It’s been nearly three years since the de Blasio administration began talking about targeting a long stretch of Jerome Avenue in the Bronx for a comprehensive rezoning, one of a dozen or more redevelopment projects the mayor has proffered as part of his affordable-housing plan.
Much has changed over that time. The Department of City Planning has stopped calling the area “Cromwell-Jerome” because no one who lives there calls it that. The City Council has passed the mayor’s landmark “mandatory inclusionary housing” rule, requiring that residential developers who take advantage of rezonings devote some of the new units to income-targeted housing. Late last year the mayor boosted the number of low-income units in his housing plan. And recently the administration signed on to the goal of providing counsel to all indigent tenants facing eviction in Housing Court, a key demand of advocates worried that rezonings will spur tenant harassment and displacement.
But not enough has changed, according to Fitzroy Christian, a veteran tenant advocate and leader in the coalition that has formed to offer an alternative to City Planning’s initial vision for the neighborhood.
Two years ago, Christian told me that he saw the mayor’s housing scheme as “a good plan that I was very much afraid of.” In an interview in City Limits newsroom on Thursday, Christian said those fears persist.
In part, that’s because since releasing a draft scope of work for the project’s environmental review in late August the administration has said little publicly about what its plans look like. City Planning did release an update last month that catalogued the administration’s outreach efforts and the many investments it’s making in the Bronx, but it offered no specifics on the timeline.
“The Department of City Planning has been extremely busy over the last few months refining strategies and continuing to incorporate community input, as well as initiating an environmental review of proposed land-use actions associated with the Jerome Avenue Neighborhood Study,” the update read. “Upon completion of the draft environmental impact statement, DCP will submit a formal land-use application and will begin the public review process known as the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure (ULURP).”
Christian said the delays in starting ULURP are fine by him because it gives the Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision more time to shape the ultimate proposal. In our talk, he also reiterated what he sees as the community’s red lines, discussed how the diverse coalition maintains strategic unity and assessed the kind of support it might get from the City Councilmembers who will ultimately decide what gets approved.