East Harlem Wants Mt. Sinai to Push to Get Locals Into Luxury Tower
By Kiratiana Freelon on December 26, 2011 3:50pm
EAST HARLEM — A luxury high-rise apartment building rising along East Harlem’s increasingly blurry border with the Upper East Side has provoked allegations that the builder, Mt. Sinai Hospital, isn’t doing enough to set aside affordable units to local residents.
The 52-story tower is nearing completion on East 102nd Street near Museum Mile. The project is expected to test the luxury rental market’s ability to draw people north of 96th Street, the traditional dividing line between one of the city’s richest neighborhoods and one of the poorest.
But because Mt. Sinai received financing help from state and city agencies, the hospital must also hold a lottery in which 46 of the 230 units would be rented to lower-income tenants at below market rates. The hospital has also been asked to set aside half of the cheaper units to residents of the neighborhood who are participants in that same affordable-housing program.
That presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for struggling families to move close to one of Manhattan’s toniest addresses. The cheaper rents at the Rafael Pelli-designed building would range from $516 for a studio to $909 for a three-bedroom apartment.
Word of the lottery began spreading around Thanksgiving. But after seeing the December 31 application deadline, local officials — members of Communuty Board 11, along with state Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez and City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito — accused Mt. Sinai of not giving their constituents enough time. They asked Mt. Sinai to extend the deadline. But the hospital declined, saying it needed to stay on schedule for the building’ expected April 2012 opening.
“We’re talking about 23 apartments,” Community Board 11 Chairman Matthew Washington said. “If they can’t guarantee that at least 23 apartments can be filled by East Harlem residents, that sounds ridiculous.”
When the officials asked Mt. Sinai to allow applications to be submitted online, instead of by mail or by hand, the hospital said its marketing company could not.
“It’s sort of a ridiculous system to have to request an application, fill it out and mail it in,” Washington said.
Washington acknowledged that the developer isn’t legally required to set aside the half the affordable housing units to local residents. But it is part of being a good neighbor, he said, and making sure that the larger neighborhood benefits in some way.
In a prepared statement, Mt. Sinai said it stood by its commitment to reserve 23 apartments for East Harlem residents. The hospital said it has enlisted the 116th Street Block Association to distribute applications. More than 4,000 applications have been handed out, the hospital said. It encouraged interested applicants to visit the website of its management company, Related.
The tower on East 102nd Street is one of two sleek buildings being built by Mt. Sinai. The other, home of its new Center for Science and Medicine, is going up around the corner.
Not far is another new luxury residential tower that also houses the new home of the Museum for African Art.