Pratt Center for Community Development Speaks in Support of Expanding “Retention Zones” in Jerome Avenue Rezoning, Reported by City Limits

Posted on December 1, 2017

Most Impoverished Rezoning Neighborhood Speaks Out At Hearing

Originally Posted by City Limits on November 30, 2017
Written by By Abigail Savitch-Lew

On Wednesday morning, the City Planning Commission (CPC) heard five hours of testimony from the public on the Department of City Planning’s proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning. It’s the latest step in the seven-month process through which the rezoning—the fourth of de Blasio’s neighborhood rezonings to promote housing development, and the first for the Bronx—will be approved or disapproved. More than half of those who spoke opposed the plan and expressed deep concerns, mostly about the impact of the rezoning on residential and business displacement and the rent levels of the potential new housing. Local council members Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera, who will have the ultimate say on the proposal, expressed optimism about the rezoning while saying there was more to be done. “This plan cannot and must not move forward without community support,” Gibson said, emphasizing that the plan had to benefit existing residents. Yet she also said she was unwilling to give up an opportunity for neighborhood investment and growth: “If we do nothing and sit back, we are not going to get the neighborhood that we rightfully deserve.” The CPC asked many questions, contributing to a vibrant discussion. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • The development of jobs and conditional support from nonprofit developers.
  • Fate of Auto Sector: Gibson called for the city to make investments in workers, in technology upgrades, and in incentives to landlords to engage in long-term leases. Others, including the Borough President’s office, the Municipal Art Society, and the Pratt Center for Community Development, spoke about the need to expand the “retention zones” where auto-industry zoning will remain in place.
  • There’s a major problem of landlords, including predatory equity companies, buying rent-stabilized buildings and trying to displace residents through harassment or through Major Capital Improvements and many residents are concerned a rezoning will only exacerbate this trend.
  • School seat deficit: The rezoning covers two school districts, including many already over-crowded schools, with a predicted deficit of 4,653 seats by 2026 without a rezoning. Stakeholders also made a call for health services, community centers, increased transit and more.
  • Of the neighborhood rezonings initiated under de Blasio, Jerome Avenue has the greatest share of extremely low-income residents. In 2010, this part of the Bronx was the poorest of all congressional districts in the country. Even the least expensive housing created through the city’s mandatory inclusionary housing policy would not yield units affordable to these residents.

Michelle Genross, who makes $14,000 a year, told the commission, “We’re human too…we are all doing the very best we can and we need to be recognized. We don’t need to be thrown away like trash.”

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