CB 7: No compromise on library

The city’s Department of Health is amenable to an Old Fordham Library spay and neuter compromise. So is Councilman Joel Rivera. Community Board 7 is not.

Rivera and DOH assistant commissioner Chris Manning stopped by a Sistas and Brothas United celebration in Bedford Park recently to discuss the fate of the Old Fordham Library. SBU, a feisty youth group affiliated with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Council, has campaigned for a community center at the building since 2004.

In 2008, DOH acquired the 27,400 square foot library and announced plans to build an animal shelter on site. DOH is required by law to operate a shelter in every borough; there is no shelter in the Bronx. CB7 and Rivera threatened to block the shelter if it were to undergo public review.

At the SBU celebration, Manning and Rivera endorsed a compromise. If the City Council repeals the shelter mandate, DOH could open a spay and neuter clinic at the Old Fordham Library instead. According to Manning, DOH would need 25,000 square feet to operate a shelter but only 3,000 square feet to open a clinic. In other words, there is room at the Old Fordham Library for a community center and a clinic.

A resolution to repeal the shelter mandate has kicked around Rivera’s health committee for a year and a half. Rivera will push the resolution in July, after the City Council has knocked out a budget, he said. Manning is for a clinic at the Old Fordham Library; it would save the DOH money. Animal advocates won the shelter mandate in 2000; now many argue that spay and neuter clinics are better.

CB7 is not party to the compromise, however. In 2008, district manager Fernando Tirado and chair Greg Faulkner suggested an alternative shelter site – a vacant lot on Webster Avenue. CB7 is determined to keep animal care out of the Old Fordham Library.

“The site is inappropriate for any sort of animal care,” Tirado said.

According to Tirado, the three-story library is remote. It lacks parking. Bainbridge Avenue is residential. DOH should pick Webster Avenue, a non-residential drag, Tirado said. DOH would rather not build from scratch, Manning said.

“[The Old Fordham Library] has been community space and should remain community space,” Faulkner said.

Currently, there is no community center in Fordham, Kingsbridge and Bedford Park. In January, Montefiore Medical Center eliminated its adult sickle cell clinic.

Rivera is for a compromise he considers “realistic.” It would cost the city too much to build a shelter on Webster Avenue, Rivera said.

“I don’t want the debate to last for years,” Rivera said. “I want a community center.”

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is against the siting of a full-service shelter at the Old Fordham Library, borough planner Wilhelm Ronda said.

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