It was a significant opportunity couched in a steep challenge: the northernmost borough of New York City is poised for substantial residential and commercial development in the coming years; however, the neighborhoods comprising Bronx Community Board 9 (BXCB9) are 22% denser in population than the Bronx overall, and have very little vacant land available to develop. A comprehensive plan is needed to generate new development capacity in the area, and to ensure that growth will benefit existing communities, as well as new residents and businesses. The Bronx-Manhattan North Association of REALTORS® (BMNAR) stepped forward to partner with BXCB9, supporting its efforts with a series of Smart Growth Action Grants from The REALTOR® Party.
In New York communities, the first step toward increased transport options and re-zoning that allows for mixed-use development and affordable housing is a community-based plan from the Department of City Planning. To initiate such a plan, a community board must gather data from at least three community engagement events. With two successive Smart Growth Action Grants, the BMNAR-BXCB9 partnership has been able to hire independent project managers who have researched, developed and conducted the necessary Community Visioning Sessions in six different neighborhoods. The results, says Eliezer Rodriguez, Esq., BMNAR Association Executive, have reached far beyond anyone’s expectations.
“Initially, residents were concerned that no one was paying attention to their vision for the wise growth of their neighborhoods. Now, thanks to these sessions, they have found their voice and can talk in terms of what makes statistical sense, not just an emotional opinion,” says Rodriguez. “With this new-found ability comes confidence. The community is more effective in voicing its concerns, and feeling empowered by its influence.”
While all of the ideas that arose in the Community Visioning Sessions have been documented for the Community-Based Plan Initiative, some spurred immediate action. For example, notes Rodriguez, there are numerous services and amenities available in the community, but residents pointed out that certain dangerous passages made it difficult for pedestrians to access them safely. Working with community leaders and law enforcement, BXCB9 has been able to address and correct the dangers, which has benefitted not only the pedestrians, but the neighborhood businesses.
Another unanticipated result of the community’s strategic organization is that it has attracted grants from additional sources. Two sites within the BXCB9 limits have received highly competitive funding awards from the Parks Department, and the Department of Small Businesses has funded a $75,000 beautification project in a commercial zone. BXCB9 is getting calls from other boards who are seeing the positive outcomes, and are looking for guidance to follow suit. “Good work leads to good results!” asserts Rodriguez. In fact, an even more recent Smart Growth Action Grant that BMNAR has received from NAR will effectively celebrate all that’s been accomplished, supporting the production of a brochure that will serve as a road map and resource guide for other communities looking to involve citizens in planning and positive growth.
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of the Bronx-Manhattan North are helping residents to articulate their vision for their neighborhoods, contact BMNAR Association Executive Eliezer Rodriguez, Esq., at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-892-3000.