WTC Housing Activists Hail Hochul’s Heightened Goals for Affordability
Governor announces more income-restricted units and set-aside for locals there on 9/11 — while acknowledging impact of ‘100% affordable’ agitators.
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced heightened affordable housing goals Thursday for the first residential tower at the World Trade Center, cheering local advocates who have pressed for more low-rent apartments at the publicly owned site.
One-third of the 1,200 units planned for a 900-foot-tall high-rise dubbed 5WTC will be set aside at rent levels below market rate. They are for applicants earning between 40% and 120% of the New York area’s median income — or between $50,840 and $152,520 for a current household of three.
That’s far short of the all-affordable concept backed by the Coalition for a 100% Affordable 5WTC — but participants in that effort reacted to the governor’s announcement with satisfaction that they had made a difference.
The two government agencies behind 5WTC, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have maintained that a 100% affordable new tower is financially unfeasible. In May, the two authorities signed off on a tower plan that committed to making 30% of apartments affordable, at slightly higher minimum incomes than a previous proposal.
New York state is subsidizing the stepped-up amount of affordable housing with $60 million, while the Battery Park City Authority will contribute $5 million.
According to a spokesperson for state Senator Brian Kavanagh, applicants earning no more than 40%, 65% or 80% of the area median income will have 84 apartments set aside for each category, with an additional 70 units available for those earning up to 100% of the median income, and another 70 for those earning no more than 120%.
Praising the Pressure
In announcing the project’s final approval by the state Public Authorities Control Board, Hochul highlighted the activists’ role in moving the needle.
“Coalition for the Affordable 5 World Trade Center, I don’t know where you’re going next, but let’s work together,” Hochul said from the 79th floor of 3 World Trade Center. “Because everyone should be able to call this place … a home, because they deserve it.”
Hochul added a new pledge Thursday: One in five of the affordable housing units will be reserved for individuals who had lived or worked in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001 when the original World Trade Center was destroyed by the terrorist attack that killed thousands and left many area workers suffering from environmental illnesses.
For Jill Goodkind, whose husband Tom passed away from what she described as 9/11-related cancer, Hochul’s announcement was heartening. She said the news acknowledges those survivors of the attack and responders who “paid a high price for rebuilding Lower Manhattan.”
While she said a 100% affordable tower would have been great, she applauds every low-cost housing unit coming. Goodkind added that the lower-income affordable housing will help diversify the neighborhood, which has become increasingly expensive to live in.
“This is a really special day and I think that my husband is very happy right now,” Goodkind said.
Kavanagh, U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-Manhattan/Brooklyn) and state Assemblymember Charles Fall (D-Manhattan/Staten Island/Brooklyn) said in a joint statement: “We are excited to see approval move forward for this mixed-use development site at 5 World Trade Center which, when completed, will be the largest new affordable housing development constructed in Lower Manhattan in many years, and the only residential site at the World Trade Center.”
Developers Silverstein Properties and Brookfield Properties lead the team behind the planned tower at the site of the former Deutsche Bank building, which was heavily damaged in the 9/11 attacks.
The property was purchased by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the ESDC, for $160 million in 2004.
Two years later, the corporation agreed to swap the land with Port Authority for the area that hosts the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and a soon-to-open performing arts center. Port Authority stands to earn at least $12.5 million a year once construction finishes.
In June — after the ESDC and Port Authority both voted in favor of the project with a set-aside of 30% affordable housing for households ranging from 60% to 110% of area median income — the Public Authorities Control Board tabled its vote on the plan.
The board, which reviews and approves the financial soundness of state authority projects, had allegedly delayed its vote at the behest of state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester), the New York Post reported, because of activists’ pressure.
Taylor Banning, 30, who was a child living in Lower Manhattan when the attacks happened, said she was grateful for the additional affordable housing. She noted that when the coalition started its campaign, government agencies had said that they could not go beyond 25% affordable units.
She said she has asthma and other respiratory issues linked to the 9/11 attacks after moving back to Lower Manhattan six months after it happened. She said her mother is also in remission from 9/11-related cancers.
Banning said she and the coalition will keep pushing for more affordable housing units at 5WTC by looking for more funding streams.
“It was really inspiring for me and hopeful because I think it’s beginning to shift the narrative that places like Lower Manhattan, New York City can’t provide affordable housing as a human right,” Banning said.