A proposed development of 970 affordable housing units along the Bronx River is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Bronx Community Board 9 on Thursday night voted 26-3 in favor of the plan for building three 24-story apartment buildings at 1460-1480 Sheridan Boulevard in Crotona Park East, along with commercial space for outdoor dining, an amphitheater and a walkway along the river.
That vote came despite concerns from community development groups including the Bronx River Alliance, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice and The Point Community Development Corporation that the development would facilitate gentrification, threaten the health of the Bronx River, and ultimately wouldn’t offer enough affordable units to families making the area median income (AMI).
These income guidelines rely on the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s area median income (AMI) of $120,100 for a three-person family in New York City, which community organizations and Jones argued was too unaffordable for residents of Crotona Park East. The annual median income for the majority Latino and Black Morrisania/Crotona neighborhoods is $31,990, well below the boroughwide average of $43,726, according to census data analyzed by the NYU Furman Center.
‘The Opportunity to Actually Reside’
If built, the high-rise buildings would loom over the Bronx River and the recently revitalized Starlight Park, which is part of the effort to remake the Sheridan Expressway into a boulevard, bringing more pathways for pedestrians and cyclists. The land on which the towers would be built is currently occupied by a construction company and a parking garage and has been in the family of the developer Patricia Simone for 40 years, she said at the hearing.
The proposal, which requires a zoning code shift from manufacturing to residential, is one of several to develop waterfronts across The Bronx. In Soundview, a movie studio is angling to establish a fenced-in waterfront next to Soundview Park. And in Mott Haven, a neighborhood in the midst of rapid development that has skyrocketed concerns of gentrification and displacement, and Port Morris, both developers and community groups are pushing for waterfront development, with some already underway.
“We are 100% committed to continuing conversations with the community board, the Bronx River Alliance, anyone who would like to speak with us about this project. It is open-door,” Simone said after the board approved the project. “We are extremely excited.”
Before voting to approve the proposal, community board members expressed concerns that it would compromise quality of life and public safety in the area. They also raised alarms about the affordability of the project, which would have 146 units for families with incomes up to $36,030; 242 units for families making between that and $60,050; and 195 units for families making up to $96,080, with the remaining 387 units for families making up to $156,000.
“Ultimately, it wouldn’t be offering as much affordable housing for those that would want the opportunity to actually reside in this new construction,” board member Chiene Joy Jones said, before ultimately voting for the project.
Fifteen percent of the 970 units would be reserved for seniors, and people who live in the district would receive preference for half of them.
CB9 district manager William Rivera said at the meeting that Councilmember Rafael Salamanca Jr., who represents the area of the proposed development and chairs the City Council Land Use and Housing Committee, supports the project.
Salamanca Jr. did not respond to a request for comment.
‘Legit Community Fear’
Local environmentalists, who have slowly paddled their way towards revitalizing the Bronx River who have also been instrumental in establishing the pedestrian and cyclist-friendly Sheridan Boulevard, said the development could leave current residents vulnerable to displacement and threaten the health of the river.
Dariella Rodriguez, director of community development for The Point CDC, an organization focused on developing youth, culture and the economy in Hunts Point, said some residents are fearful people who are not from the neighborhood will profit from their hard work.
“There’s this legit community fear of projects … of us doing work that makes our waterfront and our neighborhood more open to being taken away from the people that currently live there,” Rodriguez testified, emphasizing the need for deeply affordable housing that aligns more closely with the AMI of the neighborhood.
More residents would mean an increased for river maintenance, which is already underfunded, testified Bronx River Alliance Interim Executive Director Elena Conte. She added that that capturing 100% of all stormwater is crucial to maintaining the water quality of the river.
“We think that if these types of changes were incorporated, it would be a radically different project that could meet community goals,” Conte said. “But without them, it is insufficient and doesn’t align with the long term community plans and decades of efforts that people have put in to move the area towards environmental, economic and other types of justice.”