NYC Advances Rezoning for 7,500 Apartments by New East Bronx Metro North Stations

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The city is finally moving forward with an effort to rezone Parkchester, Van Nest and Morris Park in the east Bronx to allow for more than 7,000 new apartments in the area, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to build a new set of Metro-North Railroad stations there. 

The City Planning Commission certified the rezoning plan Monday afternoon, paving the way for new housing along 46 blocks of East Tremont Avenue, White Plains Road, Bronxdale Avenue and Stillwell Avenue, near the future stations. 

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Much of the area is currently zoned for manufacturing or heavy commercial and automotive uses, preventing new residential development. The new zoning would allow mid- and high-rise residential development, along with retail and commercial buildings, which could produce up to 7,700 apartments, of which at least a third would be affordable, and 300,000 square feet of retail. It could also add more than 1.5 million square feet of life science labs. 

The city also wants to allow owners of sites around Morris Park Avenue to easily transfer development rights to each other, which it hopes would spur new buildings, retail businesses and streetscape improvements near the proposed Metro-North station on that block. 

It also wants to allow floor area exemptions for new buildings with schools and bonuses for developers who would like to build new public space as part of their projects. City planners are working with the New York City Department of Transportation to add street improvements and a plaza around the proposed Parkchester/Van Nest station on East Tremont Avenue. 

Finally, the New York City Department of City Planning also plans to map one of its new types of manufacturing zones in the neighborhood to allow denser industrial and commercial development. 

MTA estimates that it would take $3 billion to bring all four train stations in the East Bronx — Hunts Point, Van Nest/Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-Op City — online as part of the East Side Access plan to bring more Metro-North trains into Pennsylvania Station. Although it is not part of the rezoning area, the station in Hunts Point would be the only new Metro-North station within walking distance of an existing subway station, the 6 train stop at Hunts Point Avenue. 

The Metro-North stations are scheduled to begin serving Bronx residents in 2027 and could shave an hour off commuters’ time to get into Manhattan, according to DCP and MTA. 

The MTA has already begun work on tracks in the Bronx, including work along Amtrak’s Hell Gate line between Astoria and the South Bronx, according to Joe O’Donnell, director of public affairs at MTA’s Construction and Development arm. 

The rezoning vote comes after six years of public meetings with neighbors and negotiations with one of the local council members, Rafael Salamanca, who also chairs the City Council’s land use committee. He supports this rezoning after killing the 120-block rezoning of Southern Boulevard in his district in early 2020. 

Councilmembers Amanda Farías and Kristy Marmorato represent much of the rezoning area, but only Farías has explicitly expressed support for the proposal, according to Politico. Marmorato, a Republican who ran on an anti-development platform, defeated Democrat Marjorie Velasquez last year by galvanizing opposition to a proposed supportive housing project, Just Home, and a rezoning to add 349 apartments to Bruckner Boulevard in Throggs Neck. 

When asked about the proposal at a recent community meeting, Marmorato said, “Thank you for allowing us to have a say on what’s actually happening in and around our neighborhood,” Politico reported

Bronx Community District 11 — which comprises most of the rezoning area — has produced only 140 affordable units since 2014. Montefiore Medical Center, in Hutchinson Metro Center along Hutchinson River Parkway, was responsible for one of the only new developments in the area, an 182-unit building for hospital staff constructed in 2017. 

This corner of the Bronx has a cluster of universities and hospitals — Calvary Hospital, Bronx Psychiatric Center, Jacobi Medical Center, a Yeshiva University campus and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine — but is largely served by buses and a few far-flung 6 train stops.

One of the new Metro-North stations will grow in this cluster of hospitals, in the existing tracks along Bassett Avenue between the Jacobi and Montefiore medical campuses. 

The City Planning Commission’s vote kicks off the nine-month Uniform Land Use Review Process, which will include votes from the local community boards, the Bronx borough president, and the full City Council before the zoning can be finalized. 

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com.