Tensions arise for CB6 residents over East Fordham Road supermarket proposal

During the Nov. 10 Community Board 6 Land Use meeting, board members soundly rejected a proposal to construct a ground-level supermarket within a proposed 11-story affordable housing complex in the Belmont section.
Rendering courtesy JFrankl

The Belmont and East Tremont sections of the Bronx are some of the busiest areas in the borough, but also part of one of New York City’s biggest food deserts with 37 bodegas for every one supermarket, according to the city Department of Health.

On Nov. 10, Bronx Community Board 6 will decide whether to grant a request from a longtime local developer for the construction of a ground-floor level supermarket in a proposed affordable housing project in Fordham’s Belmont section.

But the addition of a supermarket, if approved, would come at the expense of 59 parking spots nearby, which has drawn the ire of Belmont residents that say parking is already scarce in the area.

“My head is exploding. Because there is already no parking to be found anywhere in Belmont,” said Mary Ellen Devito, a longtime Belmont homeowner, at the Oct. 21 CB6 Land Use Committee meeting. “We’re already congested to death and there’s no way an undertaking like (a supermarket) could exist in a location like that.”

The need for public parking has been an ongoing issue in the CB6 region, as parking space accounts for roughly 5% of land use in the area, according to CB6’s district needs statement.

The proposed 11-story building, which would be constructed at 660-680 E. Fordham Road, is bringing a total of 145 proposed dwelling units to the area, 20% of which — 28 units — would be affordable under the city’s inclusionary housing program.

The ground floor supermarket could become a C-Town, after officials from C-Town Supermarkets sent Shahadi Development, the owner of the proposed project, a non-binding letter of interest to be a potential tenant of the near 500 square-foot ground-level space in June.

Michelle Daneshvar, a co-developer on the project, said they are keeping their options open for other fresh supermarkets such as Trader Joe’s, but ruled out a start-up grocery mart or a bodega being a possible tenant.

The addition of a supermarket is a part of the city’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program (FRESH). FRESH offers zoning and tax incentives to encourage developers to build more supermarkets in high-need neighborhoods that face barriers to food access.

The rollout of FRESH hasn’t gone as smoothly as anticipated, however. Twelve years since the program was announced, just 28 buildings have qualified for FRESH zoning benefits and only eight are up and running.

Most FRESH applications have been in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, leaving out vast areas of the city like the Bronx, which has 62% of its residents suffering from food insecurity, according to NYC Health Data.

Land Use Committee Chair Frank Franz said that while he “loves” the plan, he expressed reticence on eliminating parking.

“I take real issue with your assessment of parking … as many of our members know, parking in this area is at a premium already,” he told developers at the Oct. 21 meeting. “At Belmont, we constantly fight with the DOT (Department of Transportation) for parking spaces. The block where you are building this has no 24-hour parking in front.”

According to project documents, 47 total parking spaces would continue to be provided at Medalliance, a nearby medical facility at 625 East Fordham Road, where developer Sean Daneshvar serves as the president.

A longtime Fordham Road developer, Daneshvar defended his vision to committee members and staunchly opposed Belmont residents at the Oct. 21 meeting.

“I had a dream that I am to change the face of Belmont, because right now when you look at it, you have garages, car washes and tattoo places,” said Daneshvar, who mentioned that he’s invested “millions of dollars” into Fordham Road over the last seven years. “To me, it’s embarrassing to have those (storefronts) near Arthur Avenue, and my dream is to spend more money to build an incredible building in Belmont.”

Danveshar said that roughly 1200 parking spots in the adjacent Fordham area exist, but are being underutilized by residents. According to development company officials, parking spots are already available at the subject site on East Fordham Road, mostly accessible from Cambreleng Avenue, as well as on adjacent streets and properties.

However, Franz and residents said those numbers weren’t accurate because it included private parking lots and didn’t account for traffic congestion from nearby Fordham University and the New York State DMV office, located at 696 E. Fordham Road.

If approved, the structure will comprise 160,163 square feet.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes. 

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