For over a year now, the Washington Street Advocacy Group has worked with the remarkable Coalition for a 100% Affordable 5 World Trade Center to advocate that the last building of the World Trade Center -- on a site purchased with federal 9/11 disaster funds -- be fully affordable housing.
Nearly every local political leader -- unfortunately except at present the New York State Governor Kathy Hochul -- supports this goal, and we are working constantly and creatively to achieve it.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which received billions of dollars from the federal government after September 11 to support a variety of local needs, neglected its founding principles related to affordable housing. Twenty years later, the corporation still exists and is attempting to funnel most of its remaining funds to megaprojects like the Perelman Performing Arts Center and Hudson River Park.
Despite having no experience in managing the demolition of buildings, the LMDC took responsibility for managing the demolition and sale of the Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty (now the planned site of 5 World Trade Center). During a demolition process that took 10 years, mismanagement and corruption led to a fire at the building, killing 2 firefighters and injuring 115.
After a dispute with the Port Authority over who actually should receive proceeds from a sale or lease of the Deutsche Bank site, in 2018 the LMDC reached an agreement with the Port Authority and with the City of New York. As part of the deal, the LMDC took the position that the master plan for the World Trade Center’s reconstruction should be possibly changed so this site, now called 5 World Trade Center, could become a luxury residential tower rather than an office building which the Port Authority had wanted.
In June 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a rushed RFP process for 5 World Trade Center, giving little time for bids outside of preferred real estate firms. The Port Authority and the LMDC’s standards privileged financial return, meaning that community benefits and affordable housing would likely be neglected. Despite receiving only one bid for a residential project, on February 10, 2021, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced that it had selected a joint venture of Brookfield Properties and Silverstein Properties to build luxury apartments with a 99-year lease to 5 World Trade Center. The bid, as further negotiated, would require a ground rent of $12.5M per year (with unclear adjustments for inflation). However, proposed tax abatements for the developers would be almost double the ground rent, raising questions of whether this proposal will actually produce any net revenue at all for the government.
Advocates have worked vigorously to oppose this plan. We have gained the project of many political leaders in Lower Manhattan, including Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, District Leader Vittoria Fariello, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, former Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Rep. Mondaire Jones. All of the Democratic District Leaders in the city have also published a letter asking the governor to explore an afforable tower.
We will continue to build a strong coalition to persuade Governor Kathy Hochul to pursue the just outcome here.
New York Daily News, July 15, 2019: https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-wtc-development-plan-20190714-enhlsytxuncjhll6pb7mkhe4ji-story.html
6sqft, February 12, 2021: https://www.6sqft.com/plan-for-900-foot-tower-with-1325-rentals-at-5-world-trade-center-moves-forward/
The Indypendent, April 20, 2021: https://indypendent.org/2021/04/housing-for-whom-city-and-state-nix-plan-to-build-affordable-housing-at-world-trade-center-cite/
The Indypendent, September 10, 2021: https://indypendent.org/2021/09/twenty-years-later/
Village Sun, September 11, 2021: https://thevillagesun.com/100-affordable-housing-at-world-trade-center-is-possible-say-activists-and-politicians
AMNY, September 30, 2021: https://www.amny.com/news/push-for-100-affordable-housing-at-5-world-trade-center-takes-center-stage/
New York Times, October 29, 2021: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/29/realestate/5-world-trade-center-affordable.html
Commercial Observer, December 10, 2021: https://commercialobserver.com/2021/12/full-affordability-at-5-wtc-bad-for-financial-forecast-port-authority/
The National (UAE), December 15, 2021: https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/us-news/2021/12/15/new-yorks-little-syria-in-peril-of-destruction-by-developers/