BP: Votes ‘no’ on pet facility/Animal shelter advocates dealt another setback

BP: Votes ‘no’ on pet facility/Animal shelter advocates dealt another setback
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Proponents of locating an animal shelter adjacent to the Bay Plaza Mall have been dealt another setback.

On Monday, July 30, the borough president released his Uniform Land Use Review Procedure recommendation concerning the city administration’s proposal to open a full service animal shelter on a city-owned parcel of land at 2050 Bartow Avenue across from Co-op City.

After Community Board 10 voted down the shelter location as part of ULURP process in June, the borough president’s office also weighed in against the proposed site.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. stated in a written recommendation that because the city had made little, if no outreach to the Co-op City host community, he did not support the full-service shelter at Bartow Avenue.

Animal advocates, who said the borough desperately needs a full-service animal shelter as soon as possible, held a rally at the site on Tuesday, July 31, and indicated they would continue to fight for the location.

Diaz said that the merits of the shelter proposal are significant, including a comprehensive array of health care for various types of animals, 100 living wage jobs, and programming for youngsters and seniors.

Despite this, citing “lack of communication between the city and community,” Diaz noted that many speakers from the Co-op City community at a Thursday, July 19 public hearing he held stated “plain and simply, ‘I feel disrespected.’”

“At my public hearing, the applicant stated that 14 sites were reviewed, yet I was not aware that such a review was being undertaken,” stated Diaz in his recommendation. “I cannot help but think that had my office been aware that this process was underway, a suitable site that satisfied all stakeholders could have been identified.”

Diaz gave four reasons for withholding support at 2050 Bartow Avenue: Co-op City residents have long sought a recreational center at the site; the fact that Co-op City prohibits pets indicates the shelter would primarily be used by people from outside the immediate area; the location of the shelter in the far northeastern part of the borough is not easily accessible by mass transit and there’s substantial traffic congestion.

Councilman Andy King said that he applauded the borough president’s decision in the ULURP process, which is designed to empower the voices of local residents to share their views on projects.

“The people of Co-op City have spoken, disapproving of the particular Bartow Avenue site and the borough president and I have listened,” said King. “We all know that it is now law that the Bronx will build and maintain an animal shelter; we simply need to find the best place to site this important project in this borough of animal lovers.”

King stated he hoped that animal activists would sit down with elected officials and come up with an appropriate site.

One of the animal advocates who was disappointed but not surprised by Diaz’s decision was Roxanne Delgado of Bronx Animal Rights Electors, who organized a petition drive on Change.org that garnered support for Bartow site and was among those who rallied there after the BP’s decision.

Delgado said she believes that a developer wants the site for an alternate use, and she also acknowledged that it would be an uphill battle to see the animal shelter sited on Bartow Avenue.

She seemed to disagree with at least part of the borough president’s reasoning that since the Co-op City community typically is not one of pet owners, an animal shelter should not be sited there.

“A lot of people…probably don’t eat seafood, does that mean we shouldn’t have a Red Lobster?” she asked, referring to a seafood restaurant that’s next door to the site.

Rally participant Egidio Sementilli, who helps feral cats in his Pelham Bay community and collected petition signatures in favor of the Bartow Avenue location, said that the borough president’s recommendation turned down city funding to help animals and create jobs.

Another of the Bartow Avenue proponents, Bernadette Ferrara, a certified animal rescuer who voluntarily performs ‘Trap Neuter and Return’ for feral cats, said that she and others who perform this service for free could use the support of a full-service animal shelter.

“Many of us have been doing TNR on a volunteer basis for 20 years, and we are burnt out,” she said. “The money comes out of our own pocket.”

Co-op City resident Jeanette Gonzalez, who brought her emotional support dog Bella to the rally said that hundreds of dogs and other animals belong to Co-op City residents.

The animal shelter would offer a plethora of services, said Gonzalez.

“It is not just an animal shelter, it is a low-cost spay, neuter, veterinarian, vaccine,” said Gonzalez. “It is something we need in the Bronx.”

According to a document obtained by the Bronx Times Reporter, the city considered at least 10 other privately-owned and city-owned sites before selecting Bartow Avenue, including 1221 Spofford Avenue, the site of a former juvenile detention complex and 2527 Glebe Avenue, currently the New York Public Library’s Westchester Square branch that will be replaced with a new building.

The ULURP process will go to the City Planning Commission next, followed by a City Council review.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.