Labor unions rally for One45 Harlem apartment towers ahead of City Council vote

Labor unions took to the steps of City Hall Tuesday morning to support the construction of embattled Harlem towers just before a City Council committee vote.

Unions 32BJ and Local 79 defended the project known as One45, a duo of 363-foot-tall towers planned to be built on West 145th Street and Lenox Avenue. While Harlem locals have raised concern about the skyscrapers, worrying that they could be the harbingers of gentrification, union leaders believe that the plans pose a great opportunity for the community investment and growth.

“After good talks with the developer, we have come to see how many opportunities are being dealt within this project,” political organizer for 32BJ Marissa Williams said. “This is exactly the type of project that we need in our city. It is a development that will ensure good building service jobs but also be a development that will include high quality workforce housing, senior housing, MIH and market rate.”

According to the groups, the towers would accommodate members of the workforce at affordable pricing. This is something they say the city is lacking in. The unions cite that households headed by one or two union members cannot qualify for typical Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and often cannot afford market-rate rents. With One45 supporters believe they will be able to live where they work.

Crowding on the steps leading to City Hall, 32BJ and Local 79 members chanted for their cause and even set up a poster depicting the new buildings.

The rally took place on the steps of City Hall. Photo by Dean Moses
Photo by Dean Moses

Tristan, a member of the development team, said at the rally that their plan is based on dialogue with local stakeholders, city agencies, and elected officials that addresses the desires of the community by bringing 915 new homes for various income levels. Additionally, the team boasts that the hub will include a brand-new headquarters for the National Action Network (NAN).

“We all know there’s an acute citywide housing crisis, and it’s showing no signs of abating. Rents are surging well past pre-pandemic levels and supply is below historical norms,” Tristan said. “This project proposes to bring 915 new homes at many different income levels to Harlem at a site where there’s currently no housing. Forty percent of the units will be rent regulated with over 200 inclusionary housing units at 60%, AMI average 90, extremely, very low-income housing units for vulnerable seniors, and 70 moderate income union targeted homes for the folks you see here. This represents an additional 150 units from our original plan. And we now offer 370 affordable units throughout the project. One45 will no longer be the home of the Museum of Civil Rights. Instead, the plan will include the affordable housing that I just mentioned as well as the CBO opportunity hub for local nonprofits.”

But local Council Member Kristin Richardson Jordan does not believe One45 will do justice for the community she represents, citing an already over-congested 145 Street Subway station that only accommodates five train cars and added that developers have refused to meet with her where community members would also be invited. 

Photo by Dean Moses

As the hearing commenced, Jordan shared testimonies through her Twitter account from members of Community Board 10 (who voted no to One45) and other locals on how they feel about the project. 

Jordan tweeted: “Community Board 10 speaking now “We are not against development. But this team has not addressed our concerns and has problems with being transparent.”

“I am a senior and lifelong Harlemite, and I am troubled by One45. We raise our kids and they go to college but they cannot afford to come back. We need affordable rents that reflect longterm Harlemites. One45 is not appropriate for our area,” Deborah Gilliard said, according to Jordan’s Twitter. 

While at the rally Williams stated that she represents over 85,000 members across New York with 32BJ, and she is fighting to ensure that affordable housing is created so that their members can live and work in their community. 

“So often we hear from our members that despite their good union jobs they need to move outside of the city to find a place that they can afford to live and raise their families,” Williams said.

The City Council vote was scheduled to take place Tuesday afternoon.