East Harlem Redevelopment Greenlit by City Council

City Land NY reports that the City Council approved with modifications a redevelopment plan that will bring 3 high school facilities, 315 affordable housing units, a new park and playground, retail space, and job opportunities to East Harlem. On August 24, 2017, the City Council voted 41-0 to approve a modified land use application for the redevelopment of a full city block in East Harlem. The application for redevelopment from the New York City Education Construction Fund and AvalonBay Communities was approved by the City Planning Commission on June 21, 2017. The entire redevelopment requires a zoning map change (LU 0700-2017), a zoning text change (LU 0701-2017), and 2 special permits (LU 0702-2017 and LU 0703-2017).

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The proposed project would create a 63-story building containing 1,175,000 square feet on the western portion of the block, facing Second Avenue. The western building would contain over one million square feet of residential space, about 25,000 square feet of commercial space and about 135,000 square feet for CO-OP Tech—a citywide vocational program. Thirty percent of the residential units would be marked as affordable permanently under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing law. An eight-story building containing 135,000 square feet would be constructed on the eastern portion of the block. The eastern building would hold two additional public high schools that would be relocated from nearby locations. The Marx Brothers Playground—a 1.49 acre playground occupying the western portion of the project site—would be shifted to the center of the block between the two new buildings. For CityLand’s prior coverage, click here.

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On August 9, 2017, City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises held a meeting where Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito made a statement in support of the project. The Speaker represents District 8 where the redevelopment will occur. In her statement, the Speaker stressed the unprecedented public benefits this project will provide to the community of East Harlem.

With over 500 million dollars in private investment, the redevelopment does not require any use of City capital, which is rare for a project of this scale. East Harlem will enjoy its first new high school buildings in over 50 years. These new facilities will expand classroom size by 60%, and create more career and technical education programs. With the expansion of school facilities, current public facilities that are being burdened by the high schools’ use, such as the Julia De Burgos Cultural Center, will be more accessible to the public.

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Regarding the residential building, the applicants went beyond the City’s minimum requirements for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, with 30% of the building, 315 units, dedicated to affordable housing. To actually cure affordability issues, certain units will accommodate the lowest income earners in the City, at 30% and 40% of the Average Median Income. Addressing public concern over the building’s height, the building was reduced five stories through the ULURP process.

$8 million will be spent specifically on improving the Marx Brothers Playground and the Stanley Isaacs Park, and creating more retail space, to provide the community with more opportunity and enjoyment.

At the Committee on Land Use meeting later on August 9th, the council member for the neighboring district, Ben Kallos, spoke to the importance of community input on this project. Council Member Kallos stated that the project was now better off than when it had started due to the efforts of the Community Board.

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Speaker Mark-Viverito concluded her statement by saying, “[I]n the context of a once-in-a-generation project which will deliver new state-of-the-art school space for hundreds of students, 300 units of affordable housing, new park space, hundreds of new jobs—many of which will be available to the local community, new cultural space in the Julia De Burgos, there is much here to celebrate as well.”

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