Affordability Plans for Five World Trade Center Boosted to One Out of Three Units
Advocates for more affordable housing in the planned residential tower at Five World Trade Center scored a partial victory on Thursday, July 27, when Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the project had been modified to include 400 units of rent-protected apartments, rather than the 300 envisioned by the original proposal. Under this scheme, one-third of the building’s 1,200 dwellings will offer some form of affordability, while the remaining 800 apartments will be market-rate units. Given that the tower will be constructed on publicly owned land, its preponderance of homes for affluent residents has inspired years of controversy.
“Today, we’re taking an unprecedented step forward, reaffirming our commitment to a vibrant, vital downtown Manhattan that understands that the vitality of this great city hinges on our ability to build more housing,” Governor Hochul said at a press conference held at the World Trade Center site. “And here’s the best part: one-third will be permanently affordable to low and moderate-income New Yorkers. Just think about it, a family of three, single mom who’s a new teacher, someone who’s starting out as a firefighter, a police officer, those starting salaries make them eligible to be able live in the community that they protect.”
“And also, we’re reserving a place here for those who did live through the trauma and the terror of September 11,” Ms. Hochul continued, “saying that you deserve to have this be your home after what you witnessed, that very few human beings ever had to endure. So, you participated in this revitalization. You never gave up, you stayed, you persevered, and yes, you deserve the privilege of living here as well. And also, that would include the many first responders who put their lives on the line at a time when the future was so uncertain. They deserve our gratitude, and they deserve a great place to live.”
This was a reference to a provision fought for by the Coalition for 100 Percent Affordable Housing at Five World Trade Center, a grassroots community organization that has pushed for maximum affordability at the site since the development plan was announced in February 2021. This stipulation will set aside 80 of the 400 rent-protected units for local residents who survived the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and for first responders.
The Governor addressed the group directly, saying, “members of the 100 Percent Affordable World Trade Center Coalition, I started my life as an activist. I know how hard it is, and I thank you.”
The Coalition said in a statement that the group “appreciates the efforts of our state, federal and local representatives to create greater affordability at Five World Trade Center. This agreement adds an additional 100 affordable housing units without sacrificing availability for very low-income tenants. Importantly, it leaves the door opened for the Coalition and elected officials to obtain additional funding to further increase the number of affordable units. This agreement reflects the community’s advocacy to increase the diversity in the areas surrounding the site and recognizes a preference for the September 11 survivors and first responders, who paid a high price to rebuild Lower Manhattan. The state-owned site is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create desperately needed affordable, diverse housing in a high-opportunity neighborhood.”
In joint statement, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, State Assembly member Charles Fall, and Congressman Dan Goldman said, “we are excited to see approval move forward for this mixed-use development site at 5 World Trade Center which, when completed, will be the largest new affordable housing development constructed in Lower Manhattan in many years, and the only residential site at the World Trade Center.”
Governor Hochul noted that the 80-story, 910-foot building planned for Five World Trade Center “will have 1,200 new apartments—more than six times the number of residential units created in Lower Manhattan in any given year.” This was a puzzling assertion, insofar as data from the Population Division of the City’s Department of City Planning indicates that 24,031 new dwellings were created in Lower Manhattan (defined here as Community District 1) in the two decades preceding the 2020 census. That comes to an average of approximately 1,200 new dwellings added to the local inventory in each the last 20 years, rather than the 200 that the Governor implied.
The State was able to increase the number of affordable units planned for Five World Trade Center, in part by allocating $60 million in additional subsidies to the development team that will build and own the building. Among the agencies contributing to this financial support are the Battery Park City Authority, which will allocate $5 million from its Joint-Purpose Fund.