This rendering shows an aerial view of the La Central development

Huge development slated for Melrose

Five new apartment buildings, a rooftop farm, a YMCA and a community recording studio will be built on the largest remaining vacant lot in the South Bronx.

City chooses builders for last large site in South Bronx

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Five new apartment buildings, a rooftop farm, a YMCA and a community recording studio will be built in Melrose, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Dec. 21, during his last visit to the Bronx before leaving office.

Called La Central, and built on the last large parcel of city-owned vacant land in the South Bronx, the development will add 985 apartments, along with stores, clinics and other facilities, to the area bordered by Bergen Avenue, Brook Avenue and East 149th Street.

The development, is “going to bring a new population to the area that is going to help the commercial sector,” said Ted Weinstein, Bronx director of planning for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, in an interview.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who saluted the mayor at the ceremony announcing the project at the Hub Retail and Office Center, praised the development for setting aside apartments for low-income tenants and veterans with HIV/AIDS, but also for offering housing for higher-income residents, earning as much as $86,000, “so that our professionals could also be housed here as well.”

For Derrick Kardos, that raised the specter of gentrification. “Every new development that the Bloomberg administration has announced since day one has been ‘for the community,’ and each one has went on to destroy the community it was supposedly for,” he commented on Ed Garcia Conde’s blog welcome2thebronx, which first reported the development.

But others who live nearby said they looked forward to the apartments and to the facilities that will accompany them.

Melrose resident Anna Torres said she was particularly pleased to learn that a YMCA would be coming to the area. “It’s good to have a place for kids to go,” she said, noting there’s no place like it for her son Steven, 10.

Steven was especially interested in the recording studio. He said it was “cool,” and he would go there with his friends.

The development will also include stores, a restaurant and a parking garage, a diabetes clinic and a mental health clinic. In addition to the rooftop farm, a triangle at the intersection of Brook and Bergen Avenues will be developed as open space accessible to all.

The buildings will be powered in part by solar panels and will include a number of other “green” features, including a cogeneration system, low-flow water fixtures and recycled waste water for irrigation.

An observatory equipped with a telescope is slated for the roof of one of the buildings. It is to be used, according to the mayor’s office, by students of the Bronx High School of Science. But Stephanie Aronson, a Queens resident who graduated from the school last year, thinks the idea is nice, but has her doubts about students using it.

“Bronx Science is far enough as it is for most of the students who go there,” she said. “The observatory will be even farther.”

Before building can begin, the proposal must be reviewed by Community Board 1, the City Planning Commission and the City Council under the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

It’s unlikely to hit any snags, given the support voiced already by the borough president, Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo, George Rodriguez, the chair of Community Board 1 and Rep. Jose Serrano.

Weinstein said the process will not begin until the designs are final. He expects it to be completed in 2015.

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