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Forum on rezoning plan encourages community participation

Bronx Times
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A forum was recently held to review the zoning in one of the Bronx’s most densely populated areas.

On Wednesday, October 21, Community Action for Safe Apartments held a visioning session to discuss the community’s involvement in the current Jerome Avenue rezoning plans, at the Latino Pastoral Action Center.

The meeting, which drew over 700 concerned residents, discussed the current rezoning plans for a two mile, 73-block stretch of the mid-Bronx

The area under discussion encompasses property just south of Mullaly Park, north to Woodlawn Cemetery, that has been undergoing an evaluation since March that will result in the construction of affordable housing units under Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York Plan, along with more job opportunities and zoning changes within the confines of community boards 4 and 5.

The evaluation, known as the Jerome Avenue Study, would result in the rezoning of 15 neighborhoods including the Concourse, Highbridge, Morris Heights, Mount Eden, Mount Hope and University Heights.

For the forum, CASA, who has been working with the Bronx Coalition for A Community Vision and other local organizations, developed a set of policy recommendations to translate their four main principles - real affordable housing, good jobs and local hire, strong anti-harassment and anti-displacement policies and real community participation - to make sure that the eventual rezoning supports all and is not done at the cost of local resident displacement, exploitation, gentrification and/or harassment.

The visioning session also discussed preservation of libraries, green space as well as reserving homes for seniors and veterans.

“This forum was held to let local residents of these neighborhoods know that they can and should be a part of community redevelopm­ent,” said Susanna Blankey, director of CASA. “The residents are the experts. After all, who knows their own neighborhoods better than them? It’s important that they not only have a say but that they are also involved in this process.”

“If we are living here, then we want the rezoning changes to satisfy our needs, not just the city or the Bronx as a whole,” said Fitzroy Christian, local resident and CASA leader. “As residents, we’ve seen it all, positive and negative, so we know what is needed in our neighborhood just as much as anybody. It’s important that residents get involved, because a community can’t grow without community involvement.”

“The Jerome Avenue rezoning has great potential to preserve the existing affordability of the area while improving the aesthetics of our streets and the quality of the area’s retail,” said councilwoman Vanessa Gibson.

“I have been adamant that the rezoning create affordable housing opportunities including those for middle income residents, preserve existing small businesses and target new commercial enterprises that serve the community.”

Contributing factors to Jerome Avenue’s current rezoning plan, aside from the mayor’s housing plan, include that the area’s current zoning allows for heavy commercial and light industrial use, but does not presently permit residential development.

The current zoning in effect is from the early 1960s, with land-use patterns that stem back to the 1930s and earlier.

Also, 80 percent of housing developments in the study area were built before 1950, leaving many neighborhood residents with inadequate housing.

Since March, CASA has held five visioning sessions, collected over 500 surveys, and has engaged over 1,500 residents about the Jerome Avenue rezoning process.

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 742–3384. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:01 pm, July 9, 2018
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