Additional reporting by Reuven Blau
Carmelo Anthony may be expanding his footprint in the South Bronx.
The former Knick recently met with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to talk about a “basketball facility” proposed for 845 East 136 Street in Port Morris, according to documents obtained by THE CITY.
The forward nicknamed “Melo” has been holding meetings to gauge opinions on the rec center idea, though talks appear preliminary, a source with knowledge of the Diaz-Anthony discussion told THE CITY.
Diaz met with Anthony the afternoon of April 30, according to a copy of the borough president’s schedule obtained by THE CITY through a Freedom of Information Law request.
“That would be wavy, I’m not gonna lie,” said Izaya Gray, of Mott Haven, who was skateboarding near hoops on Westchester and Forest Avenues. “They don’t have a lot of rec centers out here. Shoutout to Carmelo Anthony!”
The building on East 136, which housed a self-storage until about a year-and-a-half ago in the fast-gentrifying neighborhood, is not currently occupied, according to a local broker.
Tom Cisco, leasing agent for the space, said that Somerset Real Estate was working with an interested client. Somerset, which teamed up with Anthony on a nearby pizzeria, did not return requests for comment.
It’s unclear what the exact plan is for the two-story, 94,000-square-foot site. Both Diaz’ office and Anthony’s representatives declined to comment.
EXR-Somerset commercial broker Andrew Roth said Anthony was “very excited” about expanding his presence in the neighborhood.
“He’s a big South Bronx fan and believes in its growth,” Roth said.
Melo Shoots for the Bronx
Anthony, who was born in Brooklyn, has established a position in the South Bronx in recent years. Last May, the New York Post reported Anthony was an investor in Nobody’s Pizza — which is about 10 blocks from the potential basketball center.
At the time, he told the paper that he was excited to get into a venture that combined “food, entertainment, sports and real estate.”
In late 2015, his Carmelo Anthony Foundation teamed with a Bronx church and the nonprofit Feed The Children for a holiday food giveaway.
The pro-baller tried to open a sports center in the city before: In 2015, he announced his foundation would contribute funds for a facility proposed as part of the Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment in Brooklyn. But he pulled out following pressure from activists worried about accelerating gentrification in Crown Heights.
It’s unclear how a similar play would run south of the Bruckner, where booming development, rising housing costs and fear of displacement have polarized some living in the area.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Princess Sanchez, who’s lived in Mott Haven most of her life. “The youth nowadays do need something to do.”
“It’s going to discourage them if it costs too much,” countered her cousin, Julio Sanchez, who also lives in the neighborhood. “I mean, some of them don’t even have money to eat. So how would they be able to use something like this, if the price is out of reach?”
All over Mott Haven and Port Morris, new construction is beginning to peek through a once-sparse skyline. Restaurants and businesses are springing up, too, inviting a wash of newcomers to the area. Corporations also have seized on the location — not far from 845 East 136 Street, HBO leased a 92,000 square-foot warehouse space to produce part of “The Deuce.”
Between 2016 and 2018, the price per square foot for home sales in the Mott Haven and nearby Melrose shot up close to 60%, according to a 2019 report from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing. Around 58% of those living in the area are considered “rent-burdened,” the report says.
UPDATE: This story now has a comment from EXR-Somerset real estate broker Andrew Roth.
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