On Thursday, June 18, 2015 the Olnick Organization, landlords of Lenox Terrace apartments, went before the Community Board 10 (CB 10) Land Use Committee, seeking approval to rezone the entire Lenox Terrace complex from residential to commercial zoning. At the end of the meeting, the Committee voted unanimously to write a letter of support for LT-ACT against the commercial rezoning.
After Olnick presented their PowerPoint presentation, Brian Benjamin - Chair of the Land Use Committee, called the plan "disappointing."
"We expected you to come with more," Benjamin told Olnick. "What are you giving back to the community in exchange [for the zoning change]?"
The commercial rezoning could double the number of apartments in an already densely populated complex, adding an unsupportable strain to the infrastructure of the community including subways, buses, traffic, schools, and hospital as well as having a devastating impact on the quality of life of the community.
Why LT-ACT Opposes Olnick’s
Copyright 2019 Lenox Terrace Association of Concerned Tenants
Last Fall, Olnick unveiled their “Updated Plan” to residents. The construction plan seeks to re-zone the Lenox Terrace property from residential zoning to commercial zoning. Under the commercial zoning Olnick is looking to roughly double the number of apartments within our complex. We would go from our current 1700 apartments to 3300 apartments within our complex! There would also be a significant increase of large scale commercial in-fill that will add even greater congestion.
LT-ACT vehemently opposes the re-zoning of the Lenox Terrace property in the strongest possible terms.
The negative impact to the quality of life for Lenox Terrace residents would be immediate and irrevocable:
In the past year Olnick has been on a charm offensive to try to persuade tenants to forget their past egregious behavior and to ignore the calamitous changes they are looking to bring to our complex and our community. Olnick can do responsible in-fill construction under the current residential zoning. As Brian Benjamin said at the Community Board 10 meeting in 2015 when Olnick brought their re-zoning proposal, “This plan is disappointing…What are you giving back to the community in exchange [for the zoning change]?”
Olnick’s current "tenant benefit" strategy is to replace kitchens that have the old metal cabinets with updated cabinets – something they should be doing anyway.
In several surveys, tenants have overwhelmingly voted against the re-zoning. LT-ACT will continue to fight the landlord’s proposal to re-zone the property to commercial re-zoning. As Councilmember Bill Perkins has stated, “The residents of Lenox Terrace have my total and unwavering support in their efforts to secure the future, preserve their health and advocate for sustainable, community-driven development by opposing another massive commercial rezoning in Harlem. The proposed rezoning and redevelopment plan is not in the best interest of the Harlem community...It is time to put our collective foot down and preserve the livable character of our neighborhoods, not turn them into Times Square north.”
COMMUNITY BOARD 10 LAND USE COMMITTEE
SIDES WITH LT-ACT
The landlords are proposing six new apartment building towers on the property, some as high as 30 stories as well as dense, overscale commercial infill as high as five stories tall around the perimeter of the complex. Olnick tried to sell their proposed plan to the Committee as an "affordable housing plan," even though it will only include 20% "affordable" housing. In the mean time Olnick is being sued in a class action lawsuit by LT tenants claiming Olnick has taken existing apartments out of rent stabilization illegally.
CB 10 Land Use Boardmembers told Olnick, this is a "market rate plan," not an affordable housing plan and that the zoning change to commercial would not be beneficial the community.
78 % of Lenox Terrace residents voted against the commercial rezoning last year.
LT-ACT strongly opposes the rezoning and has been advocating maintaining the current residential zoning which still allows for development of the property including new apartment towers and commercial space in line with a residential community.
Olnick can continue to pursue commercial rezoning, so the battle continues. This is a first and very important victory for LT residents and the community.
“I stand with the tenants. I stood with the tenants when you came before me when I was Chair of the Land Use Committee of Community Board 10 and I stand with the tenants now as your State Senator. I want to be very clear about that…I don’t know what’s on this paper [The statement Olnick put out on Feb. 1, 2018] but I’m telling you with my own mouth, I stand with the tenants, period – point blank.”
State Senator Brian Benjamin – Feb. 1, 2018
at the LT-ACT Town Hall Meeting
See complete Town Hall Summary - Click HERE
Lenox Terrace Association of Concerned Tenants (LT-ACT)
From the January, 2018 LT-ACT Newsletter (Excerpt)
State Senator Brian Benjamin addressing the LT-ACT Tenant Meeting opposing the proposed commercial re-zoning by Olnick, February 1, 2018.