State eyes developers for Harlem River railyard

State eyes developers for Harlem River railyard
Photo courtesy of Empire State Development

Big changes may be afoot on the shores of the south Bronx waterfront, as a longtime rail yard could see a massive redevelopment project.

The Empire State Development has issued a Request for Expression of Interest from developers to gauge interest in the 13-acre south Bronx rail yard located on the NYS Department of Transportation-owned 96-acre Harlem River Yard, for covering the existing rail station with a deck and building residential and/or mixed-use buildings above it.

“It’s exciting, and very rare to offer the opportunity to develop more than a dozen acres of prime waterfront land in New York City,” said Empire State Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky in a statement announcing the proposal.

The Port Morris location offers easy access to the waterfront, multiple mass transit options and a major highway, he added.

A state-conducted on-site tour of the location was scheduled for Wednesday, December 14, and proposals must be submitted by February 2.

Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation president Marlene Cintron stressed the state was simply looking to get a feel from developers of how interested they would be in taking on the project, and its not a formal request for proposals.

She said she had fielded calls by developers intrigued by the possibilities the site offers.

“The site has a view to kill for,” she said.

However while the cost of decking such a project may have gone down, she said the challenges of building on the waterfront would make it an equally massive undertaking.

“It will be a very expensive venture that can provide rewards – depending on what kind of tenants they hope to put on top,” she said.

Affordable housing at the site did not seem feasible, she said.

A similar project known as Hudson Yards is already underway on the west side of Manhattan.

That project will see business office space and market-rate housing built above it.

The Bronx rail station sold to the state DOT in 1982 and is primarily used for industrial and manufacturing purposes.

The property managed through a joint venture with the Schenectady-based Galesi Group called Harlem River Yards Inc.

Galesi signed a 99-year lease with the city to operate the site in 1991, and Cintron said that lease was unlikely to be altered.

Calls to Galesi site manager Anthony Riccio following the site tour were not returned by press time.

Because it is a state owned property, the state can change the zoning at the site without city approval.

It is currently part of the Special Harlem River Waterfront District.

Harlem River Yard tenants include a FedEx distribution center, the New York Post printing and distribution facility, and a solid waste transfer station.

Further west from the rail yard on the property is the future site for the headquarters of FreshDirect.

The upstart online grocery chain was lured to the Bronx from Queens after receiving an $87 million subsidy from the city.

Phase I of that project is slated for completion in December of 2017, when staffing will begin.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at him on Twitter @arthurcusano.