While the Olnicks have been planning and discussing a possible expansion at the site for years, their recent actions suggest the firm is gearing up to move ahead at the complex, bounded by Fifth Avenue, Malcolm X Boulevard, 132nd Street and 135th Street. They have recently begun paying significant fees to their land-use attorneys at the firm Kramer Levin—$26,000 in the latest two-month report—usually a sign of documents being readied for the Department of City Planning.
And, apparently cognizant of the political heft such an undertaking would entail, the firm brought in the services of Bill Lynch, retaining his lobbying and consulting firm late last year. Mr. Lynch, a former deputy mayor in the Dinkins administration, has strong ties to the Harlem political class.
Further, the Olnicks have effectively given gifts to some of the top politicians in the complex, particularly to Mr. Rangel. He lives in a set of three rent-stabilized apartments, an odd setup that seems to be legal should the landlord be on board with the arrangement. The landlord also has the right to take those apartments out of rent stabilization for any household making more than $175,000 a year for two straight years, a category that would include Mr. Rangel. This is an opportunity that landlords typically jump on, given that they can take in far more through market-rate rents, though again, the Olnicks are not required to do so.
Thus far, several elected officials briefed on the plans seem to be sympathetic to the tenants’ perspective.
“It’s a very simple formula for me,” said State Senator Bill Perkins, referring to the tenants. “If they’re not happy, I’m not happy. Period.”
Should the Olnicks proceed, they would need to take the development through the city’s seven-month approval process, which would ultimately mean winning over the City Planning Commission and the City Council. In typical land-use fights, all the elected officials are wooed by both sides, with the developers frequently striking a deal with the local council member to clear the way for the project (a spokeswoman for that member in this case, Inez Dickens, said she shares some of the tenants’ concerns).
Looking forward, a timeline on the plan is unclear. The Olnicks, who did not respond to requests for comment, have not yet filed anything with the Department of City Planning, according to an agency spokeswoman.
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