City Council Subcommittee Hears Jerome Avenue Rezoning Plan

Council member Vanessa Gibson and Chair Francisco Moya. Image Credit: New York City Council.

Amidst opposition from community members and organizations, the Jerome Avenue Rezoning plan had its day at the City Council. On February 7, 2018, the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises held a public hearing on the application by the Department of City Planning and Department of Parks and Recreation for a zoning text amendment, zoning map amendment, and City Map amendment to de-map a portion of Corporal Fischer Place and to map new parkland along Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. The application was submitted in conjunction with several related actions to facilitate land use modifications associated with the Jerome Avenue Neighborhood Plan (Plan). The Plan’s aim is to foster a vibrant mix of residential, commercial, and community facility uses along the two-mile Jerome Avenue corridor in Bronx Community Boards 4, 5, and 7 in the southwest Bronx.

The Proposal

The proposal will affect the two-mile stretch of Jerome Avenue located between East 165th Street to the south and East 184th Street to the north, and also includes portions of the Edward L. Grant Highway, East 170th Street, Mount Eden Avenue, Tremont Avenue, Burnside Avenue and East 183rd Street. Currently, the corridor includes industrial land uses and elevated rails and does not support the needs of dense residential communities surrounding it. The area has not seen a zoning change since 1961, and reflects land use patterns established over 100 years ago.

Jerome Avenue Corridor. Image Credit: NYC Planning.

The proposal includes three land use actions. First, the application asks for a zoning map amendment which will include mapping the area between Burnside and Tremont Avenues as a full commercial district and support the development of new permanently affordable housing construction, but leave current residential areas in the surrounding neighborhoods in their existing zoning districts. Second, the proposals asks for a zoning text amendment which includes mapping a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing district, establishing special rules for new buildings along the elevated rail to provide light and air on the streets and to maintain distance between the residential units and the train, and facilitating the development of irregular lots. Lastly, the proposal also includes a city map change which would de-map a portion of Corporal Fischer Place and map new parkland along 170th Street, and facilitate the construction of a park at this location.

Community Boards and Borough President Approval

On October 24, 2017, Bronx Community Board 4 voted 32-4 in favor of recommending approval of the application with two abstentions. On October 25, 2017, Bronx Community Board 5 voted 18-11 in favor with one abstention. On October 26, 2017, Bronx Community Board 7 voted 21-2 in favor.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. also recommended approval of the application with conditions. At the Borough President’s November 2, 2017, public hearing, 51 people expressed opposition to the application and five in favor of the application. Some of the public’s concerns were the fear that a new residential development in the community would result in tenant harassment by property owners looking to capitalize on the influx of new, more affluent residents, the additional housing will far exceed the affordability of current residents where the median household income in the area is approximately $25,900, and with a shortage of school seats in the community, there was no commitment to rectify this problem. The Borough President urged the City to commit at least 2,000 units of affordable housing within Community Boards 4 and 5, and an additional 500 units from the current commitment. He also asked for the current shortage of school seats to be resolved by identifying potential sites for new school buildings and the new buildings must anticipate the seating need from any additional residential development prompted by approval of the application.

City Planning Commission Approval

On January 17, 2018, the City Planning Commission voted 10-1 and issued favorable reports on the application. Chair Marisa Lago stated that “the land use actions… will transform the corridor by broadening its permitted uses allowing housing and most importantly affordable housing, schools, and other community facilities where none are permitted today under the outdated zoning. They’ll also diversify commercial development to better meet the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods and they’ll map parkland that can replace underutilized vacant lots with green open space.”

Commissioner Michelle de la Uz voted against the plan. She commented that “the proposed Jerome Avenue Rezoning has touched a nerve for local residents, primarily low and moderate income immigrants and people of color who have faced increased displacement pressures for some time. [T]he auto-related businesses along Jerome Avenue provide jobs for New Yorkers and those uses and jobs are at risk due to the proposed change in land use from manufacturing to residential uses with no relocation plans in place for local businesses. [T]he City’s Jerome Avenue Rezoning lacks a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the increased displacement risk for the existing rent stabilized housing stock and its residents. With regards to the change in use from manufacturing to residential…I believe the City can do more to support the relocation of these businesses and these jobs.”

City Council Hearing

On February 7, 2018, the City Council held a public hearing on the application. The Subcommittee heard from representatives from the Department of City Planning, Housing Preservation & Development, Department of Small Businesses Services, and Department of Parks and Recreation. Subcommittee Chair Francisco Moya asked how many businesses and jobs will be displaced by the rezoning. A representative from DCP answered that approximately 88 businesses will be affected with 43 of those businesses being auto-related. Council member Vanessa Gibson, who represents the Bronx’s 16th Council District, emphasized that the proposal must benefit the residents and families living in the community. The Jerome Avenue Rezoning will bring 4,000 new units to the area. Council member Gibson asked what is the projected percentage of units that will be permanently affordable housing. Leila Bozorg of HPD stated that, if the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing is mapped, 20-30% of units by law have to be permanently affordable. Through HPD’s subsidy programs, an additional 15% will be required to be permanently affordable, bring the percentage to 45% permanently affordable housing.

Many members of the community were in attendance, including organizations like Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and the NYC Community Alliance for Workers Justice, who oppose the Jerome Avenue Rezoning. Some of their concerns included the plan’s lack of jobs, local hiring, and housing affordability for current residents. One resident, Daphne Hart, testified that “[i]f properly crafted, the Jerome Avenue rezoning can uplift residents and bring good, middle class jobs to this community while providing much needed housing and neighborhood improvements. But as it currently stands, the plan being heard today leaves many questions unanswered when it comes to responsible contractors, safe, career path construction jobs for local residents, and deeper housing affordability.”


CC: Jerome Avenue Rezoning (C 180051A ZMX; N 180050A ZRX; C170305 MMX).

By: Dorichel Rodriguez (Dorichel is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)

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