As City Builds More South Bronx Housing, Debates Over Affordability Persist

Construction finished Monday on Crotona Park Apartments, at 1800 Southern Boulevard, which offer 64 affordable apartment units.

Two recently unveiled subsidized housing developments near Crotona Park and in Morrisania highlight the city’s push to create affordable housing for Bronxites with a range of income levels — but also rekindle debate about what constitutes “affordable.”

Last week, city agencies and a private developer broke ground on a project in Morrisania at 1070 Washington Ave. called La Preciosa, which combines apartments for low-income tenants, tenants in public housing and people with special needs in a single seven-story building.

On Monday, officials cut the ribbon on a completed development at 1800 Southern Boulevard by the northeast corner of Crotona Park, called Crotona Park Apartments, which feature 64 units for people the city describes as low- to moderate-income.

To be eligible to live in either of the buildings, tenants’ household incomes could range from less than $23,000 for studios in La Preciosa to more than $80,000 for two-bedrooms in Crotona Park Apartments.

“As a matter of policy, economic diversity is a good thing for communities,” said Ted Weinstein, director of Bronx planning for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which worked on both projects and has helped finance more than 40,000 housing units in The Bronx.

HPD partners with private developers to create attractive housing which, through subsidies, offer below-market rents. The agency and the developers then set the range of income levels that tenants must earn to be eligible to rent at a particular development.

Weinstein said that while it is important to offer housing that an area’s lower-earners can afford, the whole community benefits if its housing appeals to higher-earners as well.

“Increasing the buying power of the community can help attract other stores and provide the entire community with other shopping options,” said Weinstein.

HPD bases its income eligibly levels on federal figures, which set the city’s average median income, or AMI, for a family of four this year at $83,000.

Most South Bronx developments are designed for households that earn 60 percent or less of that amount, though some target households making 80 percent or more, said Weinstein.

But some local residents argue that rents based on incomes at even 60 percent of the city’s median income — $49,800 for a family of four — remain unaffordable for many.

“Your low-income is not my low-income,” Raymond Ortiz, a Morrisania resident, told Weinstein at a Community Board 3 meeting last month.

In Community District 3, where both of the new developments are located, about 80 percent of households earn less than $50,000 per year, according to three-year estimates gathered from 2008-2010 by the American Community Survey. More than half of households in the area earn less than $25,000, according to the survey.

The district manager of Community Board 3, John Dudley, takes a balanced approach to the new developments.

He notes, for instance, that Crotona Park Apartments replaces a gas station that had sat vacant at the site for decades, and that the development itself “looks like something you wouldn’t otherwise see in the Bronx.”

But he added that, “Even though it’s 60 to 80 percent [of the city’s AMI], it may not be addressing the income needs of people that are indigenous to the area.”

Crotona Park Apartments features thousands of square-feet of commercial and community space on its ground floor, as well as a green roof for tenants overlooking Crotona Park.

La Preciosa will offer 21 apartments for people on the city’s public housing waiting list, as well as 10 apartments for veterans and people with special needs, who will receive on-site counseling and other services.

The building is also LEED-certified, with insulation, fiberglass windows and lighting sensors that will allow it to operate 20 percent more efficiently than a standard building.

Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.

A rendering of a 49-unit development, called La Preciosa, now under construction at 1070 Washington Avenue in Morrisania.


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