Neighborhoods

Here Is The South Bronx’s 1,300-Unit Gentrification Death Star

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The Bronx is New York City’s poorest borough, with neighborhoods in the South Bronx seeing their poverty rates hover persistently around 40 percent. However, over the past several years, there’s been a concerted effort to rebrand the Boogie Down, led by developers looking to boost real estate values and encourage wealthier renters to hop on over the Harlem River. Now, from the developers who brought you the “Bronx is Burning” party in 2015 comes two towers totaling 1,300 units, where market-rate renters will be able to look out upon Manhattan and literally turn their backs on the Bronx.

The Long Island City-style development at 2401 Third Avenue and 101 Lincoln Avenue, first revealed by New York Yimby, will feature gyms, doggie day-care, a pool, a cafe, and something referred to as a “library/wine room.” This would be the largest market-rate housing development in the Bronx in at least thirty years, says YIMBY writer Rebecca Baird-Remba. It would also mark a turning point in the development of the Bronx, which heretofore has seen almost all new large-scale housing development built as “affordable” units, with various incentives given to developers to keep rents in line with what the neighborhood can afford. As the Times noted earlier this month, that plan has mostly worked — affordable housing is being built on formerly vacant land, as the city has given away tracts for practically nothing. But that new development has raised land values and rents in surrounding areas, paving the way for the market rate development that’s just gearing up.

“These are the green shoots of how the Bronx will become more market-rate,” Jeff Levine, the chairman of Douglaston Development, told the Times, referring to affordable housing being built throughout the Bronx. The South Bronx has seen its rents rise by at least a third since 2013.

YIMBY reports that the developers intend to make both towers eligible for the now-dead, but possibly soon-to-be-resurrected 421-a tax exemption, which gives out huge breaks to developers in exchange for affordable housing. Under the old 421-a, this development wouldn’t even have affordable housing in it, because it falls outside of the city’s Geographic Exclusion Area, meaning the developers would be reaping the benefits of the tax cut, but giving nothing back to the city at all. Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to see the Geographic Exclusion Area expanded to all parts of the city as development spreads and the need for affordable housing intensifies. Governor Cuomo’s newest version of 421-a, dubbed “Affordable New York,” would allow developers to “opt in” to the program if they provide a formulated amount of affordable housing, but it’s unclear what exactly would trigger this as of yet, and whether the units would even have to be on-site.

The developers say the two towers should be completed by 2019.

Following community complaints about the re-dubbing of the neighborhood “The Piano District,” the developers took down a billboard touting the new project. On one of the developer’s websites, however, a video promoting the new “luxury” complex, and its ill-conceived party, remains. Keith Rubinstein, one of the main developers of the project, gave New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign $84,500 during the last six months of 2016, while Cuomo was negotiating the 421-a compromise.