Plans Revealed for Former PS 31 Site: Tallest Tower on The Grand Concourse Coming Soon

Rendering of 425 Grand Concourse on the site of the former landmark and beloved PS 31 is completely out of context of the Grand Concourse.
Rendering of 425 Grand Concourse on the site of the former landmark and beloved PS 31 is completely out of context of the Grand Concourse.

Coming soon to the Grand Concourse will be a towering 24 story building (the tallest on The Grand Concourse) on the site of the former and beloved PS 31 aka Castle on The Concourse (at the corner of E 144th Street directly South of Hostos Community College) which we fought very hard to save from demolition—surpassing Executive Towers, built in 1963, by one story.

Without community input, the city is moving forward with a plan to plop down this highrise labeled as “affordable” housing yet it reported income requirements is double to triple that of the area’s median income.

The 300,000 square foot development will include 241 units of varying size to tenants that earn 60% to 100% of the area median income (the dreaded and infamous AMI) which adds up to $46,613-$63,700 for a family of 3.

Part of the development will include a charter school (we don’t know why a charter a not a regular public school but again, there has been zero community input on this plan. A medical facility, cultural space, and a supermarket is also slated for the site which still has to be rezoned to accommodate such a massive structure.

We predicted that the site would be developed into a lucrative development and continue the further gentrification of the South Bronx.

Just two blocks west of the site of the former landmark school there are 2 hotels going up and two additional “affordable” housing developments.

Our borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr, along with newly elected City Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr of the 17th City Council District, which represents the area, supports this blatant gentrification. In statements published in Capital New York, both elected officials commented on the future of the site:

“As a proud graduate of P.S. 31, I was sorry to see my beloved school building fall into such disrepair, and even sorrier to see it demolished. However, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) recognized the need for new life and new development at this historic site, and has moved to bring welcome new affordable housing units, commercial activity and a reinvigorated Garrison Playground to the Lower Concourse neighborhood,” he said in a prepared statement.

“I’m especially gratified that the city has chosen ‘Passive House’ construction, bringing a level of environmentally friendly development to our borough that has not been seen here before,” Diaz added.

The city intends to rezone the block for the development. That formal land use process is expected to begin in 2017.

City Councilman Rafael Salamanca, who represents the area and would ultimately have to approve the rezoning, supports the project, his spokesman said.

“Council member Salamanca is working with a number of parties to make real investments in that area, including with Hostos Community College and Garrison Playground, which is immediately north of 425 Grand Concourse,” the spokesman, Ryan Monell, said. “So the proposed development will be an improvement for the area.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement:

“This beautifully designed and sustainable affordable housing proposal for Mott Haven, near one of our city’s important institutions of higher learning and on the former site of an historic neighborhood school, will be home to hundreds of low- and moderate-income families, while also providing a supermarket, other retail space and also community services to the neighborhood,” de Blasio said in a prepared statement. “We welcome this proposal as a wonderful addition to our growing affordable housing portfolio — and a model for all housing development in New York’s future.”

If you recall, Diaz Jr did NOTHING to save PS 31 which was considered to be salvageable by engineering reports, however, NYC was intent on demolishing the beloved landmark.

Considering that such a community asset was taken away from us, it would have been appropriate for the community to come up with a vision for this city-owned land but Mayor Bill de Blasio and crew missed the opportunity—once again—for engaging us in the process.

The Lower Concourse Rezoning District which is bounded to the North by 149th Street, to the West by the Harlem River, to the East by Morris Avenue, and South by E 135th Street/Major Deegan Expressway, was approved in 2009 with no construction until Morris Court began construction in 2013 and opened in 2014.

This new rezoning allowed for towers as tall as 40+ stories to rise along the Harlem River Waterfront sandwiched by the Major Deegan Expressway.

425 Grand Concourse is completely out of character for the boulevard of dreams and precisely why we need to landmark the entire length of this precious landmark. Executive Towers was constructed in 1963 and doesn’t quite fit harmoniously with the art deco architecture that lines the Concourse.

At the very least if they’re going to build such a tall building it should be art deco (and not to mention actually affordable to families who live in the neighborhood).

With the expected surge of development in the area, the city is completely negligent on taking care of our existing infrastructure first and foremost. Subway stations at 149th and Grand Concourse on the 2,4 5 line where this site is located are already overflowing with commuters to the point that people have to wait for several trains to pass before getting on during rush hour.

How are residents who live in the area are supposed to cope with the additional stresses an increasing population causes in a neighborhood?

What about increased traffic? We’re already plagued with abysmal traffic due to Yankee games when the area is flooded with tens of thousands of fans.

While many folks will celebrate this as a positive sign of The Bronx’s resurgence, the people who will immediately be impacted and face the pressures of gentrification will not be jumping for joy anytime soon.

So many changes have come to The Bronx, many positive although with strings attached but the one constant we’ve had is the aesthetics, architecture, and design of the Grand Concourse. Sadly this development will leave a stain on our famed boulevard.

Check out the images of PS 31 shortly before it was demolished.

Read on all PS 31 related coverage here.

Note: All that remains of PS 31 is currently stored at The New York Botanical Garden and must be incorporated into whatever structure takes its place.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.