Lenox Terrace Rezoning Proposal Rejected

Rejection from land use committee deals second blow to Olnick’s contested project

East Harlem, Manhattan, NYC – Photo by Jay Suresh https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:East_Harlem_Skyline_(48200097101).jpg

(NEW YORK, NEW YORK)— In the battle over the rezoning of Lenox Terrace, a City Council subcommittee rejected the Olnick Organization’s proposal last week and now again the City Council Land Use Committee has vetoed the proposal unanimously, Patch reports.

As we reported a few weeks ago, Olnick had threatened that if denied the rezoning, the developer would also axe all plans for affordable housing and renovations to existing rent-stabilized units on the existing development. Nevertheless, the rezoning still elicited resistance from residents and representatives who argue that the drawbacks of rezoning outweigh the benefits of “affordable housing.” Affordable housing is based on median neighborhood incomes and thus an influx of high-income residents can set new affordable unit prices and income requirements higher than the previous median rent price in the neighborhood. The current average rental price is a whopping $2,500.

The first vote, held among the City Council subcommittee in late February, saw Bill Perkins stand by his previous vows to oppose the rezoning. The latest meeting held March 3 saw more city officials, like Land Use Chair Rafael Salamanca (Bronx) cast their vote “nay.”

While Olnick reiterated its promises to better the community if granted rezoning, lawmakers and tenants brought up past grievances against Olnick Organization, which has not curried favor through consistently prioritizing its own interests. In February’s first meeting, Perkins told Patch that the developer “does not have a history of being a good actor in the community.” In the past year alone, 149 residents have complained of egregious negligence in the Lenox Terrace complex, including “lack of heat and hot water, roaches, and faulty electrical outlets,” Curbed NY reported. In 2015, tenants also sued the penny-pinching developer  for illegally deregulating stabilized units—but hanging onto the tax break they would have received for stabilized units. Lenox Terrace Association of Concerned Tenants and its President Lenn Shebar expressed disappointment and frustration that much-needed renovations for existing units were being withheld by the multi-million-dollar company as a bargaining chip, rather than given as a right. In Monday’s meeting, Salamanca also brought up that Olnick has resisted cooperating with the City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to stabilize rent and ensure affordable accommodations for current tenants in the complex.

With these allegations in mind, it is hard to hear Olnick’s plea that, “The proposed rezoning offers the greatest benefit to current residents and the Harlem community” when members of the Harlem Community have not been a priority for the developer at any point in its history. Nonetheless, the developer pledges it will go forward in trying to win over residents’ approval.

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