New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Planning have a rough road ahead with Bronx residents.
Last night, hundreds of residents from within the Jerome Avenue Study Area (estimates had the crowd at at least 400 attending despite the weather), gathered to join in solidarity against a rezoning that the community feels is not about them or with them. Residents and community groups are so concerned yet so organized they have even formed a group and an umbrella alliance of all stakeholders calling themselves ‘Bronx Coalition for a Community Vision’.
Watch the videos of the meeting below
The community became incensed when they first heard about the potential rezoning of their area which grew from a large, 57 block area to a massive 73 block study area straddling multiple neighborhoods. Many were furious at what seemed to be a re-branding of these neighborhoods under the ‘Cromwell-Jerome’ name and saw it as the creation of a new neighborhood.
Susanna Blankley, Director of Housing Organizing for New Settlement Apartments Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA), said, “City planning said the neighborhood is not complete and we can clearly see that is not the case”
The event was hosted and organized by a diverse group of organizations such as CASA, Latino Pastoral Action Center (who provided the space to meet), Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Mothers on The Move, The Urban Justice Center, Pratt Center for Community Development, VOCAL-NY, United Auto Merchants Association, and Faith in New York.
It also received the endorsements of Council Member Vanessa Gibson, State Assemblywoman Latoya Joiner (both in attendance), and also in attendance were Congressman Jose E. Serrano, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, and State Assemblyman Victor Pichardo.
Throughout the meeting, the various speakers educated residents on the proposed study and how rezonings and upzonings can displace residents. The many speakers talked about how the community has the power, as the true stakeholders of the community as residents, to make sure that whatever zoning happens in the area, comes from the people.
Speakers like Denise Felipe, a member of New York Community For Change, spoke about the major city-wide housing crisis we have. She spoke about how she was pushed out from her home in the Lower East Side where she was born and eventually moved to Brooklyn where she is fighting the same battle again as gentrification continues pushing residents out.
“Nothing can take without community participation,” said Felipe. “We need all of you guys to stick together and come out…we want to make sure that our city planning, community board members, and elected officials not only do new rezonings but they keep us included…we need REAL affordable housing…we need local hires…” she continued to add.
Members from CASA performed a skit which lightheartedly talked about how rezoning works, developers attempting to influence City Planning and what residents can do to empower themselves.
Children even got up on stage and spoke about what they love about their neighborhood and what they envision their neighborhood to be.
After witnessing the amount of people in the crowd, the diversity, the energy, it is clear that anything that happens within the Jerome Study Area will be community led and driven and the community will not allow itself to be steamrolled as previous administrations have done throughout the city.
This community gathering was very reminiscent of We Stay/Nos Quedamos, which was founded in 1992 when residents of the Melrose neighborhood section of The Bronx caught wind of an urban renewal plan and rezonings that were to take place which would have displaced thousands of residents, demolished what buildings were left and create a housing that no one in the neighborhood could afford — all without community input.
Thanks to the late Yolanda Garcia and founder of Nos Quedamos, the residents of Melrose were able to take control of their destiny and neighborhood and make sure that their visions of what the neighborhood could look like—should look like—did.
City planning, Community Boards 4 and 5 will have their first official community meeting Saturday March 14th at The Bronx Museum of the Arts in the Lower Gallery from 10AM – 1PM, followed by another one on Thursday, March 19th at the Davidson Community Center located at 2038 Davidson Avenue from 7PM – 9PM, and a Spanish language meeting on March 26th also at the Davidson Community Center from 7PM – 9PM.