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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Public hearing sparks zoning debate

A zoning war broke out last night at a public hearing over a medical center's plans to build a 13-story mixed use building in Belmont.

Medalliance medical center is hoping to change zoning in the area, which currently allows buildings of up to four-stories high, to expand its location at 625 East Fordham Road.

Owner Sean Daneshvar is already constructing a three-story expansion to the center’s current building, but wants to add an additional 10-stories of residential apartments above it.

Residents who expressed hesitation about the rezoning clashed with supporters of Medalliance, who came out in droves, chanting and waving signs that read “Better for the Bronx,” and “More Jobs, More Health.”

Supporters of Medalliance rallied at a Feb. 3 public hearing in favor of rezoning.

Theresa Kemp-Castro, a patient at Medalliance for the past four years, came to show her support, crediting the doctors and nurses at the clinic with saving her life after an accident that left her partially paralyzed.

“I’m where I am today because of Medalliance,” she said, adding that an expansion of the center would increase the number of health services available to the community. “There are a lot of elderly and sick people nearby that need a clinic. It would mean a lot.”

The handful of people who spoke out against the rezoning were met with boos and heckles from the crowd.

Vincent Borgese, a business owner in the Belmont Business Improvement District, thought the rezoning was being proposed to meet the needs of one person instead of the community at large.

“We think that there should be an overall plan for this entire area,” Borgese said, expressing fears that the new building could create a “traffic and pedestrian nightmare.”

“Let’s take a step back and come up with a good rezoning plan for everybody.”

One woman, identifying herself as a resident, echoed his concerns about increased traffic and said that a 13-story structure would look out of place in the neighborhood.

“How many of you would like to look out their windows and see that building, blocking the sunlight?” she asked.

Land use lawyers for Medalliance argued that most patients at the clinic don’t drive but relied on public transportation, and would not add to traffic in the area.

Several speakers in support of rezoning alluded to President Obama’s State of the Union address last week, arguing that an expanded health clinic would aid the President’s goal of generating jobs in the area and prompting raucous chants of “Yes, we can!” from the crowd.

The Housing and Land Use Committee of Community Board 6 will meet on Monday, Feb. 8th at 6:30 p.m. in their district office at 1932 Arthur Avenue, Room 709, to formulate a recommendation on the proposed rezoning. A formal vote will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 10th, at the full community board meeting at the Belmont Library located at 610 East 186th Street.


  1. Thanks for reporting on this!
    I am confused by what seems to have gone on at the hearing... Currently Mr. Daneshvar is adding on 3 stories to expand the health care clinic, right? And this expansion fits in with current zoning laws for the area, from what I've read.

    The real issue seems to have been overshadowed at the hearing, which is the additional TEN stories that Mr. Daneshvar wants to add on to build moderate income rental units. I'm baffled at to why Medalliance supporters would hold signs saying "More Jobs, More Health." How would increased congestion and an out of character 10+ story building improve people's health?

    And Medalliance's land use lawyers arguing that most patients take mass transit to the health clinic does nothing to explain how all the additional residents living in the 58 unit apartment complex will be getting around.

    I don't think anyone really has a problem with the health clinic expanding by 3 stories, it's more the additional 10 stories that Daneshvar wants to build as apartments. Medalliance's supporters seem to be confusing the issue here.


  3. Hey, Anonymous,
    Please put your reading comprehension hat on. You will get more jobs with the already approved addition that is being built. No one is denying the addition to the medical facility. The developer also wants to add 10 floors of apartments on top of it which is the problem. So tell me - how does 10 floors of apartments add jobs??? Are a lot of cleaning ladies going to be hired?? I have to wonder how many of these protesters might have been paid to show up to protest by the developer.

  4. I am baffled by the comments on this page. Yes, this expansion will bring more Jobs! More construction work, maintenance work, healthcare workers, general workers, etc. And I would also like to say, that not one supporter of the rezoning was PAID! I am a long time member of this community. I am happy to see this Building go up. Whenever I walk down Fordham Road, which is everyday, all I see is closed, dilapidated store fronts, that have for rent or for lease signs on their windows. Nobody wants to buy or rent around this neighborhood. There is not one single Building in this neighborhood, that I can honestly say, makes me proud of my neighborhood. This Building will NOT block sunlight. On the contrary, I say it will bring sunlight to most of our lives. The only thing it will "Block” is those "Blockheads" that do not or do not want to see the whole picture. Enough of this tit for tat lets grow up people. In years to come, we won’t be around. Let’s come together, for our future, for our children and our grandchildren. Mr. Sean Daneshvar is doing this for the Community. Not for himself. He can just as well go to Westchester County, even Upstate NY and build there, which in fact he has been asked to. But no, he is staying here for us. For the Community. So for everyone that has negative comments, you should be calling and thanking this Man, for what he is planning. May God Bless you and everything you do Mr. Daneshvar.

    Ivonne Laureano


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