NEW YORK - Harlem has become home to Manhattan's newest truck depot. Last year, developers fought and failed to build mixed-income apartments on the 145th Street site.
Big rigs squeezed into spaces Wednesday under the awning of an old gas station, with a second lot for smaller trucks standing by on the corner at Malcolm X Boulevard. Developer Bruce Teitelbaum acknowledges neighbors' concerns about the effect of exhaust on kids with asthma.
"Our original plan was to do exactly what you see going on today," Teitelbaum said. "That was six, seven years ago, but we said that we weren't going to do that because people in the community asked us to build housing, create jobs, and we agreed with them. We felt that was the right thing to do."
Local leaders demanded more affordability and blocked rezoning requests, so Teitelbaum stopped trying.
Anti-violence activist Iesha Sekou walked across from her Street Corner Resources office to share her thoughts with Teitelbaum, who initially offered her a work space in the property he proposed.
"I don't need a little teeny-weeny room in exchange for people not having real affordable housing," Sekou said. "He was looking for people in the community that he could use as his front people so he could build these buildings that don't really provide affordable housing to anyone."
Sekou did not believe the site would ever open, and still doubts it actually has.
"Even as a truck stop, it is inadequate," said Sekou. "Just look at it. I mean, there is not enough room for these trucks that are in here to be in. You understand, they'll back up running into each other."
"I respect her opinion," Teitelbaum responded, "but I think she should be talking to the council member. Not to me."
A big piece that is missing on the site is somewhere for the drivers to rest, which is still being built. The former laundromat remains in chains, filled with old equipment.
Teitelbaum maintains a truck depot does provide a solution for some -- the drivers who need to park.
"You'll see dozens of trucks that are illegally parked, commercial vehicles along the street," Teitelbaum pointed out. "It's a big problem it the city."
The drivers parked at the opening say they were just asked to park on site to demonstrate how it operated, but might use the lot if they are delivering nearby.
"If I want to park somewhere in Manhattan, I'm gonna have to wait until two cars leave, or three," said Daler Mavlyanov. "It depends on the truck size."
Truck companies will be able to reserve their spot online, although the website still lists the site as under construction.
The rest area for the truck depot is estimated to open in two weeks. Legally, drivers have to turn their engines off to park, leaving limited available options for comfortable relaxation.
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