Bronx malls duke it out/It’s Bay Plaza vs. Baychester Square

The NYC Department of City Planning has certified a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure for a proposed retail mall and senior housing development.

The ULURP process will move forward on the application of Grid Properties, Gotham Properties and NYC Economic Development Corporation for a zoning variance for the proposed 400,000 square foot Baychester Square development on East Gun Hill Road near I-95.

Currently, the city owns the land, which is a Metropolitan Transportation Authority site.

An EDC spokeswoman, Stephanie Báez, said the city plans to sell the land to the developers if Baychester Square is approved and give the proceeds to MTA.

DCP certified the application on Tuesday, January 17.

As part of the proposal senior housing is planned.

Bay Plaza and the Mall at Bay Plaza were constructed under the current allowable zoning density requirements while the Gun Hill Road project’s ULURP requests almost a three fold increase in permissible density.

A public hearing is being planned on the matter at Community Board 12, likely for the second or third week in February, said George Torres, district manager.

Torres said he wants the process to be as transparent as possible, and that the board has 60 days to make a recommendation.

“I want people from all over the borough to testify,” he said of the hearing. “This is one of the last large parcels of land in the Bronx where we have some say over what will happen.”

Meanwhile, Prestige Properties, developer the Mall at Bay Plaza and Bay Plaza Shopping Center, across from the project, continues to oppose the scope of the proposed development, stated spokesman Hank Sheinkopf.

He stated there’s still 200,000 square feet of available retail space at Bay Plaza.

“We believe the proposed retail/outlet center will cause a loss of tenants and risk the 5,000 jobs that Bay Plaza created,” stated Sheinkopf.

He added the project would jam access roads to Co-op City, an assertion that Drew Greenwald of Grid disputes.

Greenwald stated that a Baychester Square traffic engineering report that’s part of a mandated Environmental Impact Statement “does not show significant differences between the build and no-build options from a traffic perspective.”

“What this means is that shoppers primary means of getting to Baychester Square, other than those who live in Co-op City, will not require passing through the existing traffic morass at Co-op City,” stated Greenwald.

Speak Up for a Better Bronx, a coalition of business and community activists, sent to elected and local officials copies of 64,000 signatures its canvassers collected from individuals who do not want additional traffic in and near Co-op City, according to the organization.

Copies of the petitions were sent to Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.; Assemblymen Marcos Crespo and Michael Benedetto; Councilmen Andy King and James Vacca; Linda Berk, Riverbay Corporation president; community boards 10, 11 and 12, as well as City Planning.

“The 64,000 individuals who have signed the petitions are seeking more affordable housing, community facilities, a new park or a senior facility,” stated a Speak Up for a Better Bronx representative in an email. “Local residents do not want additional traffic in the area, which will only negatively impact air quality, safety and quality of life.”

The representative stated that SUFBB is planning on hosting a rally and community meetings.

An earlier Bronx Times report stated that Bay Plaza’s operators and tenants are providing some support to SUFBB.

Greenwald said that Prestige has not presented any data to substantiate their traffic concerns.

“They are simply running a very aggressive in your face campaign to maintain the monopoly they have enjoyed for several decades,” stated Greenwald, “EDC numbers show that there is $1.7 billion of retail leakage in this primary trade area (within three miles) as Bronx residents are forced into lower Westchester to broaden their retail choices.”

Greenwald stated that, as part of the project, 178-units of senior housing will be constructed on the western edge of the mall site.

“NYCEDC is excited to be part of a project that will pioneer modern senior living in the Bronx,” said Báez, adding “Moreover, this project stands to be a major job generator that will deliver quality on-site shopping and help meet the north Bronx’s strong retail demand,”

Baychester Square would feature affordable housing, several acres of open space and community amenities, she said.

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

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