States accreditation, it does not necessarily mean the revocation of the University’s charter.

Dr. David F. Turk
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs
Alliance University

[Re: Not Shedding a Tear, May 2, 2023]

To the editor,

So just “too bad” for the immune-compromised who still can’t risk eating inside.
Less of a Lot
Garage Partially Vacated by Buildings Inspectors, Citing Structural Concerns

In the wake of the collapse of a Lower Manhattan parking garage in the Financial District on the evening of April 18, the City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) has identified structural problems at a similar facility, located in the back of the 225 Rector Place condominium building, in Battery Park City. Read more...
Friday, May 5
200 Rector Place and livestreamed
Join art historian and lecturer Sylvia Laudien-Meo for illustrated presentations & dynamic discussions in a group setting or via Zoom. Free.

Seaport Square
Start with a salsa lesson led by two dance pros backed by the local salsa band Grupo Centeno. The band will play sets at 6:30pm and 7:45pm. Free.

National Museum of the American Indian, One Bowling Green
Spotlighting filmmakers, new films, fan favorites, and filmmaker discussions reflecting on what makes New York a Native place. Free.

Gibney, 280 Broadway
SYREN presents Ithaka, a nine-section modern dance created by Kate Sutter in collaboration with the dancers of SYREN and set to the dynamic music of composer and producer Calimossa. $20.

Belvedere Plaza
Interactive light-based creations. Free.
Saturday, May 6
South Cove
Paint in watercolor or use pastels and other drawing materials to capture the landscape. An artist/educator will offer instruction. Materials provided. Free.

Skyscraper Museum, 39 Battery Place
Celebrate the Chrysler Building’s 93rd anniversary and learn more about how its scalloped crown and needle spire helped it win the title of "World's Tallest Building" in 1930. Kids will learn about New York's famous Art Deco skyscrapers, now nearly a century old, and then create spire-like top hats. All ages welcome. Registration required. Free.

Rockefeller Park
Calling all Citizen Scientists! Download the iNaturalist free app and learn how to record wildlife observations. Free.

12 Fulton Street
Visit the South Street Seaport Museum’s galleries, tall ship Wavertree, and lightship Ambrose for activities that illuminate history and life at sea. Free.

National Museum of the American Indian, One Bowling Green
The Native New York Film Festival, in conjunction with the Native New York exhibition, spotlights filmmakers, new films, fan favorites, and filmmaker discussions reflecting on what makes New York a Native place. Free.

Meet at Nederlander Flag Pole
Learn about Battery Park’s history, landmarks and monuments, SeaGlass Carousel, gardens and urban farm. Free.

Belvedere Plaza
Outdoor light festival, closing tonight with a silent disco. Headphones are free; ID is required. Free.

Sunday, May 7
China Institute, 40 Rector Street
Open session at an indoor play space for fun with toys and activities. Meet other families interested in exploring Chinese language and culture. Free.

Livestreamed by the Museum of Jewish Heritage
Budapest’s historic Jewish quarter is home to a thriving community of 100,000 with rich heritage and enduring spirit. $25.

South Street Seaport Museum, Bowne & Co., 211 Water Street
Create a card using the Museum’s 19th-century printing equipment. Advanced registration is required for this workshop. Ages 12 and up. Free.

Aboard the tall ship Wavertree, Pier 16, South Street Seaport Museum
Sing along or just listen. Advance registration required. Free.

Trinity Church and livestreamed
Eight-time Grammy-winning bassist Christian McBride will be joined by pianist Kenny Barron, recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master honorary. Free.

Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street
Dance and music performance. See the stunning footwork and expressive storytelling that is emblematic of kathak, a classical dance of India. Featuring musical artists on the tabla and sitar. $24.
Photograph by Robert Simko
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