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City officials, locals demand more affordability for Bronx’s Jerome Avenue rezoning

The rezoning proposal was heard by the Council’s subcommittee on zoning and franchises on Wednesday

The Jerome Avenue rezoning proposal was heard at a City Council subcommittee meeting on Wednesday, one of the last stops in the public review process for the 92-block rezoning along Bronx’s Jerome Avenue.

In a hearing that lasted over five hours, the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises fielded testimony from a host of city agencies trying to push forward the rezoning, and several local residents and community organizations that spoke both for and against the rezoning.

The rezoning has already received several approvals as it has made its way through the public review process, but those approvals haven’t come without lingering questions and concerns. The Bronx Borough President’s office and Community Boards 4, 5, and 7 gave the rezoning a conditional approval, meaning they wanted the city to commit to more investments in the rezoning stretch (like more affordable housing) before fully throwing their weight behind the effort.

On Wednesday, Ruben Diaz Jr. reiterated his call for the city to increase the number of affordable units to preserve as part of the rezoning from 1,500 apartments to 2,000. He released a report that identified 2,075 apartments spread out between 45 apartments within a 14 mile radius of the rezoning stretch, that needed protections.

The two City Council members representing the rezoning stretch, Vanessa Gibson and Fernando Cabrera both also highlighted the need for greater affordability at Wednesday’s meeting.

“Through this rezoning, we have an opportunity to have a voice in the future of our community,” said Gibson. “We cannot accept increased density without significant investments in our neighborhoods.”

And what she meant by investment included the construction of more schools to match the influx of people moving into the neighborhood, more protections for auto repair shops that might be displaced by the rezoning, a commitment to hiring locally and upgrades to existing parks and transportation infrastructure.

At least in regards to parks, the city declared its intention to spend between $8M-$10M to spruce up the Aqueduct Walk, upgrades to the Morton Playground, and the construction of a new park by 170th Street and Nelson Avenue.

In regards to affordable housing, the city is going to enforce additional requirements besides the 20-30 percent permanent affordability scale under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy. At least where it concerns developers looking for subsidies from the city in the rezoned area, the city will ask that up to 45 percent of the units be designated as permanently affordable in some cases.

The City Council members still had some concerns that the city had not fully realized the potential of creating affordable housing for extremely low-income residents in the neighborhood.

Community advocacy groups like the Bronx Coalition went one step further to suggest that the scale of the rezoning should be reduced, and that the city should ensure that there would be no net loss of affordable units with the construction of new ones.

The rezoning proposal will now be heard by the Council’s Land Use Subcommittee before it finally ends up in front of the full City Council later this month, for a decisive vote.