Lenox Terrace rezoning in Harlem gets green light from City Planning
Photo: Lenox Terrace Aerial; Credit: Davis Brody Bond
A plan to bring a mixed-use development with five buildings and 1,600 apartments to Central Harlem got a much-needed approval on Monday. The City Planning Commission voted in favor of an application from the Olnick Organization to rezone part of the neighborhood, clearing the way for five 28-story luxury towers to be constructed at the existing Lenox Terrace complex.
Following rejections from both Manhattan Community Board 10 and Borough President Gale Brewer last year, the developer revised their application in January to change the requested rezoning from commercial zoning to residential upzoning with a commercial overlay.
As Patch reported, the rezoning change allows for more small businesses to open, rather than large retailers. Olnick also removed the six-story structure at 470 Lenox Avenue from the plan to preserve views of the main entryway to the development.
“The best way to keep Harlem affordable is to create more affordable housing, and at Lenox Terrace that is only feasible through the proposed rezoning,” Seth Schochet, president of the Olnick Organization, said in a press release on Monday.
The site, between Lenox and Fifth Avenue and West 132nd Street and West 135th Street, currently consists of six 16-story residential towers and five one-story commercial buildings. It first opened 60 years as part of a Robert Moses-led slum clearing project.
The project by Olnick, which has owned the complex since it opened in 1958, would expand the site by constructing five 28-story buildings that would house more than 1,600 housing units and 160,000 square feet. According to the developer, roughly 400 apartments would be designated affordable under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, with about 160 units available for those earning minimum wage. Olnick claims the project would be “the largest private affordable housing initiative in Harlem.”
Opponents of the plan have expressed concerns about the effect 1,200 market-rate apartments would have on the historic black neighborhood, as well as possible out-of-scale developments in the future.
In her recommendation last December, Brewer said the proposal “promises to change the physical and socioeconomic character of Central Harlem” and lacks public and private investment needed to make it worth it for the neighborhood. “There are few instances where a development the scale of the one proposed by Lenox Terrace Development Associates can be viewed as responsible,” Brewer wrote in December.
“I am disappointed by the City Planning Commission’s vote, yet still buoyed by the disapproval of the Olnick proposal by CB 10 and ‘NO’ vote by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer,” Lenn Shebar, the president of Lenox Terrace Association of Concerned Tenants (LT-ACT), which represents tenants of the complex, told 6sqft in an email.
“I am extremely encouraged that Councilman Bill Perkins, who has consistently stated his disapproval of the rezoning proposal, will support the tenants of Lenox Terrace, who unanimously are against rezoning of the property. We, and the community, are counting on his leadership with a thumbs down, ‘NO’ vote,” Shebar said.
The rezoning proposal will next move to the City Council with a public hearing scheduled this month.