CB 10 approves rezoning for Bartow Avenue’s billboard problem

A majority of Community Board 10 members on Thursday, October 17 approved a rezoning application for 500 Baychester Avenue, where Co-op City residents up in arms over a large electronic billboard that shines into their apartments.

Following the NYC Planning Department’s proposal to remedy the issue, board members voted 25-4 with one abstention to change the zoning on a parcel of land from C-7 to C8-2 for the land, according to CB 10 district manager, Matthew Cruz.

However the zoning change, when approved, will only regulate future projects.

It’s been two years since Co-op City residents, elected officials and CB 10 members have been advocating for the removal of the three advertising billboards, located on a developed site owned by Baychester Retail III LLC.

But the new ordinance will not stop the current crop of billboards that have already been approved from preceeding, said CPC.

One of monopoles is slated to rise several hundred feet if it conforms to NYC Department of Buildings regulations.

“We’re pleased that the city is doing its best to rectify the matter and at least give the community the opportunity to move on from this matter,” Matt Cruz, district manager of CB 10 said.

The property was formerly occupied by a gas station and now houses several retail tenants, including a 7-Eleven convenience store, a Sherwin-Williams paint store and a still vacant spot.

While the corner property is technically not in Co-op City, it does border the complex. The parcel has a high zoning since it sits on the former grounds of Freedomland, an amusement park that closed in 1965.

Its C-7 zoning allows the construction of monopoles without any height or size lilitations to be legally built. An adjacent site occupied by a Men’s Warehouse would also downsized.

“Fifty years ago, the city forgot or neglected to downzone the property. The current property owner, two or three years ago, filed with the Department of Buildings to erect these gigantic advertisement or billboard platforms,” Cruz added.

In March 2018, the Board of Standards and Appeals halted construction on the massive monopole with a supersized LED advertising sign that would have joined two smaller signs already built at the corner of Bartow and Baychester avenues.

Residents have complained about the disruptive bright lights that keep some awake at night, and the billboard’s liquor advertisement, which shines into Educational Park visible to children.

A representative of the property owner had urged Cruz to encourage Co-op City residents to get used to the new signage.

At the City Planning Commission Special Meeting held on Monday, September 23, an official said that the rezoning to C8-2 will better serve community needs.

“We looked at several things in trying to identify an appropriate commercial district that doesn’t allow residential was a part of our consideration,” the official said. “That’s how this district was identified, it matches what’s there now.”

The rezoning application will be sent to the Bronx borough president’s office for an official opinion.

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