Harlem Environmental Justice Group Blasts Developer for Truck Depot
Members of the Harlem community are decrying a developer’s plan to build a controversial truck depot, warning that the decision to put profit over people’s health will send more pollution-spewing big rigs into the low-income community of color and worsen the environmental injustice already borne by the neighborhood.
Real-estate bigwig Bruce Teitelbaum had wanted planned to build two 32-story buildings comprising more than 900 units of housing (half affordable) and a Museum of Civil Rights (in partnership with Rev. Al Sharpton) at W. 145th Street and Lenox Avenue — but he withdrew his application for a critical zoning change after Harlem Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan vowed to vote down the project.
And in the place of his now-defunct mega-project One45, Teitelbaum said he would instead build a truck depot in a neighborhood already overburdened by trucks, pollution, and deadly streets, and where, as a result, residents, especially children, suffer from more health-related problems and high asthma rates when compared to the rest of the city.
“Communities of color and low-income, like Central Harlem, are already burdened with more than their fair share of pollution. Siting yet another source of dangerous air pollution in this community is either a scare tactic designed to restart negotiations or an overt act of environmental racism. Harlem does not deserve this,” said Lonnie Portis, WE ACT for Environmental Justice’s Environmental Policy and Advocacy Coordinator.
A member of WE ACT, Jaqueline Gardner, who lives in the nearby Fred Samuels Houses, similarly chastised Teitelbaum for putting her and her neighbors more at risk of health problems as a result of more truck traffic.
“This is a Black community,” she said. “We are not rich folks. Our children and seniors are very much in harm’s way. We already experience lots of illness so to inhale these fumes is adding fuel to the fire that is already burning. God help us.”
But Teitelbaum, who called the advocacy organization’s comments “amusing,” said he’s moving forward with the depot for neither of those reasons — he still maintains that he tried to do the right thing but was thwarted by the local council member and even that very organization itself, which he claims never responded to his requests to discuss his initial plans.
“I agree [with the WE ACT statement], which is why it’s so puzzling to me. It’s surprising to me that they were completely silent,” Teitelbaum told Streetsblog.
Teitelbaum has said that the current zoning — which he had hoped to change — has him hamstrung; the L-shaped lot is currently zoned only to allow “automotive and other heavy commercial services,” plus only about 50 units of housing, but they would likely be market rate because affordable units would not be subsidized unless he got the zoning change.
Jordan, the Council member, told Streetsblog in a statement that she believes a true affordable housing project is still possible and is having ongoing conversations, but she declined to provide more details.
“I think there is still a lot of possibility for an actually affordable housing project on this site which is an ongoing dialogue on several fronts and a much more realistic outcome, even in terms of the developers profits,” said Jordan, who also encouraged those interested to join her office’s housing task force meetings (information can be found here: www.kristininharlem.com/events)
She’s now facing a challenge from Assembly Member Inez Dickens, who claims Jordan’s progressive politics are out of step with the neighborhood, the Post reported.