The Bronx Coalition for Community Vision – local organizations banding together to affect the Jerome Avenue Rezoning – held a town hall meeting on Thursday, March 2 to hear from council members Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera.
At the public meeting coalition members explained their position while challenging the elected officials on where they stood on the matter.
According to the city, the plan will affect approximately 73 blocks – predominantly along Jerome Avenue – from University Heights down to Highbridge.
The rezoning would change the neighborhoods from commercial to residential, creating fear of gentrification and loss of jobs.
During the meeting, Local 79 president Wayne Moten led the audience at the New Settlement Community Center in chanting the five items the Bronx Coalition wants in order to support the rezoning.
He yelled to the crowd, “We’re saying no to rezoning unless there is what?!”
“Affordable housing! No displacement! Good jobs! Local hire! Real community participation!,” they yelled back.
Local residents believe that once the rezoning occurs, developers will come in and build market rate housing which could push out the residents who can’t meet the rising cost of living.
In addition, there are many auto repair shops along Jerome Avenue that the coalition believes developers will push out.
The coalition has created a term sheet – highlighted by the five phrases the crowd chanted – which they are demanding city officials agree to before the rezoning is approved.
“As you know we have met with city agencies many times over the last two years and so far they have failed to meet most of our core demands,” Moten told Gibson and Cabrera.
“Will you push the city to delay the [Uniform Land Use Review Process] if our demands aren’t met,” he asked. “Will you stand with us and say ‘no’ to the city if they do not meet our demands?”
Gibson did not provide an absolute answer to Moten’s question.
“What I do not like to do in most of my work is bet on a stack of cards when I don’t know what that deck looks like,” said Gibson. “We have received very little detail from the administration on how we’re going to achieve 4,000 units of housing and identify the actual sites.”
The city’s plan currently projects 3,250 new housing units on 113 potential development sites.
Gibson stressed to those in attendance that she has continued to express to city officials what the community wants to get them behind the rezoning.
“If it means that when we get to ULURP and we are not able to support this particular plan in its current form then absolutely I will support delaying ULURP,” said Gibson. “I want to delay this project as much as I can because I want to get it right.”
Cabrera stressed to those in attendance that many times elected officials have the most power at the 11th hour of negotiations.
“I can tell you through experience,” said Cabrera, “the biggest leverage we could ever have happens at the end.”
“There’s something about the urgency,” said Cabrera, “and there’s something about creating a dynamic at the very end that (the city) will have to give in – they will have to give us what we’re asking for.”