Members of Community Board 12 threw its support behind a major retail center planned for East Gun Hill Road, just off I- 95, across from Home Depot.
Board members voted 29-5, with several abstentions, following a marathon meeting on Thursday, March 23, to approve the project’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or ULERP, which had been supported by both the district manager and board chairman.
The proposed outdoor retail shopping center, tentatively known as Baychester Square, would be built on a former golf facility currently owned by the MTA.
The project also includes plans for a senior housing development built by a separate developer.
The developer behind the project, Grid Properties, is working with the NYC Economic Development Corporation to make the plan a reality.
The city will sell the land to the developer if the plan is approved.
District manager George Torres said the project, while conceding that it could lead to increased traffic, urged members to support the project for the jobs it would create, both during construction and later on, and for the increased shopping and dining choices communities outside the Bronx take for granted.
Torres also pointed out the board’s recent success in thwarting homeless shelters in the community, and said only by voting for the project would the community get a “place at the table” with the developers to make their voices heard,
“When the powers that be start carving up the pie, you want to have a seat at that table,” Torres said. “Voting against this project makes that possibility more difficult.”
Board chairman William Hall also threw his support behind the project, telling its members they would maintain some control over the project as it develops.
“You will continue to be involved with this project,” Hall said. “You will have influence and you will be watchdogs.”
The project has drawn criticism from Councilman Andy King, who told residents at the meeting that the area didn’t need more retail stores that paid low wages but instead suggested the development of a corporate park or a school that created better paying jobs.
Grid Properties principal Drew Greenwald said Baychester Square will be an outdoor retail center similar to Cross County Shopping Center and Ridge Hill in Yonkers.
The Westchester shopping centers have siphoned dollars away from the borough for years, he added.
But Hank Sheinkopf, the spokesman for Prestige Properties, which owns the Bay Plaza and the Mall at Bay Plaza, repeated his company’s claim that building of another shopping center directly across the highway was not good for the borough.
“Putting 5,000 jobs at risk in the Bronx is not good public policy, period,” he said.
Greenwald counters that the traffic situation on the western side of the highway is significantly better than on the east side where Co-op City and the Bay Plaza Mall are located.
The project will next be the topic of a public hearing at the office of Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. scheduled for Tuesday, April 4 at 11 a.m. The New York City Council will then vote on the project at a later date.