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City Planning Approves Bronx Waterfront Rezoning That Could Create Over 1,000 New Residential Units

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The City Planning Commission approves the rezoning of five-acres on the waterfront of the Harlem River. On August 23, 2017, the City Planning Commission approved an application by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to establish a Special Harlem River Waterfront Subdistrict for future development in the Bronx. The application included the sale of city-owned property to the Development Corporation, a zoning map and text amendment, and a special permit to reduce parking requirements.

The project area is bounded by the U.S. Pierhead and Bulkhead lines to the west, East 149th Street to the south, Exterior Street and the elevated Major Deegan Expressway to the east, and Mill Pond Park to the north. The approximately five-acre waterfront site is currently zoned as an M2-1 manufacturing district with a maximum FAR of 2.0.

The Development Corporation’s application would set the parameters for future project proposals from developers. The agency hopes that the rezoning would help facilitate the development of mixed-use towers that contain up to 1045 residential units, up to half of which could be affordable. One tower would be 400 feet tall and the other 260 feet tall. The site would include a new shore public walkway, community facilities, retail and commercial space.

In 2009, 30 blocks of the South Bronx was rezoned with new residential and mixed-use districts. As part of the rezoning effort the Special Harlem River Waterfront District and the Harlem River Waterfront Access Plan were created to guide future development by creating a varied skyline, maximizing waterfront views, ensuring a range of uses on the waterfront, and encouraging use of waterfront open spaces. In 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed $194 million in capital investment to the Lower Concourse neighborhood.

On May 30, 2017, Bronx Community Board 4 voted 19-7 to recommend approval of the rezoning with conditions. The community board wished for all the potential new units to be affordable with a band of 30 percent to 120 percent of the area median income. The community board also wanted to limit the height of new towers to 300 feet and for the City to work with developers to establish job preferences for locals. Also, the community board recommended that future developers be responsible for maintaining all of Mill Pond Park, and that the City allocate $20 million towards the construction of the 153rd Street Bridge.

On June 29, 2017, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. issued a report approving the application with conditions. The borough president insisted that a minimum of three acres of the project be for open space, that retail transparency should exceed 50 percent, that there be more tower setbacks and that the designs pay homage to the existing Art Deco character of the area. The borough president also recommended more affordability and larger units for families.

In its report, the Planning Commission found the rezoning to be appropriate. The Commission stated that the project “would rejuvenate the Lower Concourse area and complement the new residential developments proposed for neighboring blocks.”

The Commission noted concern that that a developer would not be chose until after the ULURP process for rezoning, removing the opportunity usually afforded to the Commission to review and propose changes to design. Therefore, the Department of City Planning and the Development Corporation agreed to a post-ULURP review certification by the Commission’s Chairperson to review design proposals.

CPC: Lower Concourse North Rezoning, Bronx (C 170314 PPX; C 170311 ZMX; N 170312 ZRX; C 170315 ZSX) (Aug. 23, 2017).

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).