January 17, 2020
After three years of discussions, the Morningside Heights Community Coalition (MHCC) has obtained a commitment from our neighborhood institution, Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), to contribute to the Morningside Heights Community Fund (MHCF). The MHCF fund was established by MHCC to help locally based groups.
JTS will contribute $250,000 to the MHCF fund over five years, and is designating another $1 Million in “in kind” services and programs, to include use of the new JTS campus facilities, scheduled to open in late March, 2020.
MHCC was founded in May 2016 in response to overdevelopment by neighborhood institutions, such as JTS and Union Theological Seminary (UTS).
Since that time, UTS signed a community benefits agreement to contribute $400,000 over three years to the MHCF fund. This funding will begin imminently when the 40-story luxury tower begins construction. This tower results from UTS’ sale of land and “air rights” to developers Lendlease and L+M. UTS, at MHCC’s urging, also committed $700,000 to PA’LANTE Harlem to combat anticipated displacement of tenants.
JTS sold its land and “air rights” in 2015 for over $100 Million to enable the developer Savanna to construct a non-contextual 33-story luxury condo tower, the Vandewater, over objections from MHCC, local politicians, and other neighborhood groups.
Our local institutions benefit from windfall real estate deals at the expense of placing additional stress on our community, and accelerating gentrification. MHCC welcomes UTS and JTS to the fund, and looks forward to further participation. We would like to see our other local institutions, along with their real estate developer business partners, acknowledge their obligations to the community.
MHCC is actively working to balance overdevelopment through a long overdue rezoning of Morningside Heights.
Meanwhile, we have established an advisory team to help make decisions concerning allocation of contributed funding to such programs and activities as school programs; affordable and supportive housing; tenant organizing and services; cultural activities; health and safety initiatives; environmental protection; small business development and job creation; promoting civic engagement; community organizations; and countering domestic violence.
MHCC looks forward to ongoing cooperation with JTS as we mitigate the harm caused by out-of-scale luxury developments that disrupt our community.