| All eyes on Throggs Neck amid New York’s affordable housing crisisThe Bronx Ink

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A sign against “Up Zoning” hangs from a street pole in Throggs Neck.

Compared to the chaotic, fast-paced borough of Manhattan, Throggs Neck stands out as an almost suburban neighborhood. Located in the southeastern corner of the Bronx, it is made up mostly of single-family, freestanding homes. It can be hard to remember that it exists within the New York City limits until it makes the one-mile journey to the nearest train station in Pelham Bay.

“It’s primarily a working-class and middle-class community that enjoys city life but not crowded city life,” said Janine Franciosa, a Throggs Neck resident who has lived in the neighborhood for all 40 years of her life. .

Currently, some Throggs Neck residents like Franciosa fear that may change.

A for-profit developer, Throggs Neck Associates LLC, is looking to build four multi-story buildings on Bruckner Boulevard, some of which will include affordable housing. But to do that, they must first change long-standing low zoning laws that are designed to prevent large developments from being built.

The debate has stirred things up in the community, with some residents fighting to uphold zoning laws in a bid to “preserve” the neighborhood and others rallying to support the project if it means more affordable housing for residents in the need.

Those in favor include Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and Mayor Eric Adams.

“Housing construction has not kept up with population growth in New York City,” said Brendan Cheney, director of policy and communications at the New York Housing Conference, an affordable housing policy advocacy group.

“New York City is limited in terms of vacant land. It’s expensive to build here in the city. There are also zoning restrictions that can prevent growth,” he added.

According to NYC planning, Throggs Neck is currently designated as a low-density neighborhood, which means there are a restricted number of residential units permitted on a zoning lot. The majority of residential buildings also have height limits. In 2004, area residents rezoned to include more restrictions after raising concerns about overdevelopment.

These zoning laws prompted Throggs Neck Associates LLC to request a rezoning of the area in order to construct their project, which includes one 3-story building, one 5-story building, and two 8-story buildings.

According to the developer’s proposal, the four buildings will have a total of 349 residential units, 168 of these units will be reserved for low-income residents, 99 units mainly for the elderly and 22 units reserved for veterans whose rents will be paid by Tunnel at Towers , a non-profit organization.

About 46% of Throggs Neck residents are renters – nearly half of those renters are considered to have rent encumbrance, according to the US Census report.

At the end of last year, more than 900 households in the Council’s 13th District, which includes Throggs Neck, ended up in homeless shelters, according to Cheney.

“So you have people who are paying rent, you have people who are living in poverty in the council district, you have people whose housing crisis is so bad in the district that they have to go into shelter ,” Cheney said.

“This neighborhood should be looking for ways to get more affordable housing into the neighborhood instead of rejecting affordable housing coming into the neighborhood.”

In May 2022, when the proposal was presented to Community Board 10, it was defeated by a near unanimous vote, Bronx Community District 10 director Matthew Cruz told The Bronx Ink.

“This is far too extensive a rezoning for our liking,” Cruz said. “In short, and to be nice, there was no planning behind this rezoning request and I think that’s why the community council and much of the community remain opposed.”

Like Cruz, many residents are skeptical of the long-term plans of developers in the neighborhood.

“I think it’s an opportunistic endeavor for a small number of developers who kind of exploit the situation of this community,” Franciosa said. this area for their own personal financial gain.

According to NYC Planning, Bronx Community District 10 is one of only four of New York’s 59 community districts that are labeled as “low density growth management.” This means that certain rules are in place, such as parking and yard/open space requirements, to help manage growth.

“This is the last such neighborhood because so many other neighborhoods have been exploited with overdevelopment,” Franciosa said. “People should feel free to act where they live. People should have a say in how they want to live.

Another sign against “Up Zoning” is displayed in the window of a house in Throggs Neck.

Open New York, an affordable housing advocacy group, has been involved with the zoning proposal since its introduction and has advocated for it to be carried out.

“It’s a community that has been able to draw a line around itself and say, ‘no, you have to build everywhere but here.’ And it’s not fair to the rest of the city,” said Logan Phares, political director of Open New York.

Over the past eight years, council District 13 added just 58 affordable housing units, ranking fifth among all New York City council districts, according to data compiled by NYHC. During the same period, City Council District 17, also located in the Bronx, topped the list, with 8,555 affordable housing units built.

Michael Kaess, a resident of Council District 13 and a member of Open New York, is one of the few residents to voice his support for the project.

“It’s time for communities like mine to build their fair share. I really think it has a city-wide implication if something like the rezoning of the Bruckner site goes through,” Kaess said.

In 2019, in the New York metropolitan area, there were only 47 affordable rental units available per 100 very low-income households, according to data provided by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. To be considered very low-income, this household must earn at least 50% of the median income for the region, for a family of three, or less than $60,050. Currently, the New York metropolitan area is short of 771,855 affordable housing units for very low-income households.

Although Kaess is one of the few residents to support the project, he suggested that those who oppose it do not constitute the majority of the neighborhood.

“I don’t think the average person is that engaged,” Kaess said. “The sad reality is that the people who show up at every community board meeting are the people who will be most against it.”

At the end of August, members of Open New York participated in a rally in support of the project. They faced fierce opposition from community members, one even sprayed a hose towards them over the fence.

“These are people who are so afraid of any change to the status quo that they will go to extreme lengths to water supporters,” Phares said.

The Bronx Community Board 10 told The Bronx Ink that it does not tolerate any threats to fans.

“I think these conversations lead to loaded comments and things being said that are really unwanted and don’t help the conversation,” Cruz said. “It doesn’t say who we are as a community. We are much better than that.

City Council has until Oct. 17 to make a final decision on rezoning, according to New York’s URLUP process.

“I’m not going to say that a building that goes up is necessarily going to make me move,” Franciosa said. “It’s not just the building. It’s… what the implications will be.

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