Square building owner cleans property; expansion possible

The back of 35 Westchester Square facing Benson Street (above) was quite a mess, as this recent photograph shows. Photo courtesy of Sandi Lusk

After much wrangling over the fate of the back of the Foot Locker location in Westchester Square, business and community groups have finally convinced the building’s management to remove graffiti and weeds that blighted Benson Street for years. This may be the first of many changes at the location.

35 Westchester Square has had a problem with weeds growing in the rear of the building and a chronic graffiti issue at the back of the store facing Benson Street that had been brought to the building’s management but not resolved.

“This has been an ongoing, disgusting mess for at least 18 years,” said Sandi Lusk, a member of the Westchester Square Zerega Improvement Organization. “I have suggested that the put cement back there to take care of the situation with the overgrown weeds. I heard that Councilman Vacca is sending around a graffiti clean-up truck around the neighborhood.”

Whether it was Vacca or the efforts of the landlord to make the back of the building clean, sometime over the weekend of October 18-19, according to sources on the square, the graffiti was removed.

“The back of the Foot Locker building was not being maintained,” said Westchester Square Merchants Association president John Bonizio of Metro Optics. “Not only was this unacceptable from our point of view, it was also illegal from the city’s point of view.”

Tall weeds and rampant amounts of graffiti scrawl covered the back of the building, which contains an area suitable for parking for building employees.

“I just sent my guys there to clean it up,” said a representative for Joey Srour, part of Bermuda Management, the company that is responsible for the building.

Of further interest to merchants in Westchester Square and also in the larger Bronx business community, is the fact that Foot Locker’s lease on the store that used to be Woolworth’s would be up within the year, and that the building’s owner is expressing interest in expanding the building, adding an additional story of medical office space.

“We don’t know for a fact that they will expand, but they are looking at the possibilities,” said Maragart Arrighi, of the Bronx Business Alliance. “We are hoping that they will do some expansion there. They are looking into the possibility of building up and getting medical space there. We like to see landlords and store owners investing money into buildings in the square.”

Arrighi acknowledged that the square has an issue with over saturation of medical social services, but indicated that she does not believe that the medical space proposed would be harmful. She said the Bronx Business Alliance is hard at work to make sure that the entire square receives money for much needed improvements.

“We are in the process of getting a $200,000 Mainstreet Grant for storefront improvements and the landlords are very excited,” Arrighi said. “The square has fallen into disrepair over the years, and we want to make it back into a commercial and transportation hub.”

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