Central Bronx affordable housing project approved

Three-building project on former railway site will include 141 affordable rental apartments. On April 6, 2011, the City Council approved a proposal by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to allow Phipps Houses to develop a three-building affordable housing project on two vacant through-block lots in the East Tremont section of the Bronx. Phipps will construct an eight-story residential building and a ten-story mixed-use building at 1155 East Tremont Avenue, and a ten-story mixed-use building across the street at 1176 East Tremont Avenue. The project will provide 141 rental units marketed to households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income.

The City-owned lots were once occupied by the now-defunct elevated New York, Westchester, and Boston Interurban Railway. Remnants of the railway’s train trestle remain on both lots. The surrounding area is characterized by five- to six-story tenement buildings, older multi-unit homes, and vacant lots. The area’s underlying M1-1 zoning prohibits residential uses, which caused HPD in October 2010 to apply to BSA for use variances to facilitate the project. 7 CityLand 169 (Dec. 2010). HPD’s current proposal included a request for a UDAAP designation and special permits to build on a railroad right-of-way.

Bronx Community Board 6 supported the proposal, but Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. opposed the project’s proposed height and bulk. Diaz recommended a seven-story height limit and that the project be built in phases so that the community could adapt to the development. Diaz also believed that the neighborhood could accommodate higher income ranges to attract middle-income families to the area.

At the City Planning Commission’s January 26 public hearing, Adam Weinstein, president and CEO of Phipps, responded to the borough president’s concerns. Weinstein testified that altering the proposal would render the project financially infeasible. For example, Weinstein claimed that reducing the height of one of the ten-story buildings would increase the project’s cost by $1 million. Residents testifying in opposition included Stefan Leonard, who argued that the buildings would be too tall and that the influx of residents would overcrowd the neighborhood and could lead to increased criminal activity.

The Commission unanimously approved the proposal, noting that the proposed building heights were appropriate for a wide street such as East Tremont Avenue.

No one opposed the project at the Council’s Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Subcommittee’s hearing in April. The Subcommittee unanimously approved the proposal, as did the Land Use Committee and full Council.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency: HPD, Neg. Dec.
Comm. Bd.: BX 6, App’d, 11-5-4
Boro. Pres.: Den’d
CPC: App’d, 12-0-0
Council: App’d, 47-0-0

Council: East Tremont Apartments (C 110101 HAX – UDAAP); (C 110100 ZSX – spec. perm.); (C 110103 ZSX – spec. perm.) (April 6, 2011) (Architect: Curtis + Ginsberg Architects LLP).

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