Seven years after $34M Fordham Plaza renovation, DOT failing to find vendors for transit hub

Fordham Plaza
Fordham community leaders are putting the blame on the city’s Department of Transportation for failing for find vendors to Fordham Plaza seven years after a $34 million renovation.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Fordham Plaza is always busy, with more than 80,000 pedestrians per day buzzing along the Fordham Road business corridor. On any given hour, commuters and local students are scrambling from connecting buses and trains in a sea of public transit generating traffic from and to nearby Bronx institutions.

In 2022, the city Department of Transportation (DOT) solicited proposals for retailers and high-end merchandisers to operate business in the plaza — roughly 24,238 square feet of vending space along with a kiosk and a retired newsstand — but had not found any takers.

The Bronx Times reached out to DOT with several questions, including whether the city agency sought proposals for the space prior to 2022, and is awaiting response.

Occasionally, a grassroots organizer or local politician will use the open space to encourage passersby to join their cause-of-the-week or donate to their reelection campaign. Later this spring, visitors flocking to the New York Botanical Garden and Bronx Zoo, will wander to the intersection of Fordham Road, Third Avenue and East 189th Street, milling around.

Recently, in its quieter moments, once-promising features of a $34 million plaza renovation in 2016 — such as its sitting areas and vacant newsstands — have become canvasses for graffiti and vandalism. Other times, individuals experiencing homelessness have sought refuge under the vacant newsstands and tables in warmer months, and quality-of-life complaints such as public drug use and urination have been reported.

Community leaders are putting the blame on DOT, citing a failure to secure vendors to the location seven years after the renovation.

“There are 80,000 people that pass through Fordham Plaza every day. At the very least, even in its current state, it is a place where people go through, as a kind of a transit hub,” said Rafael Moure-Punnett, district manager for Community Board 6. “In the past though, this plaza served not only just as a transit hub, but a commercial space where people could go and shop. Thirty-four million dollars of public money went into this project, and it’s being wasted. You could argue that the plaza is worse off as a result of this project.”

After a $34 million renovation in 2016, Fordham Plaza remains without a vendor in one of the city’s busiest transit hubs. Photo courtesy Bronx Community Board 6

Moure-Punnett told the Bronx Times that he was told by DOT officials over the summer that they had secured a vendor to operate a retail cafe. However, the space has remained vacant and community leaders say that DOT has not been transparent about commercial plans for the plaza despite numerous inquiries.

“I spoke to the bureau commissioner over the summer. He told me that the retail cafe was rented out and was going to have a new vendor. I said, ‘OK, there’s no one in there, it’s vacant,'” said Moure-Punnett.  “And he said, ‘OK.’ He was very annoyed at me for calling him and then we requested in writing several times an update and got nothing.”

Resting at the foothills of the borough’s busiest commercial district, Fordham Plaza is a potential economic commercial hot spot.

Dating back to 1943, Fordham Plaza has always been a tantalizing “what-if” for retail, and the area was once rezoned as a push to make it the “Times Square of the Bronx.” Prior to the 2016 renovation — which led to a 25% increase in pedestrian space  — the plaza area had been a consistent spot for pop-up vendors.

The neighborhoods of Fordham and University Heights live in poverty —and businesses have told the Bronx Times that theft and high rents make life on Fordham Road a challenge for the commercial district’s smaller businesses. Fordham’s apparel and electronic stores have bore the brunt of shoplifting and theft, with many store owners and managers feeling under-resourced to combat such activity.

And Fordham Plaza is a rarity in New York City, in that it offers pedestrians access to a public toilet.

CB6 will vote to request an audit by NYC Comptroller Brad Lander of the Fordham Plaza renovation at their March 8 general board meeting.

Residents like John Marks, who has lived in the Fordham area for 30 years, laments the lost opportunities in the plaza.

“Man, this plaza has the all the potential in the world. You could have a nice storefront here when folks are waiting for the bus or train, but instead it’s kind of empty and soulless and not being taken care of,” he said.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.