Jerome Avenue Rezoning Worries Auto Shop Owners

The planned rezoning of Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, expected to bring new business and development to the area, is not yet underway but is already prompting a number of auto mechanic shops along the avenue to consider relocation, reports William Mathis in Norwood News.

“Once news of the rezoning came out, that’s it,” said Pedro Estevez, president and founder of the United Auto Merchants Association, a union representing mechanics around the city. “Hell broke loose.” Already this year, eleven repair shop operators have come to him looking for help to relocate their businesses he said, after landlords refused to renew the lease or drastically increased the rent.

He noted nearly all of the more than 900 members and affiliates of the UAMA lease space for their businesses while many have no signed leases. He fears that with rezoning, more auto businesses will have no choice but to close as property owners opt for more lucrative residential rental and development opportunities. “Rezoning is removing,” he said.

Local auto mechanics met recently with Department of City Planning officials to discuss the rezoning plans. Some of them have already relocated once, from Willets Point in Queens, in another rezoning move, and are none too happy. One of them, Marco Neira, 56, said: “The city promises and promises and then removes people.”

City officials tried to reassure the group.

Jessica Ortiz, a city planner with DCP, assured guests that even under rezoning, the city has no authority to remove people from already existing businesses. Ortiz highlighted a similar rezoning of 80 blocks of Webster Avenue in the Bedford Park and Norwood areas as an example of success. “New residential uses have come into the area,” she said. “But auto uses have remained.”

For more on the meeting, and details of what is known thus far about the potential sections to be rezoned, go to Norwood News.

By William Mathis