Opposition Builds to Pending Approval of Five World Trade Center Plan
Lower Manhattan elected officials and community leaders are keeping the pressure on the administration of Governor Kathy Hochul to reconceive the plan to develop Five World Trade Center with a larger percentage of affordable housing.
At a rally held Friday in City Hall Park, State Senator Brian Kavanagh said, “we are gathered here today to call on the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Port Authority, and the Empire State Development Corporation to pause their plans to move forward unilaterally with the development they are planning at Five World Trade Center until they can identify adequate funding to ensure that we have more affordability at that site than they are proposing.”
“It is more than two years ago that they proposed this building and proposed 25 percent affordable housing and 75 percent market-rate luxury housing. We think it is reasonable, more than reasonable, that when public agencies are developing a project like this on public land, and particularly in a community that has so little affordable housing, that has lost more affordable housing than almost any other community in the state in the last decade, that they don’t just meet the minimum that we might expect from a private developer, but do much more.”
U.S. Congressman Dan Goldman said, “we clearly have been barking into a hollow hole. Our message that has been very uniform and very united is not being heard. Our City is facing a housing crisis unlike anything that we have experienced in decades. This is public land. These are public entities that are overseeing a new large apartment complex that is going up in Lower Manhattan. It is entirely unacceptable for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and the Empire State Development Corporation to simply barrel ahead with a plan that has not only uniform objection from the elected officials and local community members, but also does not require significant affordability.”
He cited the example of the Innovation QNS plan that will create 3,200 apartments in Astoria, of which 45 percent will be affordable. “That is the standard which we should hold every single building on public land to,” Mr. Goldman continued. “We should not and will not accept anything less than that.”
City Council member Christopher Marte said, “my fear is that what we see here is what we see time and time again—State agencies colluding with developers to keep the status quo. If we don’t push back, if we don’t get this paused, they’re going to win.”
State Assembly member Charles Fall said, “we have a unique opportunity here to give back to this community that is full of September 11 survivors and families.” (This was a reference to a plan by the Coalition for 100 Percent Affordable Housing at Five World Trade Center to set aside some of the rent-protected units in the building for local residents who survived the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and for first responders.) “We get pushback saying you can’t give preference to those people,” he continued. “But these are the people that have built this community, these are the people who have given back to this community. This is a slap in the face to everyone standing here today.”
Community Board 1 chair Tammy Meltzer said, “we want people to live and work in Lower Manhattan. We want people to raise their families in Lower Manhattan. We have lost thousands—not hundreds, but thousands—of units of affordable housing down here. We are one of the most rent-burdened communities in New York City. Developers boast about this being one of the most expensive neighborhoods, like this means they’ve done such a great job, while squeezing out middle- and low-income families. We cannot say that 25 or even 30 percent is acceptable for affordable housing on public land. It is tantamount to building a luxury gated community at the World Trade Center. This is public land and these are public dollars that should be serving the public, who are in a housing crisis. We don’t want a couple more units. We want the whole thing.”
Jill Goodkind, a leader of the Coalition, said, “for two decades before dying from a September 11 cancer, my husband, Tom Goodkind, advocated to make Five World Trade Center affordable. We are asking that the State agencies responsible for the site, which is owned by the state of New York, and was purchased with federal taxpayer funds, pause their rush to approvals, which will lead to 900 units of market luxury housing in an 80-story glass tower. We are in an affordable housing crisis, not a luxury housing crisis.”
She continued, “commercial tenants and developers at the WTC site have benefited from the largesse of these agencies and our tax dollars for decades. The Port Authority was able to approve billions of dollars in commercial tenant subsidies for the World Trade Center—but for affordable housing tenants, not one dollar.
“These state agencies leased two large World Trade Center sites for one dollar per year to organizations that were able to pay salaries around $600,000 per year,” she added. “But when it comes to housing families that earn less than $50,000 per year, not one dollar.”
“The PA approved the use of 3,000 tons of imported white marble for the floor of its $4-billion Oculus,” Ms. Goodkind recalled. “But when it comes to putting a roof over the heads of New Yorkers in desperate need of housing, not one dollar.”
In response to a question, Senator Kavanagh said, “the only public subsidy going to this project is the fact that it will not pay property taxes. The City of New York is forgoing the payment in lieu of taxes”—a form of levy on leased land—“on this in order to get to the 25 percent of affordable housing.”