New York—Tahl Propp Equities moves forward with long-held plans to expand its Lexington Gardens affordable housing community in Harlem, as it prepares to commence talks with the Department of Housing Preservation & Development about contributing city-owned land to the project. If all goes as expected, TPE will combine its developable space with HPD’s property to develop 175 to 200 units of additional low-income apartment residences.
TPE proposes to erect the new apartments along an entire city block running from 107th to 108th St., sandwiched between Lexington and Park Avenue. However, TPE owns only two-thirds of that block, including land and 65,000 square feet of air rights. HPD possesses the remaining one-third. It’s a big plan, but not one that was always appreciated by area residents.
“We had had talks with HPD three or four years ago which progressed to a pretty substantial point but unfortunately we didn’t have Community Board 11 support at that time, so the project was put on hold for a couple of years,” Joseph A. Tahl, president of TPE, tells MHN. “We then went back to Community Board 11, presented the entire project to them, worked through the issues that they had and we now have the full support of not only the housing committee of Community Board 11 but the full Community Board 11. So because we now have the full support of CB11, we’re going back to HPD to basically conclude the deal.” As agreed, all of the new apartments will be reserved for income-qualified residents ranging from the low- to moderate-income categories.
The timing is just right; the gap between supply and demand in low-income housing has only increased since TPE first plotted the project. “Certainly the need for affordable housing in both East and West Harlem, if anything, is greater than it was a few years ago now that the economy is in difficult shape,” Tahl notes. I think the project becomes even more important for the community and more beneficial for the community now that there are so many people who are having trouble, who are struggling, who need affordable housing. We’re very happy to build our project; we’re not happy that there are so many people in need, but we’re happy to try to help satisfy part of that need.”
TPE’s commitment is evident, as it is not as though the company did not have a choice of what type of housing it could construct on its land. “The development rights that we have currently are unrestricted residential [floor area ratio],” Tahl says. “I could build anything; I could build market-rate, I could build condos. I’m voluntarily contributing my land and my development rights into this 100 percent affordable development with HPD.”
Ironing out the land transfer details is just the beginning, really. There is still the issue of rezoning the HPD-owned land to accommodate residential. Construction could commence in two years, at the earliest. “It’s literally a marathon not a sprint; it’s going to take some time.” There are many steps remaining, including securing all necessary financing for the approximately $45 million endeavor. “The financing is largely going to depend on what the subsidy structure is,” he explains. “It will be a highly subsidized financing package and we’re in the process of developing that with HPD.”
TPE’s project is in no shortage of supporters. “We’re very happy not only to have the support of Community Board 11, but also council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is a great champion of affordable housing and the needs of the East Harlem community in general. She’s played a very important role in the project all the way through. So we’re really looking forward to making progress.”
With any luck, everything will fall into place in time for the Lexington Gardens expansion to contribute to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan, which calls for the creation and preservation of 165,000 affordable housing units in New York City by the close of 2014. “Our project fits squarely within that plan, for sure,” says Tahl.