City Planning Approves Affordable Housing and Demapping in Westchester Square

Early rendering of Blondell Commons presented at the CPC Public Hearing on Jan. 30th. Image Credit: Aufgang Architects/NYC CPC

Critics raised concerns over more traffic due to larger number of parking spaces. On February 27, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve an application for a nine-story mixed-use residential and commercial building at 1346 Blondell Avenue in the Westchester Square section of the Bronx. To facilitate this development, named Blondell Commons, the application calls for rezoning a portion of a larger manufacturing district that mainly features auto repair shops along Blondell Avenue. Blondell Equities LLC brought the application.

The applicant’s project site is currently a privately owned one-story building and a parking lot. The new building will have 189,000 square feet of residential space and 19,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, which may be used for a charter school.

The new building will have 228 new apartments, with 51 studios, 80 one-bedroom, 57 two-bedroom, and 40 three-bedroom apartments. Residents will have access to an outdoor recreation area on the first floor. Additionally, ten apartments on the first floor of the new building will each have access their own private outdoor recreation area. There will be indoor recreation space, a laundry room, parking for bicycles and on-site parking for 225 vehicles open to both residents and the public.

The entire building would be affordable, although this is a mixed-income affordable housing project. At the City Planning public hearing on January 30, 2019, the applicant team predicted a range of affordability from 30 percent AMI to 120 percent AMI, but the applicant team also stated that HPD will probably ask to reduce the top end of affordability.

Map showing rezoned area. The project site is in yellow; the demapped part of Fink Avenue is in pink. Click to see enlarged image. Image Credit: NYC CPC

To facilitate the project, the applicant team requested a zoning change from a manufacturing zone to a residential zone with a commercial overlay of an area that covers ten lots. The applicant team also requested demapping of a street to accurately reflect the area. The applicants requested to demap a portion of Fink Avenue, that was never built out but remained on city maps. The portion of Fink Avenue runs from Blondell Avenue, across the New York City Transit rail yards behind the rezoning site and ends at Waters Avenue on the other end of the rail yards. Demapping this portion of Fink Avenue would allow for the construction of the new building.

To garner support of the project, the applicant team cited the critical need for parking in the area. The new building will have an underground garage for 225 accessory parking spaces, which is more than required for a project of this size. The project site is a block away from Westchester Square, a large commercial area that has many stores but limited street parking options.

On December 20, 2018, Bronx Community Board 11 voted to disapprove the application. Bronx Community Board 10, which covers a portion of Westchester Square near the proposed project site, also voted to disapprove the application. Both community boards cited concerns over traffic and the lack of school space.

On January 16, 2019, Bronx Borough President Rubin Diaz Jr. approved of the application with modifications. The Borough President’s office requested that the applicants put the entrance to the garage at the back of the building facing Cooper Avenue. However, because Cooper Avenue is an unmapped street, the garage could not legally be built there. Cooper Avenue is an unmapped street that is a part of an unowned zoning lot, and the City would need to acquire ownership of the road and maintain the roadbed.

The project will enter the Brownfield Cleanup Program given the area’s historic use for auto body shops. The program provides additional tax incentives for the redevelopment of urban “brownfields” where chemicals on-site exceed environmental standards like in former auto shops.

At the City Planning public hearing of January 30, 2019, there were many speakers in opposition to the project. Local residents cited concerns about school overcrowding and traffic affecting the accessibility of emergency services through the area, given that there are three hospitals located nearby.

Speakers in opposition were also critical of the applicant team saying that the project was only entering the Brownfield program after local residents voiced environmental concerns with the Borough President. Others claimed the affordability ranges were too high and not actually affordable.

Local union construction workers from Carpenters Local 926 and Dockbuilders and Timbermen Local 1556 spoke in support of the application due to the project’s commitment to create union jobs.

City Council will review the application next.

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.)


7 thoughts on “City Planning Approves Affordable Housing and Demapping in Westchester Square

  1. Blondell Avenue is a very small one way street. It is all commercial, Automotive related business, factories and warehouses. Blondell Ave is also the route for ambulances to go directly to Einstein Hospital and Jacoby Medical center.
    The applicant wants to change the zoning to residential to build on the former “Boyles Junk yard” site.
    The ground is contaminated and the end of the Westchester creek runs under the site. It is in the flood zone. They want to build 228 apartments and 225 attended parking spaces. In phase 1 of this project.
    While we need parking we don’t need 228 apartments which would bring over 500 people to this block with about 200 more cars and children.
    We don’t know how many children but we do know there is no public grade school in or near Westchester Square. This kind of high density will also bring with it an increase in crime to the area.
    We have a public High School which has police activity every day and PS 12 which is a Reform School for kids with problems. There is no regular public grade school in the neighborhood.
    This building if constructed will be 4 connected towers with 9 floors each. The rear of the building overlooks the rail road yard which is a noisy 24 hour operation. If built phase 2 of this project will bring a total of six 9 story buildings and possibly over 1000 people to this small one way street. This is not housing it is people warehousing.
    Westchester Square has been dumped on for many years with 2 homeless shelters, many group homes, and drug programs. This is the wrong place to squeeze in more people and cars. This would bring nothing good to the area. I recommend that this zoning change be denied.

    Andrew Chirico
    CB 10 & Waterbury LaSalle community Association.

  2. This zoning change is NOT good for our neighborhood! Both CB#10 and CB#11 as well as the majority of our neighborhood was NOT in favor of this project. People came out in droves to the many public hearings to have their voices of opposition heard. But no one listened! DCP and our borough president went against our community boards and our community to side with developers for a zoning change and a building project that will hurt our community. That is a disgrace! Andrew Chirico’s comment cited all of the reasons that this project is bad for our community so I will not repeat a well said comment. I will just add that we need improved infrastructure, more schools, more hospital beds, more police, more firemen, and more parking BEFORE we have more building! Lastly, Councilman Gjonaj is to vote next and he can stop this project as his predecessor did for 8 years. If votes to approve remember that at voting time. Whoever goes against two community boards and the majority of a community needs to be voted out!

  3. I agree with the above opinion. The street, and the neighborhood, will not absorb successfully so many families. There will be increased crime. There will be inadequate facilities and amenities for children.

  4. Both Community Board #11 and #10 Voted NO on this zoning change. The majority of this community is against this project and with good reason. We are Overdeloped to the point that our quality of life is greatly diminished. We have no place to park our cars, we don’t have enough police, our local hospital is dangerously overcrowded, our infrastructure needs improvement, our children go to overcrowded schools and all this mayor wants to do is build. We need responsible development and Blondell Commons will only add to our problems. This is not an as of right project. The builders need approval to build but despite the fact that our entire community is against this, still our BP and DCP gave their approval. We do not want ANY zoning change anywhere in our community that would upzone any area. We need a zoning change to add more parking and reduce density. No more upzoning here! Is anybody listening!

    • I agree with all the comments noted above. Im also very concerned regarding the proposal of an 11 story building on the property of St. Peter’s Church. The Westchester Square & surrounding area is so overwhelmed it cannot support any of these proposed projects. So glad its the people who DON’T live in the area that get to approve what’s best for us! Just try to navigate the area during the day! It’s a nightmare!

  5. I was not in opposition to the affordable housing project since many households in the area meet the income requirements. What I am against is that the City is Now proposing a 200 men shelter on the same street – 1400 Blondell Avenue. Community Board 10 has an over saturation of shelters. This is a working class homeownership area and people are starting to take flight instead of dealing with the instability of having chronic individuals with mental illness roaming the streets.

  6. Why are they building a shelter in that area.I really don’t know where the best area is for a shelter but some of those tenants will have mental health issues.It might be unsafe for the other tenants.

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