Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
Five buildings in the Bronx, saved from abandonment in the 1970's have once again fallen into serious disrepair. But the properties are getting a major makeover that includes plans for a healthy restaurant or supermarket.
Developer John Crotty of Workforce Housing Advisors said the buildings had once been considered models of rehabilitation in the burned out Bronx of the 1970's. But by 2011, when his organization took them over, they were rat infested and barely had heat or hot water.
“There were squatters all over the place,” Crotty said. “There was a significant amount of police activity. There were a lot of arrests made. It was really a remembrance of times we thought were long gone.”
Construction on the 79 low income apartments is in progress, with rent for a one bedroom apartment starting at $836. Tenants should be moving in by the end of the year. It could take slightly longer to get the commercial space up and running, which will include a 13,000 square foot garden.
Marcel Van Ooyen is director of Grow NYC, which manages the city's greenmarkets. He compared the garden project to the garden that provides food for Riverpark restaurant in Manhattan owned by a famous reality TV chef.
“But that's you know a Tom Colicchio more of a high end restaurant,” said Van Ooyen. “This would be you know an interesting version of that in the south Bronx.”
Developers are still looking for someone to run the Bronx building's commercial space. While they envision a healthy restaurant - they say the space could also be used for a healthy supermarket, too. They’re trying to entice interested parties by offering them a free apartment and a discount on the commercial rent.
Crotty said he doesn’t expect well known restaurateurs to respond to his request for proposals, though they’re not precluded from the process. “We like the concept of new blood anyway,” said Crotty. “New York’s known for it’s talent…We definitely think we’ll find someone.”