Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first major housing victory came when the City Council successfully rezoned East New York in Brooklyn. Now, his administration is going to try and push another contentious rezoning through the public approval process, in order to redevelop the auto shop-filled Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.
The Department of City Planning has just posted the first sets of documents laying out the plan to revitalize a large swath of the south and west Bronx. The new zoning would cover 73 blocks along Jerome Avenue, starting in the south at McClellan Street in Highbridge and running north up to 184th Street in University Heights. Along the way, Jerome also passes through Mount Eden, Mount Hope, Morris Heights, and Concourse.
Right now, the only new development that can happen along Jerome is commercial—retail, hotels, office space, or industrial buildings like auto shops and warehouses. The city wants to encourage the construction of large, mixed-use residential buildings, which will bring new retail, community services, and thousands of affordable apartments. DCP predicts that the rezoning will inject 3,250 new apartments into the area, 72,273 square feet of community facility space, and 35,575 square feet of commercial/retail space.
The rezoning would impose the mayor’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy on all 73 blocks, which means that any developer who builds there will have to rent at least a quarter of their apartments at below-market rates. While City Planning doesn’t specify how many affordable units could be built, the proposal estimates that a “substantial portion” of the new apartments will be below-market. In the last decade, more than 80 percent of the new housing units in Bronx community districts 4 and 5 (which cover much of the soon-to-be-rezoned area) were subsidized affordable units, according to DCP.
The new zoning would limit the heights of new buildings to 80 or 100 feet along much of Jerome Avenue, but new construction would be able to reach up to 120 feet around Burnside and Tremont avenues (at the north end of the corridor) and at the southern edge between West 167th and 170th streets. The densest development would be able to rise up to 145 feet at the south end of the rezoned strip, around McClellan Street.
And as YIMBY noted last summer, officials have also promised to upgrade the public spaces, parks, and streets in these neighborhoods. Neighbors worry about walking home at night under the elevated 4 train tracks on Jerome, which darken the streets even on blocks with street lights. The new zoning would also require setbacks along Jerome, to ensure light and air gets through between the new buildings and the tracks.
Auto shops line much of Jerome Avenue, and they employ hundreds of workers. Many of those auto shop employees are recent immigrants who speak limited English, and they’re not sure where they’d go if the shops were sold to developers and closed. The city estimates that the rezoning will displace roughly 100,000 square feet of auto shops and 100 employees, but the planning documents promise that another study will analyze the potential displacement in greater depth.
Next, the rezoning will have to move through each layer of the public approval process, clearing public meetings with the local community boards, the City Planning Commission, the Borough President, and the City Council. City Planning will kick off the process by hosting a public scoping meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday, September 29th, 2016 at the Gould Memorial Library Auditorium in Bronx Community College, which is at 2155 University Avenue. Typically during a scoping meeting, DCP officials will present the plan and then allow the public to ask questions.
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