The development seeks to activate the streetscape in the area by removing the existing dangerous condition posed by a long-abandoned railroad trench. On March 27, 2019, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on an application by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and developer Phipps Houses that will bring 54 units of affordable housing to the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx. The application calls for the disposition of City-owned property, a rezoning, the grant of a special permit and designation of the proposed development site as Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, Option 1. The development site is located at the corner of East 156th Street and Brook Avenue, across from Via Verde, a relatively recent environmentally-conscious residential complex, also built by Phipps Houses.
The development site is comprised of two adjacent lots, one of which is already owned by Phipps and the other currently owned by the City. The developer-owned lot is a formally-abandoned railroad trench consisting of an approximately 5,658 square foot rail-bed and tunnel, and a small grass-covered area. This site has been underutilized or vacant since 1969 and its blighted state attracts undesirable activity in the area. The adjacent City-owned lot is also currently vacant. The combined floor area of the two lots is approximately 7,100 square feet.
In place of these existing conditions, the applicants propose to build a new nine-story residential building with a ground-floor community facility space. To facilitate the development, the applicants are seeking disposition of the City-owned lot and a rezoning of the project area to increase the permitted floor area. Existing zoning would limit the applicants’ building to six stories, or approximately 33,000 square feet. The application also calls for the grant of a special permit to build over the former railroad right-of-way.
The new building will be financed under HPD’s Extremely Low & Low Income Affordability (ELLA) Program to provide affordable housing to households earning between 30, 40, 50, 60 and 80 percent of AMI. Fifteen percent of the units will be set aside for formerly homeless households earning no more than 30 percent of AMI, which is five percent more than required by ELLA.
The building will feature 14 studios, 22 one-bedroom, eleven two-bedroom, and eight three-bedroom units. A community room, fitness room and laundry room will occupy the ground floor community facility space. The community room will be used by Phipps Neighborhoods to provide employment training programs for young adults.
The building will be constructed per Enterprise Green Community Standards and will feature low-flow plumbing, energy star appliances, a well-insulated building envelope and solar panels on the roof and bulkhead roof.
On February 8, 2019, Bronx Community Board 1 voted 24 in favor, one against, and two abstaining to approve the application.
On March 6, 2019, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. also recommended approval of the application. In his letter, the Borough President commended the applicants on agreeing to provide a unit mix that will accommodate more families and for setting aside some of the community facility space for employment training programs.
At the March 27, 2019 City Planning public hearing, City Planning Commissioner Michelle de la Uz praised the applicants for maximizing the really small space and the hearing was closed with no members of the public testifying.
The City Planning Commission will vote on the application at a later date, after which it will proceed to City Council for review and approval.
By: Viktoriya Gray (Viktoriya is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018).