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Locals weigh in on Bronx Borough President Diaz’s Waterfront development plan

Bronx Borough president pushes Harlem River Waterfront development

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Borough officials want to turn a desolate stretch of Harlem River into a waterfront destination.

But to win local support, they’ll need to convince nearby residents they are included in the redevelopment wave.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is touting creating a waterfront district along the river between E. 138th and E. 149th streets, according to a new report by his office.

A 2009 rezoning has made it possible for developers to build 400-feet high residential towers on the shoreline.

Beep dreams big

“The district has the potential to totally transform an underutilized section of The Bronx,” he said, “while also creating new waterfront recreation opportunities for the entire borough.”

Diaz dreams of apartment buildings with a gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline. Residents and visitors would enjoy parks, restaurants, a theater and a waterfront path.

Local activists are excited about the chance to stroll across a long-lost area.

““You always knew the river was there, but you never really had access to it,” said Marty Rogers, 59, a Melrose lifer.

That scary ‘G’ word

But some locals want to make sure the new development won’t price the area out. They’re even trotting out that controversial “g word” associated with any new development.

“Gentrifica­tion is scaring a lot of people in the south Bronx,” said Ed Conde, an activist and real estate professional. “With any type of new development, there’s always that worry that it’s not going to include local residents.”

Among the proposed $500 million or so in new development included in the Harlem River plan are more than 1,500 housing units “of all types,” acording to the report.

Including some low and middle-income housing in those units would go a long way in winning local support in an area starved for housing.

“The main thing I’d worry about is that it’d be like the parts of Manhattan that are total luxury,” Rogers said. “Unless they really made a commitment about affordable housing and put it in black and white, I’d be skeptical.”

Far from fruition

As of now, the idea is very much in its early stages. The South Bronx Overall Economic Corporation, or SoBro, will soon release a third-party planning report that details, among other things, how the project will tackle flooding concerns.

SoBRO Vice President, Lourdes Zapata said she’s excited at the waterfront blank slate.

“It takes an area that’s underutilized and has a tremendous amount of unrealized potential,” she said, “and brings it to a use that is responsive to the community priorities and needs.”

But the project is still a long way from fruition. Zapata warned that the cost of the development may end up being far more than outlined in Diazp’s report.

We need to see if it will cost $500 million or $500 billion.”she said. “We’ve got a nice start, but now we have to attach some more numbers to it. “

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.
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