NEW YORK - The New York City Council stopped a developer from building a new housing complex in Harlem. So he created a truck depot instead. The lot at the center of this battle is on West 145th and Lenox Avenue.
"Park Your Fleet" reads a sign hanging over an abandoned gas station on the Harlem lot. The developer Bruce Teitelbaum, who served as chief of staff to then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said his company RPG had big plans for the 70,000-square-foot lot, which includes Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network headquarters.
Project 145 would include nearly 1,000 apartments (half would be below market-rate), retail space, and a civil rights museum inside two 32-story towers. But the council refused to rezone the area.
"Gentrification is a huge problem. We have a tendency to think that we're doing these projects in order to remove blight, which we assume is going to increase the property value," resident told FOX 5. "But what does it do for the actual people, the actual residents?"
It displaces them, according to Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan, Teitelbaum's fiercest opponent on the council. She argues that his apartments would be 70% studios and one-bedrooms, and too expensive, meaning most Harlem families couldn't fit or afford them.
"We need affordable housing that's based on the income of the people that are actually in Harlem," a resident said. "Jordan is in favor of doing things that are in favor of the community. I believe that many of our developers are in favor of things that will support profitability."
By blocking the project, the rundown lot gets no new housing. Instead, it is a truck depot that critics said will only add the area's congestion and pollution, and will worsen conditions for residents suffering from asthma.
Teitelbaum didn't respond to FOX 5 NY's request for comment. However, he told CBS2 last week: "I recognize this is not something that a lot of folks in the community will embrace, and I feel badly about that. We didn't want to do this, but we have no other viable choice."
Jordan responded on Monday.
"Our community has been given the same false choice as many other working-class, black and brown ones: either give in to gentrification, i.e. get out, or suffer the consequences and be squeezed out," Jordan said in a statement. "The people nor our office will give in and facilitate either. Another way is indeed possible."
It is not clear if the truck depot is a permanent move by Teitelbaum. He might be putting his original project on hold until next year's City Council elections.