Testimony by State Senator José M. Serrano submitted as part of the Lower Concourse Rezoning Public Scoping Meeting on the Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Hosted by the Department of City Planning for the City of New York on June 19th, 2008
I would like to thank the Department of City Planning for the opportunity to submit written testimony and participate in the public scoping meeting for the Lower Concourse rezoning.
This rezoning is timely and proactive. With strong community engagement and thorough research, it has the potential to bring positive change, and create a more vibrant gateway to the Bronx. The rezoning area is highly underutilized. Given the current conditions, particularly the shortage of affordable housing in the Bronx, action is certainly needed.
The preliminary plan gives consideration to a number of important concerns that the South Bronx is facing such as affordable housing, access to healthy and affordable food, access to open spaces, improving environmental conditions and utilization of existing capacity on mass transit.
It is still, however, crucial that the necessary research be done to ensure that the desired results are achieved by the plan. I believe special attention should be given to the following factors:
The effects of a rezoning of this scale and the impacts it may have on the socioeconomic, demographic and cultural characteristics of the community, and how this may compare to adjacent neighborhoods in the Bronx. We need to ensure that this area is developed for the people of the Bronx.
Different models for affordable housing should be examined to ensure that a substantial amount of permanent affordable housing is created.
Strategies to ensure that the greatest amount of public benefit is achieved in exchange for any additional allowances (such as height) should be explored. This is of particular concern along the waterfront. The Natural parkland to be created as part of the rezoning must comprehensively meet the needs of the projected population.
I applaud the department for its foresight on the issue of supermarkets, as access to healthy and affordable food has been a priority of mine. With that said, we must closely examine the impact of removing the 10,000 square-foot maximum on food stores in the area. Consideration should also be given to implementing a different square footage maximum and any negative or positive effects this may have. It is important to avoid larger "suburban" type stores.
In-depth traffic impact studies as well as pedestrian access and safety studies should be completed. With the prevalence of asthma in our community, a reduction of vehicular traffic in the area is essential.
Transit Oriented Development Best Practices should be reviewed. Given this area's access to higher order transit, all development should be built to the street in order to improve accessibility for pedestrians and should consider convenient and safe access to public transportation.
Surface transportation options should be reviewed to ensure that connections are available to surrounding neighborhoods that are not easily accessed by the subway system.
Streetscaping, improved pedestrian facilities, vegetation (i.e. Street Trees) and additional facilities for alternative modes of transportation such as cycling, and water transportation, should be considered.
Research should be completed to ensure the area is rezoned appropriately to facilitate the creation of vibrant mixed-use neighborhoods.
In closing, I look forward to working with the Department of City Planning and the various city agencies throughout the planning and public consultation process.