The Bronx plays a starring role in Mayor Eric Adams’ push to promote the construction of more housing, with a commitment announced Thursday to spur development along four new Metro-North stations set to open on the borough’s east side.
The mayor’s Building and Land Use Approval Streamlining Taskforce, or BLAST, made more than 100 suggestions to streamline approvals and regulations to speed projects and reduce costs, including environmental and land-use reviews as well as permitting through the Department of Buildings.
To visualize the usual bureaucracy of building, the mayor stood next to boxes of paper in the rotunda of City Hall.
“This stack of papers here — this is what it takes to get it done,” he said. “People are reading through 50,000 pieces of paper to actually get housing built in our city. It’s antiquated, it’s counterproductive, and we have to face it head-on.”
The recommendations, most of which the administration can implement on its own, are expected to cut construction delays by 50%, according to the mayor and his housing officials.
The goal is to allow for the building of 50,000 new homes — while city officials also offered a “moonshot” number of 500,000 new homes that could be built to meet increased demand.
“If we enact all of the 111 reforms, we cut the time in half for a project to get from environmental review, to actually permitted with people in them, and we’re saving about $2 billion,” Deputy Mayor Maria Torres-Springer said Thursday.
“What that unlocks, if we can build as fast as we want to through this plan, are 50,000 additional new homes over the course of the new decade.”
‘Fairly New to the Community’
The “Bronx Metro-North Plan” looks to build capacity for 6,000 new homes along the four new commuter rail stations being built as part of the Penn Station Access project.
These stops — in Co-op City, Hunts Point, Morris Park, Parkchester and Van Nest — will reduce commute times to Midtown Manhattan by as much as an hour for some residents once they open in 2027, according to estimates provided by City Hall.
Under city rules that apply when new housing development is permitted, at least a quarter of these new homes will be income-restricted: affordable at below-market rents to qualifying households.
The environmental review process to rezone areas around two of these proposed Metro-North stations began Thursday, with public hearings scheduled in the new year.
Ramon Chalas, 57, a 12-year Morris Park resident, said the mayor’s plan, as described to him by THE CITY, sounded excellent so long as it delivers the jobs and affordable housing promised. Chalas said he pays $1,600 in rent and makes ends meet working an eight-hour shift in central supply at Montefiore Hospital that begins in the afternoon, followed by an eight-hour night shift of housekeeping at Jacobi Hospital.
“It’s something really important because we’re in a situation in which people don’t have housing,” he said in Spanish. Chalas said he lives in a one-bedroom apartment with his son, and uses the living room as a second bedroom, as do many other tenants in his building on Williamsbridge Road.
Local officials THE CITY spoke with praised the plan but seemed to indicate they’d had minimal if any input into, or even awareness of it, before Adams’ announcement.
“I’m certainly excited. It’s an opportunity to provide real jobs,” Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez,, whose district includes Morris Park, told THE CITY about the mayor’s proposed rezoning and the planned new stations, noting that she grew up near where the Parkchester/Van Nest Metro North station would be. “Families now have an opportunity to have access to the city quicker and folks have quicker access to our community.”
When asked if the mayor’s office had sought her approval or thoughts on the plan, Velázquez said she has had conversations with the mayor’s office and other stakeholders involved like the MTA.
On the heels of the controversial Bruckner rezoning process — which Velázquez supported at the 11th hour as City Hall pushed for approval — the Councilmember said she’s “excited about the input process” in the upcoming public hearings for the rezoning around the coming stations.
“Look, everyone will express their opinion. My job is to listen to all sides of it,” Velázquez said.
Councilmember Amanda Farías, whose district encompasses Parkchester and who chairs the Council’s Economic Development Committee, told THE CITY in an email that she recently met with the Department of City Planning to discuss the plan Adams announced today. Farias said she expects “this administration and the developers to carry out an open and transparent process that prioritizes the existing community and local businesses,” adding that it’s “critical that the City gather input from the community both virtually and in person, on all the proposed projects — rezonings, housing, commercial space, Metro-North station creation, etc.”
Assemblymember Karines Reyes, who represents the Parkchester and Van Nest neighborhoods, said that she only learned about the mayor’s plans when he announced them on Thursday.
“This is all fairly new to the community as well. So when they say that they have engaged the community and engaged stakeholders, we question as to who they’ve been speaking to because we’re not clear who that is,” Reyes told THE CITY. She supports any plan, she said, “that’s gonna bring more housing, preferably deeply affordable housing to our community because that’s something that’s desperately needed. But the devil’s in the details and we haven’t seen the details yet.”
Similarly, Assemblymember Nathalia Fernandez, who will continue representing Morris Park when she begins her first term as a state senator next year, also said she had no advance knowledge of city hall’s plan for her district.
The Metro-North corridor and an area of Brooklyn along Atlantic Avenue highlighted by Adams as another target area suggest a break from a yearslong pattern of focusing new development in waterfront areas prone to flooding.
More housing in such areas could accommodate residents who move from neighborhoods more vulnerable to climate impacts, suggested a report released Thursday by Rebuild by Design and the insurance company Milliman.
“These are two areas that we listed as places where New Yorkers may move if they need to move due to climate displacement,” said Amy Chester, Rebuild by Design’s managing director, in an interview with THE CITY. “We’d want to make sure there are affordable housing options and preference if needed is given to New Yorkers who want to stay in our city.”
The report estimated about 20% of the city’s population lives in areas with a high risk for flooding and may eventually have to move out of harm’s way. Another 21% of the population with lower incomes who live in safer areas may be at risk of displacement if there’s an influx of people moving out of vulnerable areas, which can place financial pressure on the receiving community.