BJ’s Warehouse withdrawn: faced Council disapproval

Related Companies withdrew its big-box retail proposal after Committee unanimously disapproved. On February 16, 2005, Related Retail Bruckner LLC withdrew its application for a special permit and map amendment to allow the development of a 130,000 sq.ft. BJ’s Warehouse Club, which was scheduled for a full Council vote that day. BJ’s had gained the unanimous approval of the Planning Commission, but faced likely defeat at the full Council meeting after its Land Use Committee unanimously disapproved the application on February 10, 2005. Objections pertained to potential traffic impacts, BJ’s labor history and the project’s effect on existing Bronx supermarkets.

The 430,000 sq.ft. site considered for the project is located within the Throgs Neck/Schuylerville area along Brush Road, directly north of Monsignor Scanlon High School and south of the junction between the Bruckner and Cross-Bronx Expressways and the Hutchinson River Parkway. Westchester Creek, St. Raymond’s Cemetery and the parkway and expressways separate the site from the bordering residential districts. Currently, the site contains a large, 42,000 sq.ft. warehouse building, a vacant restaurant and inn, and a parking lot used by the U.S. Postal Service.

Related sought to rezone most of the site from R4A/C2-1 to M1-2, which would have permitted the large retail use and slightly decreased the parking requirement. Along with the rezoning, Related sought a “large retail establishment” special permit to allow the store to exceed the floor area limit in the district. To grant this permit, the Planning Commission was required to find that BJ’s would not have a significant traffic impact on the adjacent neighborhoods.

At the January 27, 2004 public hearing before the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, Related testified that the traffic impacts to the surrounding residential areas would be minimal because most customers would arrive by car via the parkway and expressways. Local 342 (United Food and Commercial Workers International) and Local 338 (Retail Wholesale & Department Store Union) spoke in opposition.

Council Member Annabel Palma submitted an opposition letter co-signed by Members Helen Foster, Hiram Monserrate, Miguel Martinez, Charles Barron and Majority Leader Joel Rivera. The Council Members cited to BJ’s history of antiunion activity, its practice of bypassing local distribution companies, and its “stiff opposition” to requests to pay a prevailing wage and provide employee health benefits in its existing city stores. The letter asserted that, if approved, 23 predominantly minority-owned, unionized Bronx supermarkets and a Bronx food distributor, the Hunt’s Point Market, would be negatively impacted.

When the matter reached the Land Use Committee, Chair Melinda Katz urged opposition to the project, stating that the traffic analysis did not study the impact on the parkway and expressways and that she had concerns about the impact on the reconstruction of the Unionport Bridge. The Land Use Committee disapproved by a vote of 11 to 0.

ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a conditional negative declaration on November 15, 2004 that required Related to work with DOT to implement traffic mitigations and complete hazardous materials sampling. Bronx Community Board 10 and Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr. both approved.

Following a November 17, 2004 public hearing, the Planning Commission approved unanimously, finding that the location at the junction of the parkway and expressways would facilitate direct access to the site by car and minimize negative impacts to the adjacent neighborhoods’ narrow streets. Commissioner Karen Phillips recused herself from the vote.

Council: BJ’s Bruckner Blvd. (February 16, 2005); CPC: BJ’s Bruckner Blvd. (C 000189 ZMX – map amendment); (C 040123 ZSX – special permit for large retail establishment) (December 22, 2004) (Jesse Masyr, Esq., Wachtel & Masyr, LLP, for Related Retail Bruckner, LLC; Sam Schwartz, Allyson Bechtel, Sam Schwartz LLC). CITYADMIN

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