A local business improvement district is backing the consruction of an 11-story building in its own backyard.
The Westchester Square BID recently expressed strong support for rezoning part of Blondell Avenue to allow for the construction of a 228-unit apartment building with spaces for 225 automobiles.
BID representatives and some community members testified at City Planning Commission’s ULURP hearing on Wednesday, January 30 in support of a proposed zoning change for 1340 Blondell Avenue and surrounding lots from M-1 manufacturing to a R7A residential district.
“The BID is backing it because it is good for the neighborhood for a number of different reasons,” said John Bonizio, Westchester Square BID chairman.
From a commercial perspective, the BID was able to negotiate with the developer to get 225 spaces of underground parking added to the project, said Bonizio, adding that four years ago, it was first proposed with ground floor retail without any parking.
“There is no other way we are going to get parking in Westchester Square,” said Bonizio. “The city isn’t going to build a municipal parking lot, and there is nowhere to put a parking lot except this particular space.”
Bonizio said he also believes the BID is in strongly in favor of the project because it will increase the area’s population, making it more likely there will be shoppers for the BID’s retail stores. This is badly needed, he said.
“The most important thing for the Westchester Square Business Improvement District is increasing foot traffic, and this will definitely increase it,” he said, adding that it may open the door to more zoning changes for other Blondell Avenue sites that are closer to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority train storage facility.
The street straddles the border between Community Board 10 and Community Board 11.
The CB 10 side of the street, a block away from East Tremont Avenue, is already zoned to accommodate apartment buildings, he said.
The BID feels that the Blondell Avenue corridor could eventually be opened to redevelopment.
This particular lot requires environmental remediation, said Bonizio.
Another individual who testified at CPC in favor of the project, Blondell Avenue resident and past Westchester Square merchant Alex Garoni, said he thought having a gleaming new apartment building with security might discourage illicit activities like illegal dumping in that area.
“If they are going to rebuild other areas of the Bronx, why not Westchester Square?” he asked, noting it is easily accessible to mass transit via the IRT #6 train and buses.
Garoni collected petition signatures from scores of local businesses and community members in support of the project and presented them to CPC, he said.
Garoni said that when he owned a floral store on the Square, he saw how a lack of foot traffic harms business, and believes the area needs more residents.
“The site today is an abandoned auto salvage yard and the Blondell Commons development will bring much needed affordable housing, new retail space, street activity and vitality to what is now an unattractive street that is dark and empty at night,” said Garoni.