On Tuesday, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) announced it had selected a joint venture partnership between for-profit and non-profit developers to build 175 units of income-targeted housing, a new library and other community space at the site of the current Inwood library.
The announcement comes as Inwood Community Board 12 prepares to vote on the city’s proposed Inwood rezoning, which would encourage increased commercial and residential development by allowing higher density in several areas of the neighborhood, while preserving neighborhood character in others. The city’s rezoning application also includes the disposition of the Inwood library site to a private developer for redevelopment.
Congressman Adriano Espaillat reacted swiftly in his own press release, calling the Inwood library plan “a Trojan Horse for Uptown,” arguing that “although the [rezoning] plan offers affordable units…what the City has offered is far from enough” and that “if this rezoning goes through as is, there will be a direct and indirect displacement of thousands of residents.” The congressman repeated his demand that the city commit to investing in the creation of 5,000 income-targeted units in Washington Heights and Inwood, preserve existing affordable housing and reduce the size of the rezoning area. Previously, the congressman has vocalized support for the Inwood library project in itself.
The joint venture is between Community League of the Heights, a non-profit community development organization based in Washington Heights, the company Ranger Properties, the community-development focused company Alembic and the youth-focused non-profit The Children’s Village. The project would be named “The Eliza,” after Eliza Hamilton, the wife of Alexander Hamilton and an early supporter of the library.
The developers have committed to using the Extremely Low Income and Low Income Affordability (ELLA) program. According to the press release, the building will target families making between $34,360 and $51,540 for a household of three (30 to 50 percent Area Median Income), while over 20 percent of the apartments will be affordable to households earning less than $26,000 for a family of three (30 percent AMI). The building will include units for homeless families as well. The new structure will also include amenities for residents, a preK facility, an Activities, Culture, Training Center that will host a variety of community programs, and a three-story “state-of-the-art” library. It would altogether be 14-stories tall.
“The selection of the winning bid for the development of the Inwood Library site is an important step as we go through the process of considering major changes to our community,” said local councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez in HPD’s press release. “As conversations progress, we will ensure that any proposed changes and new resources will benefit our community. They must expressly serve to strengthen District 10 residents, the small business community, our schools and job opportunities in booming fields. We deserve nothing less than the best.”
The press release includes further specifics about the library project, but though it mentions that a temporary library will be provided, it does not include any details on that facility. Replacing the library during its potential reconstruction has been a main concern for community members.
Some community members who support the alternative Uptown United Platform had asked that the land for the library be developed on a community land trust. Though HPD’s press release does not include any mention of such, it does note that the city will ensure the permanent affordability of the structure through the use of a legal tool called remainder interest that will give the city control over the future of the property. The New York Public Library will also maintain permanent ownership of the library.
Some community members have also argued that the Inwood library should go through its own public review process and be considered separately from the Inwood rezoning.
The board’s land-use committee meeting has been rescheduled from Wednesday March 7 to Thursday March 15, and the full board will vote on the rezoning on March 20. A full schedule of committee dates and locations can be viewed here.
Espaillat, meanwhile, has announced he will host a “Community Forum on Inwood Rezoning and 100 percent Affordable Housing” on Monday, March 12 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm at a location to be determined.