The head of the Third Avenue Business Improvement District is calling on the city to expedite the renovation of Roberto Clemente Plaza that is years behind schedule.
Roberto Clemente Plaza is located in the Bronx Hub, the busiest transit and commerce center in the south Bronx where four roads converge: East 149th Street and Willis, Melrose and 3rd avenues.
The long-delayed project will convert the existing plaza into a bench and tree-lined public gathering space for local residents and commuters.
Third Avenue Business Improvement District director Michael Brady said the project is almost three years behind schedule, and that the construction fencing and other equipment have severely reduced vehicle and foot traffic, forced several businesses to close their doors.
“The project was in the planning phase for 10 years, under construction for nearly five and delayed for almost three,” Brady said. “This plaza has the potential to be a fantastic community asset. It’s unfortunate however that the city cannot get out of its own way.”
Four businesses have been shuttered in and around the plaza and property owners have been left with vacant storefronts due to the construction delays, according to Brady.
One of the only pharmacies in the area, a Walgreens, recently left the area and a Checkers fast food restaurant closed without paying two years worth of rent, he added.
“For a business improvement district, having empty storefronts at the ground level is never a good thing,” Brady said.
Delays have a number of causes, Brady explained, with some more understandable than others.
A contractor initially involved filed for bankruptcy.
In some instances the city ordered the wrong parts and equipment, and provided the wrong geological surveys to the involved agencies.
“There were moments of sheer incompetence from city agencies,” he said.
While Brady credited Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and local Councilman Rafael Salamanca for supporting the project, Brady is calling on the mayor to devote more manpower and resources to the project, and complained that even large-scale projects like One World Trade Center were completed in far less time.
“The level of neglect is disturbing,” he said.
The NYC Department of Transportation is handling the project, but the NYC Department of Design and Construction is overseeing the project.
Calls to the DDC for comment were not immediately returned.
On Wednesday, September 20, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Bronx Civic Center neighborhood in the south Bronx, of which the Hub is a part of, will receive $10 million in funding and investments as the New York City winner of the second round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Brady said he hoped that the funding could be used to complete the project.
“Our BID budget is $500,000, so a $10 million investment is certainly significant,” he said.
Salamanca called the $10 million investment a game-charger for the Bronx.
“Thanks to the Governor’s leadership, our neighborhoods will receive the funding they need to implement strategic plans that will spur business growth, enhance our communities, and improve the quality of life for all Bronx residents.”