Assessing Changes Along Jerome Avenue

A view from the Grand Concourse of Jerome Avenue with its elevated 4 train, the Cross Bronx Expressway ramps and 174th Street. (Photo by Adi Talwar via City Limits)

It’s been one year since the New York City Council approved the rezoning plan for Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and there are changes in the air, including some improvements in pedestrian safety, parks and playgrounds, writes Sadef Ali Kully in City Limits. But there’s still a lot of anxiety among residents and tenant advocates about what other changes will come with the rezoning, and continuing fears over potential displacement of both residential and commercial tenants.

Advocates say they are beginning to notice renovations taking place in older buildings, but they fear those will just give landlords an excuse to raise the rent. Small-business advocates say some businesses like auto-repair shops without official leases or firms located on properties sold just before the rezoning are already gone.

One tenant leader, Carmen Vega Rivera, says she and some her own neighbors may soon face displacement themselves.

“The apartment next door to me is at risk. Landlords are using major capital investments to get us out. The building across the street from me, same thing. This is happening in spurts all over the area,” says Vega Rivera, who is a leader of Community Action for Safe Apartment (CASA).

Kully reports that the city’s Department of Small Business Services hired a program manager for businesses seeking help, opened an SBS Mobile Unit for workforce training and recruitment and has enrolled about 20 local businesses in the commercial lease assistance program. The Department of City Planning reports numerous capital projects are underway for Jerome Avenue, with more in the pipeline. Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago was quoted in a press release as saying that “after years of community-based planning, we’re now hard at work preserving and building affordable housing, jobs and businesses in this transit-rich corner of the Bronx.” Writes City Limits:

But tenant advocacy groups dispute the notion that the Jerome Avenue process was “community-based” and believe it is still disengaged. “We want to know what is being developed, will those residents get the services they need, if it’s supportive housing then are they getting social and mental services?” Vega Rivera says. “There is no communication here. We have to seek those answers.”

“For them to say this is a public process is ridiculous,” says Fitzroy Christian, a CASA leader and resident. “The value of the properties increased almost immediately and rents are going up. We lost a 35-year-old, mom-and-pop shop for home-improvement supplies in the area. The landlord sold the property before the rezoning even happened.”

Go to City Limits to read about continuing concerns of auto-body repair shop owners in the area and about the possible lessons learned in advance of a second possible Bronx rezoning, in the Southern Boulevard area.

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