HARLEM — Residents of Lenox Terrace, home to political leaders Congressman Charles Rangel and former Governor David Paterson, once again rejected their landlord’s redevelopment plan, saying they should do a better job of maintaining their existing units before building six new towers.
This time, they got the support of the local community board.
Bruce Simon, president of the Olnick Organization, pitched the redevelopment as a job creator that would stimulate the local economy, add affordable housing and create more green space, during a Community Board 10 Land Use Committee meeting Thursday night.
But even with 260 affordable units, members of the Lenox Terrace Association of Concerned Tenants shut down the Olnick Organization’s plan, in part, because of the potential health hazard of a large-scale development and the 1,300 market rate units it would bring to the neighborhood.
“Two hundred and sixty affordable units is nothing,” said resident Eddie Morrero. “If you want to make an investment in this community, in Lenox Terrace, refurbish every apartment in Lenox Terrace before you talk about building six new buildings.”
The development is so compact that every time a unit is renovated the entire building suffers from the noise and air pollution, he added.
“I cannot even begin to comprehend all of the health issues that would arise by a project of this magnitude,” he said.
Additionally, retail spaces on Fifth Avenue have been vacant for years so if Olnick was serious about bringing retail space to the complex, it could start now, tenants said.
Brian Benjamin, chair of the committee, felt that the 80 percent market rate and 20 percent affordable proposal did not bring enough affordable housing to the neighborhood nor did it offer other benefits that would make up for the weakness.
"But in this case it appears that a number of community residents who live in the neighborhood are not happy with it and I have not heard something that’s really gripping that the community gets in exchange for 80/20," he said.
The committee voted to support the tenants in their opposition to a commercial rezoning of Lenox Terrace but stated it would welcome more proposals from Olnick if they included more affordable housing or community benefits.
“I am ecstatic,” said Delsenia Glover, a member of the tenant association. “I am happy that the community board listened to our concerns and validated our concerns.”
Olnick’s redevelopment plan would add six new buildings — varying from 30 to 14 stories — two-story retail spaces on Lenox and Fifth avenues, an underground garage, and a community park over the garage, according to the group's presentation.
Some of those retail spaces could be filled with community facilities, Simon said.
The buildings would create 100 jobs and the retail spaces 1,000, he added.
In order to go through with the plan, Olnick needs to rezone the development to allow for the two-story retail space and 10,000 square-foot stores.