Locals Fear New Kingsbridge Development Spells Gentrification

By Perla Tolentino

The ongoing construction site viewed from the 4 Train Kingsbridge Road subway station. All photos by Perla Tolentino.

Kingsbridge residents see a construction site at Jerome Ave and West 196th Street as one more sign of encroaching gentrification. According to a January article in The Real Deal New York Real Estate News, the project’s mastermind, Alan Bell, has reserved 40 of the apartments in the Kingsbridge project for the homeless. But locals fear they will end up priced out of both the building and the neighborhood, since the ongoing construction is close to the Kingsbridge armory renovation which is expected to send rents soaring. 

“When in one of the poorest counties of NY you begin to see sudden construction of buildings of such high price, you know the gentrification phenomena has already begun,” said Leonor Santana, a Lehman senior and business administration major. She believes that gentrification is occurring and that local rents will end up being so high that only wealthy people will be able to afford to live here. 

Official sources tell a different story. A spokesperson at C+C Apartment Management LLC, (one of the contacts listed outside the construction site) told the Meridian that all applications will be processed by Housing Connect under a lottery. The spokesperson confirmed rent prices for only low-income families which represent the 60 percent of the area median income and moderate-income families which represent 90 percent of area median income in New York. For the low-income, C+C Management confirmed, $860 for a studio apartment, $923 for one bedroom, $1,114 for two bedroom and $1,281 for a three bedroom apartment. For the moderate-income, confirmed rent prices are, $1,305 for a studio apartment, $1,399 for one bedroom, $1,686 for two bedroom and $1,940 for a three bedroom. C+C Management referred clients to the NYC Housing Preservation & Development website to understand their income types and qualifications before applying. They also said a 17-car parking garage will also be built.  

According to a Jan 2016 article by New York YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard), 30 percent of the apartments will be for homeless tenants, 55 percent for low-income families and the remaining fifteen percent for middle-income families with annual incomes ranging from $51,780 to $71,760. However, this range is significantly higher than the median income of Bronx residents as a whole, which was $35,302 in 2016 according to US Census Bureau data. 

An inside look at the construction of the building that will hold 137 apartments and a parking lot located under the Kingsbridge Road train station.

Research by The Furman Center, in collaboration with the NYU School of Law and Wagner School of Public Service, shows that Kingsbridge has seen a gradual increase in rent over the past 12 years, from $1,093 in 2006, to $1450 in 2017 of median gross rent, compared to Bronx rents overall between $1,600 and $2,800 citywide. The research also revealed that in 2016, 37.5 percent of tenants had to spend more than 50 percent of household income only on rent, and that only 6.4 percent of Kingsbridge Heights/Bedford residents own their own homes. This data indicates how the vast majority of locals in this community depend on affordable housing and suggests that apartments in the new Kingsbridge project may not be within reach of many.

“Only rich people will be able to pay that kind of rent if they construct the ice rink.” 

- Bryan Diaz, Lehman computer science major and Bronx resident

Mabel Rojas, a processor for the Department of Buildings, told the Meridian that while the project is “definitely residential,” with 137 apartment units, she is “not sure if [it is] low income because the owners are private, but they might sell to the city after.” [Full disclosure: Rojas is the sister of the managng editor.] Rojas also said that the 13-story building is mixed use so the ground floor will be used for business. “They paid over 40k to the city in fees, but the overall cost is not yet determined” Rojas added. 

Lehman students’ biggest concern is how long apartments in this building will stay “affordable,” and many told the Meridian that they doubt they will be. They also believe the project is another sign of the gentrification occurring throughout many Bronx communities. 

Bryan Diaz, a Lehman Computer Science major student who has lived in the Bronx for the past eight years, is convinced that the project is lucre-focused only. Like many locals, he believes developers are trying to cash in on the renovation of the Kingsbridge Armory, which is expected to bring more business to the area. “Knowing what is about to happen to the armory, they know constructing a building for rich people is more suitable,” he said. “They know only rich people will be able to pay that kind of rent if they construct the ice rink.” 

According to a March report by Norwood News, the Kingsbridge Armory will begin its long-delayed transformation between November 2018 and January 2019. Bell told Norwood News that the Kingsbridge apartment building has little to do with the armory project. The Real Deal New York Real Estate News also states that in 2010 Bell left the Hudson Company Inc., a market-rate development company he founded in 1986, to found a new affordable housing company named B&B Urban.  However, Bell has not yet mentioned having an action plan to block the increase of rent in the area, if the armory project actually happens. 

While it is impossible to foresee its impact for sure, many Lehman students remain pessimistic. Diaz believes that developers will transform the area by building hotels catering to future tourists. “Kingsbridge will become a totally different neighborhood,” he predicted.