Cromwell-Jerome Study Area Jerome Avenue Study Area (City Planning has since changed the name) was announced last year, it stirred a lot of controversy as residents saw it an attempt to rebrand existing neighborhoods of the West Bronx and pave the way for gentrification via rezoning — a tool often used by the previous administration often without regard to community residents who lived in the areas. The study area grew from 57 blocks to a massive 73 blocks.
Now, as the Jerome Avenue Study Area was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio as one of the 6 areas slated for rezonings, community groups and even local elected officials are getting residents together to discuss the future and fate of their neighborhoods at a meeting scheduled for March 5th — after all, these are the very people who will be impacted by any zoning changes the city eventually will implement to increase density.
United Auto Merchants Association will be one of the hosts of the forum (auto body shops along Jerome Avenue represent the largest type of business in danger of being pushed out by the rezoning), along with Mothers on The Move and others and the forum is endorsed by Council Member Vanessa Gibson and Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner who’s district is part of the study area. (I must applaud these elected officials for listening to their constituents concerns and being at the table alongside them.)
There is a lot of fear, and valid at that, when neighborhoods are rezoned. Speculators come in and begin purchasing land and buildings at prices previously unthinkable in those neighborhoods. One doesn’t need to go far and see what’s happening right within our own borough in the South Bronx neighborhoods of Mott Haven, Port Morris, Melrose and the Lower Concourse. Properties are being snatched for far above what they would have fetched prior to rezoning.
Then you often times have unscrupulous landlords who upon seeing the values go up in their areas, begin to implement tactics to evict or make conditions miserable for their tenants to leave so that they can then jack up the rents to the newer economic demographics that are attracted to these areas.
de Blasio said of these landlords:
“First, there are the slumlords – the folks who refuse to make repairs…letting housing decay…making apartments uninhabitable.
Then, there are predatory landlords – the people who take advantage of a red-hot real estate market – employing ugly tactics to push out moderate-income tenants to make room for wealthier ones.
These predatory landlords harass tenants by, say, intermittently turning off the heat or hot water, or by refusing to address simple matters of safety or sanitation.
That doesn’t just violate the law; it violates our values as New Yorkers.”
But he didn’t just state an obvious problem, he also proposed a possible solution and new tool for residents to defend themselves and this is ESPECIALLY critical for those in the Jerome Avenue Corridor Study area to be aware of:
“So today, I’m announcing that in any of the areas in which the city rezones, if we find evidence that tenants are being harassed, we will supply those tenants with legal representation, at no cost, to take their case to Housing Court…to seek justice before a judge.
Protecting our tenants – through whatever means necessary – isn’t just the moral thing to do. It’s a critical step in making New York City a more affordable place for everyone. And we should thank the City Council for their historic support of legal services for tenants.
All of the steps on housing that I’ve spoken about today – from responsibly building UP; to placing new demands on developers; to providing affordable housing to New Yorkers who need it most; to targeting predatory landlords – it’s all part of our new rules for helping people find a home they can afford.”
City Planning insists that this will be a ground up community discussion and community decision making in the process so the meeting, spearheaded by New Settlement Apartments Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA) and several other community organizations, will be a test of City Planning and the Mayor’s administration commitment for community engagement.
This is your community, this is our Bronx and we must be at the table to decide the fate of our future.
Once again, the meeting will be held on Thursday, March 5th from 7PM – 9PM and will be held at LPAC (Latino Pastoral Action Center) located at 14 West 170th Street at Jerome Avenue. Refreshments will be available along with Spanish/English interpretation. Childcare will also be available for this important meeting so please be sure to call ahead of time at 609-879-2782 for more information.