A three-tower mixed-use affordable housing project bringing 970 units to the Bronx River waterfront received overwhelming support from Community Board 9 on Thursday.
But the proposal, slated for 1460-1480 Sheridan Blvd. in the Claremont neighborhood, didn’t come without pushback from residents and environmental groups, who expressed concerns over the affordability of the units and the impact on nearby Starlight Park and the accompanying waterfront.
Simone Development, who has owned the 1460-1480 Sheridan Blvd. site — formerly an auto shop — for nearly four decades, touts the project as 100% affordable and an opportunity to add to an area that’s seen massive transformation since the Sheridan Expressway’s metamorphosis into Sheridan Boulevard in 2019.
The redesign that changed the busy Sheridan into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard linked the neighborhoods Crotona Park, West Farms and Soundview, with foot and bike trails that lead into Starlight Park and the Bronx River Greenway. Developers at the meeting vowed to maintain public access to the waterfront — an inequity for some Bronxites.
Fewer than half of Bronx residents within a half-mile can access their waterfronts, according to a 2022 report by the city Department of City Planning.
Project plans call for a 24-story tower with 304 units at 1460 Sheridan Blvd., two other 24-story towers with 666 units at 1480 Sheridan Blvd., and 139,300 square feet of commercial space. Developers are seeking a zoning change from the plot’s manufacturing zoning to a residential zoning with a commercial overlay.
“This is a labor of love … We have been so inspired by what’s gone up … around us over the past forty years, with the Sheridan Expressway becoming a boulevard, and all the (surrounding) development,” said Patricia Simone, principal and president of Simone Development Companies. “We’re so excited about the opportunity to open up the waterfront to transform what’s really underutilized … and has been for many years.”
Roughly 15% of the units, according to developers, would be reserved for those formerly homeless. However, much of the consternation during Wednesday’s two-hour meeting was about the affordability of the units, based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) area median income (AMI) levels, and the fear of displaced residents who have provided their own labor of love to the nearby park and waterfront.
For a decade, NYC’s AMI, $120,000 in 2022, has been consistently $20,000 higher than the actual median income of most New Yorkers, according to housing groups. One area resident, Chiene Joy Jones, called the project’s income ranges — 388 of the 970 units are 50% or less of the AMI — “unrealistic” for many of CB9’s residents.
“It’s really challenging when you end up having apartments that are being offered and made available, and a large number (of units for) families are within that 80 to 100% (AMI) percentile,” said Jones.”It’s not realistic … to the population and demographic that currently is in the Bronx. So ultimately, it wouldn’t be offering as much affordable housing for those who would want to reside in this new construction.”
Dariella Rodriguez, director of community development at the Point Community Development Corporation, expressed fear that the residents who have cleaned up and been stewards of Starlight Park for years, may not get a chance to live in the proposed apartment units.
While William Rivera, CB9’s district manager, also noted his issues with some of the income levels in the project, he said developers are simply abiding by the AMIs set by HUD. Despite residential concerns of affordability and public safety issues that could arise in the nearby park, Rivera felt the project was still offering much-needed affordable housing.
Project developers also plan to apply for the city Housing Preservation and Development’s “Mix & Match” program.
The program funds the new construction of mixed-income multifamily rental projects in which 50% of the units are at low-income rents affordable to households earning up to 60% of the AMI. The other 50% of units would have rents affordable to moderate-to-high income households, earning up to 130% of the AMI.
Compared to their neighboring community districts, Community District 9 is experiencing moderate levels of affordable housing threat, according to The Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development’s 2023 Housing Risk Chart. A large share of households in the CD9 area are in the 45% AMI range.
“There are rough numbers. This can change, and this is not make or break for the project,” said Rivera. “We’re early in terms of closing and financing. … The city needs to reinvest in homeownership opportunities because we’re fading away from (those) opportunities to combat gentrification.”
CB9’s vote is merely a recommendation, but allows the project to clear the first step of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process.
ULURP includes advisory votes of community boards and borough presidents, followed by binding votes of the City Planning Commission and City Council.
There are a laundry list of “gentleman agreements” that CB9 struck with the developers, including the hiring of local workers, businesses and Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) in the day-to-day building operations, as well as a future meeting with local environmental groups regarding the project’s impact on the park and waterfront.