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.