Councilman King: shuttered Golf Center could be put to better use

Another east Bronx mall planned for a closed golf driving range across from Co-op City and the Bay Plaza Mall is raising concerns over the best use of the property.

Once home to the Bronx Golf Center driving range, the property at East Gun Hill Road and the New England Thruway/I-95, was sold by the City just as the Bloomberg administration was winding down last year.

The property was previously part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s adjacent Gun Hill Bus Depot.

Developers Grid Properties and the Gotham Organization paid $30.5 million for the property to build a pedestrian retail mall. There is also an option for senior housing at the site, but only if public financing is available.

The deal was closed after ten developers responded to a Request for Proposals for the 550,000 square-feet plot of land.

Councilman dissents

Local Councilman Andy King said he believes a retail destination with mostly mom and pop stores will not thrive in competition with the new indoor mall soon to open across the highway at Bay Plaza.

“I had a conversation with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and I expressed my concerns,” said King. “We are building the largest indoor mall in the state of New York no more than 100 yards from here. So, I think it would be overkill – irresponsible development – to put another shopping mall.”

He also took issue with building senior housing at the location only if the city pays for it.

“You are telling me that you want to build a pedestrian mall and that the senior housing isn’t guaranteed unless you get government funding?” he asked. “In order for me to even think of supporting this plan, the senior housing must be guaranteed.”

King suggested the property might be better used for other purposes, including an educational facility for young adults to earn GEDs or complete college coursework and job training, a community center, or a hotel with a catering facility.

King said he plans to work with the de Blasio administration to see what can be done about the Bloomberg-era land deal.

The city’s Economic Development Corp. did not respond for comment on King’s concerns.

Local Concerns

Community Board 12 chairman Father Richard Gorman said his board was told by the developers that they plan to build the commercial-residential mix in stages, and that the stores may not be in direct competition with others nearby.

Meanwhile, in the adjacent Pelham Gardens community, Chester Civic Improvement Association vice-president Don Gilligan said the former golf facility became an eyesore over the years after it was closed, with fencing and netting falling into disrepair and eventually removed.

Anything is probably better, he said, than what is there now.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742–3393. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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