Bronx councilman snuffs out another de Blasio rezoning

Rafael Salamanca has come out against a planned Southern Boulevard rezoning

Rafael Salamanca and the Bronx (Credit: Getty Images, iStock)
Rafael Salamanca and the Bronx (Credit: Getty Images, iStock)

The losses keep piling up for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rezoning plans.

Bronx Council member Rafael Salamanca announced Wednesday that he will oppose the planned Southern Boulevard rezoning in the South Bronx in an op-ed published in City Limits. Without his go-ahead, the plan will almost certainly be withdrawn, as he has de facto veto power over zoning changes in his district.

Salamanca, who chairs the City Council’s Land Use Committee, wrote that he has met with City Planning several times with an open mind since the rezoning study for Southern Boulevard was announced two years ago, but ultimately came to realize that he and the mayor’s office had incompatible goals.

“While I prioritized downzoning large swaths of my district in order to preserve the neighborhood context of areas that included two- and three-family homes, the city was intent on upzoning major transportation corridors, of which there are many in the South Bronx,” he wrote.

Salamanca wrote that this strategy “could trigger a rush of developers looking to purchase land and build thousands of unregulated units along Southern Boulevard, Westchester Avenue and the Bronx River.” He added that he does not believe the city’s mandatory inclusionary housing policy would be effective enough at creating affordable units.

Department of City Planning spokesman Joe Marvilli disputed Salamanca’s claims, saying in a statement that putting more mixed-income housing in neighborhoods does not displace poorer residents.

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“Data-based reports show otherwise — that more housing, including affordable housing, helps relieve the housing crunch and rent pressures,” he said. “We intend to keep working with the community to develop a plan that serves the neighborhoods of Southern Boulevard today and tomorrow.”

The area the city has been studying covers more than 130 blocks in the South Bronx, encompassing its Longwood and Crotona Park East neighborhoods.

The de Blasio administration has recently endured a string of setbacks over its rezoning plans. In December, New York Supreme Court Justice Verna Saunders annulled its Inwood rezoning, saying it did not adequately examine the potential socioeconomic consequences.

Last week Bushwick Council member Antonio Reynoso came out against City Hall’s plan to rezone a 300-block section of the neighborhood. The de Blasio administration hopes to add about 5,600 apartments to the area, of which 1,680 would be affordable, but Reynoso has insisted that the rezoning add only 2,000, all of them affordable.

Salamanca wrote in his op-ed that the city’s current plan for Southern Boulevard would ultimately lead to more gentrification and displacement. He cited an analysis of previous rezonings, even though they predated mandatory inclusionary housing, which requires affordable units in projects benefiting from new zoning.

“As Mayor de Blasio once said, we can no longer tell the tale of two cities,” he wrote. “Rezonings such as the one proposed for Southern Boulevard will ensure that tale lives on.”