2 labor unions rally in support of Harlem development; many in community skeptical

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Two influential labor unions rallied Tuesday in support of a new project in Harlem that would include workforce housing, but many in the surrounding community are skeptical of the developer's intentions to make it affordable at all.

Members of 32BJ and Local 79 held a rally at City Hall to urge the New York City Council to support the One45 development in Harlem.

Union members discussed the importance of One45 creating workforce housing for Harlem residents making good union wages, and affordable housing for residents earning lower and moderate incomes.

Speakers highlighted the One45 project as a model for how neighborhoods across the city can create high-quality workforce housing at rent levels that union members can afford, and help residents stay in neighborhoods where they have lived and worked for years.

But many Harlem residents aren't buying it.

The community is concerned about affordable housing and gentrification of the area that typically follows the construction of such high-rise, amenity-heavy buildings.

"If it's not going to be affordable to people that live in the area," resident Angela Robles said. "Why should they have other people coming from outside?"

Community members are also concerned that such a large building will seriously impact the aesthetic and charm of the neighborhood.

"This is Esplanade Gardens here," Board President Moire Davis said. "One building has 312 apartments. These three buildings which you see, 145th to 147th, you're looking at three blocks. That's half of Esplanade. They're putting that on that corner."

But the unions argue that One45 will address a growing need for workforce housing in New York City, as most new housing development projects only provide housing at market rates and at low-income levels through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.

The building proposal calls for 900 apartments with about 220 of those becoming affordable housing units -- the minimum required by city zoning laws.

Stakeholders say the developer presented plans to add about 100 more affordable housing units.

"We've seen some 11th hour breadcrumbs that are nowhere near the levels needed in terms of levels of affordability for the district and what's required for our community," City Council member Kristin Richardson said. "And also the process, the process has not been inclusive of the community."

Stakeholders say they'd like to see community spaces for tutoring and tech centers.

Meanwhile, the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters, which shares the block, will move into the new building, but Rev. Sharpton has backed out of a plan to anchor the building with a civil rights museum.

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