NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Lenox Terrace apartment complex has been home to the “who’s who” in the African-American community for decades.
On Wednesday, developers agreed to sit down with CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas to discuss the controversial project that could change the face of central Harlem.
In front of Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer and a standing room only crowd, attorney Ethan Goodman made the pitch for the redevelopment of Lenox Terrace on behalf of owners, the Olnick Organization Inc.
“It’s not just about building more and building bigger, it’s about building better,” Goodman said.
The plan would add five additional buildings to the property located near Harlem Hospital and larger retail space Goodman said could include a pharmacy and grocery store. Right now, most of the current retail space is vacant.
“If we just do Fifth Avenue, then just Fifth Avenue has a pharmacy and a food store and the entire rest of Lenox Terrace is the same as it is today,” Goodman said.
Goodman said only with the rezoning approval can Olnick afford to make complex-wide upgrades to aging apartments and add additional amenities without rent increases. However, residents already don’t trust the landlord. Currently, they say it can take months to get basic problems addressed.
When told about the pictures CBS2 has received showing tiles buckling, ceilings falling and sewage, Goodman said, “I would say don’t just show pictures at the public hearing for effect. Send us those pictures.”
Lenox Terrace and Harlem residents fear the impact of everything from their health to gentrification, specifically pushing out the African-American community that gave Lenox Terrace its historic significance.
“What we’re building, we’re building for the community,” Goodman said, adding when told some will say it’s for the community of the future and not the community that exists here right now, “Right, and what we want to make sure we do when we build is that we not only build market-rate housing for people who have incomes that can afford that but that we build affordable housing.”
Five hundred affordable new units are not enough for Public Advocate Jumanee Williams, who wants a moratorium on all rezoning and a required racial impact study.
“We can no longer allow these rezonings to go through without the community getting what they needed,” Williams said.
Councilman Bill Perkins sent a letter to the community emphasizing his opposition to the proposal. Meanwhile, Brewer said she’s still listening, and has until Dec. 4 to make a recommendation to the city council.
Olnick said it’s working on addressing feedback, including holding a meeting with residents about lingering maintenance concerns.