The mayor’s proposed site for the long-waited Bronx’ own animal shelter, may be still a pipe dream, as the host community has come out swinging in opposition to the plan.
At a committee hearing of Community Board 10 on Thursday, May 24, Co-op City residents mostly expressed their displeasure of the selection of a site on Bartow Avenue next to a restaurant in the Bay Plaza Mall and a senior residence as the location for the shelter.
The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure public hearing for the proposed facility that would include a pet adoption and drop off is scheduled for Monday, June 18 at 7 p.m. at 2049 Bartow Avenue, Room 31.
Matt Cruz, CB 10 district manager, said about 100 people participated in the joint committee hearing of the board’s Housing and Zoning and ad-hoc Co-op City committees on May 24.
“I think Co-op City was loud and clear,” said Cruz, adding “This is just the first step in the process.”
The public hearing on June 18 will feature a full-board quorum and will allow concerned parties to speak on the matter, as long as they sign up to do so, said Cruz.
Board members and residents of Co-op City noted that the 14,000-unit development has a strict policy on pets, only allowing dogs if they are service or emotional support animals, according to multiple sources.
The NYC Department of Health, which made a presentation to the crowd and which Cruz said would present again at the public hearing, is proposing the two-story shelter that would generate 80 to 100 jobs, be open seven days a week, have a 68-car parking lot, and space for 70 dogs, 140 cats, 30 rabbits and 20 small animals and birds.
Groundbreaking is projected to take place in 2022 and the shelter would be completed in 2024, according to the DOH.
A DOH spokeswoman said that the mayoral office, which proposed the 47,000 square-foot development with adoption and veterinary services in January, selected the site because of its proximity to public transportation and off-site parking.
“Residents of the Bronx have been pushing for a full-service animal shelter for decades and the de Blasio administration has answered the call—bringing Animal Care Centers to all five boroughs so all New Yorkers can have access to these essential services,” the DOH spokeswoman said.
She added: “The site on Bartow Avenue makes an ideal location for building a state-of-the-art animal shelter where Bronx residents will be able to adopt pets that are suitable for them and their families.”
Councilman Andy King, who addressed the crowd at the CB10 meeting, asked the city to find another use for the property that takes into consideration the wishes of the community.
King said that he doesn’t feel the city is listening, and said he would not be support a plan that his constituents are against.
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto said that the prposed animal shelter location had been slated for different uses, including a youth center, for many years.
“I don’t want to give up hope for a youth center on that piece of property,” said Benedetto, adding “There must be many better alternate sites available. This parcel of land was already designated for a use that Co-op City urgently needs – a youth center.”
The assemblyman suggested placing the animal shelter in the Zerega Industrial Park, adding that the site is readily accessible by subway, unlike Co-op City.
He also said that highway shopping mall traffic volume during the Thanksgiving to Christmas holiday season would make it very difficult for the center’s clients to access the facility.
Lesile Peterson, a Riverbay Board Director, said that based on what she has been hearing, members of the sprawling cooperative really don’t want the shelter sited at the proposed location.
“We really would prefer to have a youth center, which is what we have been asking for a long time,” said Peterson. “We are still a ‘no pet’ development.”
Attendee Yvette Vernon, a 42-year resident of Co-op City, said that she felt that a good location for the animal shelter would be a vacant MTA property that had been a golf driving range located where East Gun Hill Road meets I-95.
“If they put it there, it will succeed,” Vernon said of the MTA property, adding “The existing (traffic) congestion here is terrible.”
One of the few Co-op City residents to express support for the shelter at the CB 10 committee meeting was 19-year-old Bria Lemon-Johnson who said that she believes that having an animal shelter in the community might be something that could provide career paths for younger people in the community.
“There are many youth centers in the Bronx as a whole…but there aren’t many animal shelters,” said Lemon-Johnson.
Dotti Poggi, a member of the Bronx Animal Shelter Endeavor and an animal rights advocate, said that she took issue with one of the complaints of Co-op City residents on May 24: that the animal shelter would create more traffic in an already congested area.
“An animal shelter is not something that is going to attract as much traffic as anything else that would put there,” said Poggi, adding that she is not sure why the city picked the location, but she believes they are trying to change the image of animal shelters, casting them as more welcoming places.
“They want pets to be adopted (so they want to present) a nice friendly image,” she said.
Andrew Chircio, a CB 10 board member present for the meeting, said that he believes traffic is a concern.
“My objection is to the traffic and parking problems a facility of this size would attract in this already overcrowded area,” he stated, adding “An animal shelter will add to the burden.”