Posts

NY News 12 (The Bronx): Dozens of auto repair shops coming to the Bronx

THE BRONX – More than 40 auto repair shops will soon be coming to the Bronx.
Pedro Estevez is the president and CEO of the United Auto Merchants Association. He plans to create a model for the automotive industry, the likes of which have never been seen.

“What I envision is to have an automotive center where every business is going to be closely monitored, full compliance and trained… and taught how to manage their business properly,”

Estevez says.

He hopes to start the center in an industrial zone of Hunts Point. The first 45 occupants will be auto shops relocating from Queens, whose owners say they were forced out by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.
The Queens businesses formed Sunrise Co-op, sued the city and were awarded more than $5 million, which will go toward the new state-of-the-art facility.

As crews work to get a vacant building ready for the nearly four dozen shop owners, community leaders still have some concerns regarding the move when it comes to added traffic in the area. Co-op City officials say the location will not cause any additional traffic jams.

The Hunts Point facility is expected to bring at least 100 jobs.

Officials say the businesses should be moved in by early 2016.

Source: News 12 (The Bronx)

Sunrise Co-op Press Conference

Pedro Estevez, president of the United Auto Merchants Association, said he’s an expert in licensing and permits and believes there is “stonewalling” from the DOB, which he claims is “in cahoots” with the Bronx borough government, which wants to “chase them out of the city.”

“The Mayor of New York had the authority to tell the Department of Buildings, give them a letter of no objection,” Estevez said. “But if you don’t give them their permits to bring this up to code, how are they going to do it? … We are hardworking people over here that deserve an opportunity to drive instead of strive.”

Sunrise Cooperative, consisting of tenant businesses being evicted from Willets Point, Queens, calls upon Council Member Julissa Ferreras to not abandon Sunrise’s effort to relocate to the Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio to intercede, and alleges a lack of diligence by the Urban Justice Center concerning the Bronx relocation site, at this press conference held on June 1, 2015 in Willets Point.

In English and Spanish.
Recording © 2015 LoScalzo Media Design LLC. Reproduction prohibited.

Auto shops near arrival date in Hunts Point

45 parts and repair businesses eye move to Leggett Street within months

After more than a year of delays, renovations have begun on a Leggett Ave. warehouse where 45 controversial new auto repair shops are scheduled to move in before the end of the year.

The formerly Queens-based businesses are a step closer to occupying the industrially zoned corner of Hunts Point, after a series of bureaucratic hurdles and legal entanglements had slowed their arrival. They have been trying to relocate from the Willets Point section of Queens near Citi Field since 2013, when the city announced plans for a massive development project on the approximately 22-acre space the auto shops occupied.

While in Queens, the shops were often criticized for creating dangerous sanitation problems due to improper dumping of automotive waste on streets that were littered with broken-down vehicles, and that lacked a sewage system.

The collective that represents 70 of the businesses, the Sunrise Cooperative, has been pushing the city’s Economic Development Corp. to accelerate the move because their livelihoods have been disrupted, they say. EDC had been paying $73,000 per month in rent for Sunrise’s space in the 84,000 square foot warehouse since cutting the deal with the landlord in February 2014, although the space has been unused since then due to a pre-existing building violation.

Now that construction has finally been approved, the businesses say they will bring a state-of-the-art, one-stop shop for all kinds of auto repair that will be a boon for Hunts Point.

“We’re going to create a model of the automotive industry that has never been done before,” said Pedro Estevez, president of the non-profit United Auto Merchants Association, who helped negotiate the move with the city.

The building at 1080 Leggett Ave. is also home to a wholesale supply company and the local branch of a large truck manufacturer. Customers will drive through a back entrance on Barry Street and up a ramp into the warehouse, where they’ll be able to get new tires, body work, engine repairs and other services all in one place.

Community Board 2, which criticized the move when it was announced, said EDC did not provide residents adequate notice about the plan. Some say it is a slap in the face for Hunts Point, which has struggled for decades to overcome traffic and environmental problems caused by the trucking fleets that serve the food distribution markets, along with other industrial facilities.

“What we’re trying to do is upgrade Hunts Point, make Hunts Point more environmentally friendly. Bringing in more car shops means more cars, more pollution,” said Board 2′s District Manager Rafael Salamanca, adding that the board has met multiple times with Sunrise representatives, and will be paying close attention to ensure they’re good neighbors.

Estevez insisted that the renovations will modernize the warehouse and prevent the kinds of problems the shops were notorious for in Queens. Each business will get stalls with separate electrical and water hook-ups, along with ventilation and an oil separation system for the sewer.

“We need to change the landscape of the business. We need to change the image,” he said.

The businesses took over payments on the 10-year lease in March from EDC, which provided the majority of the funds from a $5.8 million legal settlement that Sunrise had filed against the city. EDC has also made available approximately $6.5 million in relocation funds to all the displaced Willets Point auto businesses.

Cole Rosengren
The back entrance to 1080 Leggett Ave., where new businesses say customers will be able to drive in for a range of services.
On a recent weekday, construction workers were grinding, welding and clanking around the space. The framework for a few business stalls was already evident and metal beams were piled on the floor. Car parts, supplies and tools were being stored, along with a few vehicles. Once renovations are complete, Sunrise can apply for a new certificate of occupancy so it can officially open its doors to customers.

City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who has participated in discussions between Sunrise’s representatives and borough and city officials, said the predominantly Latino business owners deserve the community’s support.

It’s heartbreaking,” she said, in an interview with the Express. “I don’t see why we can’t rise above and help them transition.

Some local auto-related business owners in Hunts Point and Longwood anonymously expressed concerns over the increased competition, but said they feel powerless to prevent the move. The owner of a towing company in Soundview echoed owners’ worries.

“I don’t think it’s fair for the Hunts Point community, but it’s New York,” said Jon Diaz, owner of Empire State Towing.

Sunrise members said many new customers will be drawn to the new shops’ affordable prices, ultimately benefiting other Hunts Point and Longwood existing auto shops.

We’re going to bring more business to these people,” said Marco Neira, the president of Sunrise Cooperative. “For sure we cannot handle all the customers.

Scott Barzvi, owner of BB Paint Distributors supply store on nearby Southern Boulevard, agreed the additions may help his bottom line.

“If there are more body shops, there will be more business coming,” he said.

Noe Cortez, owner of Master Car Care, said his loyal customers will continue coming to him.

This industry is about knowing the person who’s doing the work,” he said, equating a good mechanic with a reliable barber or dentist. “I don’t really worry much about other places.

Although 45 businesses comprise the current batch of newcomers, Sunrise Cooperative’s full roster includes an additional 25, out of the 300 businesses that are being exiled from Queens. About 150 of those already moved to other parts of the city in June, but the others will soon need a place to go. No official relocation plans have been made for them, but Estevez said he is eyeing Hunts Point and the Zerega Industrial Park as options.

To further complicate matters for owners in the business, more than 200 auto shops currently operating north of Yankee Stadium along Jerome Ave. may soon be forced to move as the city prepares for a major rezoning of that neighborhood a few miles west of Hunts Point.

Estevez say the city will meet resistance from working class residents as it continues trying to replace small auto shops with residential developments.

“It’s going to be devastating for the automotive industry,” he said. “What they’re doing is gentrifying the city of New York block by block, borough by borough, and they’re not going to succeed.”

By Cole Rosengren
– See more at: The Hunts Point Express

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

As Jerome Avenue Rezoning Is on the Mind, Mechanic Shops Show Signs of Impending Exodus

As the city undergoes the outreach phase of a large-scale plan to rezone the southern end of Jerome Avenue, its large swath of mechanic shops are beginning to stage an exodus.
“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.
The news came during a meeting between city officials with the Department of City Planning and members of UAMA. The meeting addressed worries over the proposed rezoning. It’s been one of several meetings that discussed the plan, with the city leaning towards changing zoning laws for 73 blocks of Jerome Avenue, which cuts through several low-income neighborhoods of the Bronx.
City officials arrived with a presentation about the planning process, but audience members kept their concerns about the uncertain future of their businesses front and center throughout.
Estevez set a confrontational tone for the evening in his opening remarks given in both English and Spanish. “They will have to change the zoning to be residential,” he said. “This means that people will have to abandon their places.”
“The city promises and promises and then removes people,” cautioned Marco Neira, 56. He recently moved his auto repair business to the Bronx after he was forced out of the Willis Point section of Queens by a similar rezoning effort by the city. He said that over 300 auto workers lost work at repair shops in Willis Point. Forty-five managed to reopen in the Bronx.
Audience members also expressed distrust of the city’s push to create affordable housing in the area. “Affordable housing’s not for us,” said Liz Thompson, a retired health worker. “It’s not affordable.”
City officials explained that the rezoning plan is only in the study phase, with no specific dates or certainty of how the rezoning will take shape. According to city officials, the area being studied stretches two miles, from 167th and 184th streets, covering the neighborhoods of High Bridge, Mount Eden, Mount Hope, University Heights and Morris Heights. The communities are home to 345,000 residents and 3,700 workers.
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.”
“We want to understand from you, what kind of services you need,” Manny Dominguez, Executive Director of NYC Business Solutions for the Department of Small Business Services, said to the crowd.
But listening was not enough. The crowd repeatedly raised the issue that an impending rezoning will force out auto businesses or otherwise have negative effects on their businesses.
Estevez proposed that the city develop what he called an Industrial Business Zone, specifically zoned for auto repair and similar businesses. This would, he said, create a secure area for auto businesses where they would not have to worry about the threat of future rezoning plans.
But the city was in no place to make promises on outcomes. “The purpose of today is dialogue, to understand your needs,” said Robinson Hernandez, Deputy Commissioner with the Department of Small Business Services. “The solution will come later.”

By WILLIAM MATHIS
Source: norwoodnews.org

When Rezoning Isn’t Just About Housing: Planning The Future Of Jerome Avenue

Over the last few months, the Department of City Planning has lost the PR battle over the proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning. Residents and activists accused the city of trying to create a new neighborhood called “Cromwell-Jerome,” a reference to DCP’s initial plans for a zoning study, and in response, officials dropped “Cromwell” from the title.

Meanwhile, fearmongering has fanned the flames of gentrification, leading some tenants to wonder if the city will simply seize industrial businesses for redevelopment, like the misguided urban renewal programs perpetrated during the first half of the 20th century. Poor renters are understandably worried about being pushed out, in an area where the median household income hovers around $27,000 a year.

In reality, planning officials hope to revitalize a narrow, 73-block stretch around Jerome, from 167th Street to just south of Fordham Road. They want to improve parks, the streetscape, retail, community services, schools, and economic growth, instead of simply pushing through more housing development.

Most of Jerome is zoned exclusively for heavy commercial uses, like auto repair shops, car washes and gas stations. That means rezoning the commercial strip to allow mixed use residential development will likely be at the top of planners’ lists.

But the long-established auto shops on Jerome worry about being priced out. “What is going to happen to all these owners who have invested their life savings in the businesses?” asked Pedro Estevez, the head of the United Auto Merchants Association who spoke passionately at a Saturday visioning session hosted by DCP.

“Automotive businesses occupy 60% of the corridor. But right now, no residential can be built,” he added. He argued for a dedicated Industrial Business Zone around 174th Street, near Jerome’s southern edge—a move that would preserve some of the area’s existing commercial and manufacturing zoning.

A neighborhood activist told City & State that auto-related businesses on the strip are already seeing rent hikes of 300%, and their landlords aren’t offering them lease renewals. (We recently wrote about one auto shop development site where that may be the case.)

What’s been obscured, among all the handwringing, is that City Planning isn’t just thinking about zoning. They’re working with the Parks Department and the Department of Transportation to improve the neighborhood’s green spaces, and develop ways to make Jerome Avenue feel less forlorn at night. Longtime neighbors who attended Saturday’s meeting said they were afraid to walk alone on Jerome after dark. The auto shops shut by 6 or 7 p.m., and there are few restaurants or bars to draw foot traffic and liven up the forbidding spaces beneath the elevated 4 train.

Planners and parks officials might borrow solutions from Under the Elevated, the Design Trust for Public Space’s study on how to revitalize public space under the city’s bridges, train lines and highways. The MTA and DOT could attach permanent lighting to the underside of the subway tracks, much like the the brightly lit pedestrian arcade that’s already been built beneath the LIRR tracks at Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica. At Saturday’s meeting, Bronxites enthusiastically supported the idea, because it’s a relatively inexpensive fix that would greatly improve residents’ safety and peace of mind.

Zoning for retail would also help attract restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to Jerome, creating jobs and foot traffic that don’t exist now.

And officials insist that Jerome, along with East New York, will be holistic neighborhood studies that take into account what communities actually want. They want to change the precedent set by nearly 15 years of unpopular rezonings, notably the Bloomberg-era Fourth Avenue and Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezonings in Brooklyn.

“It’s incredibly refreshing the way they’re going about it, it’s not just numbers and housing,” said a City Planning spokeswoman. “It’s a comprehensive effort to work with communities and see what they need. When we talk about density, what people are really saying is that my school is overcrowded and my park is a mess. We’re talking about what is this going to be, in terms of deliverables for this community.”

So where’s the money coming from? The spokeswoman pointed to de Blasio’s ambiguously named Neighborhood Development Fund, a billion-dollar slice of the city capital budget. $700 million of the fund would be devoted to efforts led by the Parks Department, DOT, and similar agencies, for projects like the Jerome Avenue lighting.

While neighborhood improvements sound great, we wonder if the rezoning will actually help spur housing growth in the Bronx, which has the lowest new building permit numbers in the city after Staten Island. And real estate industry hysteria over the 421-a abatement—which may require developers to hire union labor when reforms take effect next year—probably won’t help either.

Over the last few months, the Department of City Planning has lost the PR battle over the proposed Jerome Avenue rezoning. Residents and activists accused the city of trying to create a new neighborhood called “Cromwell-Jerome,” a reference to DCP’s initial plans for a zoning study, and in response, officials dropped “Cromwell” from the title.

Meanwhile, fearmongering has fanned the flames of gentrification, leading some tenants to wonder if the city will simply seize industrial businesses for redevelopment, like the misguided urban renewal programs perpetrated during the first half of the 20th century. Poor renters are understandably worried about being pushed out, in an area where the median household income hovers around $27,000 a year.

In reality, planning officials hope to revitalize a narrow, 73-block stretch around Jerome, from 167th Street to just south of Fordham Road. They want to improve parks, the streetscape, retail, community services, schools, and economic growth, instead of simply pushing through more housing development.

Most of Jerome is zoned exclusively for heavy commercial uses, like auto repair shops, car washes and gas stations. That means rezoning the commercial strip to allow mixed use residential development will likely be at the top of planners’ lists.

But the long-established auto shops on Jerome worry about being priced out. “What is going to happen to all these owners who have invested their life savings in the businesses?” asked Pedro Estevez, the head of the United Auto Merchants Association who spoke passionately at a Saturday visioning session hosted by DCP.

“Automotive businesses occupy 60% of the corridor. But right now, no residential can be built,” he added. He argued for a dedicated Industrial Business Zone around 174th Street, near Jerome’s southern edge—a move that would preserve some of the area’s existing commercial and manufacturing zoning.

A neighborhood activist told City & State that auto-related businesses on the strip are already seeing rent hikes of 300%, and their landlords aren’t offering them lease renewals. (We recently wrote about one auto shop development site where that may be the case.)

What’s been obscured, among all the handwringing, is that City Planning isn’t just thinking about zoning. They’re working with the Parks Department and the Department of Transportation to improve the neighborhood’s green spaces, and develop ways to make Jerome Avenue feel less forlorn at night. Longtime neighbors who attended Saturday’s meeting said they were afraid to walk alone on Jerome after dark. The auto shops shut by 6 or 7 p.m., and there are few restaurants or bars to draw foot traffic and liven up the forbidding spaces beneath the elevated 4 train.

Planners and parks officials might borrow solutions from Under the Elevated, the Design Trust for Public Space’s study on how to revitalize public space under the city’s bridges, train lines and highways. The MTA and DOT could attach permanent lighting to the underside of the subway tracks, much like the the brightly lit pedestrian arcade that’s already been built beneath the LIRR tracks at Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica. At Saturday’s meeting, Bronxites enthusiastically supported the idea, because it’s a relatively inexpensive fix that would greatly improve residents’ safety and peace of mind.

Zoning for retail would also help attract restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to Jerome, creating jobs and foot traffic that don’t exist now.

And officials insist that Jerome, along with East New York, will be holistic neighborhood studies that take into account what communities actually want. They want to change the precedent set by nearly 15 years of unpopular rezonings, notably the Bloomberg-era Fourth Avenue and Greenpoint-Williamsburg rezonings in Brooklyn.

“It’s incredibly refreshing the way they’re going about it, it’s not just numbers and housing,” said a City Planning spokeswoman. “It’s a comprehensive effort to work with communities and see what they need. When we talk about density, what people are really saying is that my school is overcrowded and my park is a mess. We’re talking about what is this going to be, in terms of deliverables for this community.”

So where’s the money coming from? The spokeswoman pointed to de Blasio’s ambiguously named Neighborhood Development Fund, a billion-dollar slice of the city capital budget. $700 million of the fund would be devoted to efforts led by the Parks Department, DOT, and similar agencies, for projects like the Jerome Avenue lighting.

While neighborhood improvements sound great, we wonder if the rezoning will actually help spur housing growth in the Bronx, which has the lowest new building permit numbers in the city after Staten Island. And real estate industry hysteria over the 421-a abatement—which may require developers to hire union labor when reforms take effect next year—probably won’t help either.

One planner who works with the city’s Housing and Preservation Department told YIMBY that some Bronx rezonings hadn’t attracted much development. Two South Bronx areas rezoned in 2009, Lower Grand Concourse and River Avenue – 161st Street, have only seen one new residential project each. He added that the Jerome Avenue process could help, since it involved the community more than City Planning had in the past.

“Maybe the community engagement will result in more services coming to the area, and that could trigger more residential development,” he said.

BY: REBECCA BAIRD-REMBA
Source: http://newyorkyimby.com/