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Affirmation Tower Backed by Black Contractors Halted as Government Officials Debate Purpose of the Space

Affirmation Tower, slated to become the tallest skyscraper in New York City and backed by a majority team of Black contractors and lenders, has hit a roadblock as New York government officials pulled the request for proposal for future evaluation. 

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Don Peebles (Photo from Peebles Corporation website)

“With this project, you had the first opportunity in New York State for the government to demonstrate a paradigm shift with how economic opportunity and just business opportunities are awarded,” Craig Livingston, managing partner for Exact Capital Group, told The Amsterdam News. “We put together a phenomenal team of developers, architects, builders, and our team is 80%, Black. We were contributing over a billion dollars to MWBE contracting and paying a king’s ransom to the state for the development rights.”

In October, a presentation for Affirmation Tower was made to the Empire State Development Corporation in response to an RFP committed to providing at least 35 percent in contracts to minority-owned businesses. This team included Don Peebles, CEO of Peebles Corporation; Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye; Cheryl McKissack Daniel, president, and CEO of McKissack & McKissack; Craig Livingston, Exact Capital Group and Steve Witkoff of the Witkoff Group. 

The project was slated to be developed on a 1.2-acre lot across from Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York. The tower would have featured two hotels, an observation deck, a skating rink and commercial office space. The team projected that Affirmation Tower would provide an estimated 30,000 jobs to New Yorkers and generate $5 billion in new tax revenue over the next 30 years. 

However, Empire State Development Commissioner Hope Knight rescinded proposal requests, citing the need to “reassess development priorities and solicit more input from the local community and other stakeholders.” The decision came in response to Governor Kathy Hochul’s desire to build a “thriving and equitable New York.” 

At a time that community organizers are lobbying for affordable housing throughout New York City, it remains unclear from government officials specifically what may come of the Affirmation Tower RFP.

Peebles, who spearheaded the Affirmation Tower proposal, has balked at the idea of adding residences. 

“Affordable housing is not the best use for that site — across the street from the Javits Center is absurd,” Peebles told The Real Deal. “It would be squandering an opportunity to help Javits become more competitive.”

However, Community Board 4, an advisory group of local volunteers, supports residential construction on the site. 

“We were very pleased that this RFP was pulled back for reconsideration,” Community Board chairman Jeffrey LeFrancois told The Real Deal. “This site could be a huge boon for housing development that includes a wide band of income spectrum.”

Read “Sky’s the Limit: Black Contractors Wants To Build Tallest Skyscraper in NYC History”

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