by Diego Barcacel Peña and Gary Axelbank
July 1, 2018
The Jerome Avenue Rezoning has polarized many in the Bronx and its recent unanimous approval by the City Council has merchants along the corridor fighting for their businesses. In an effort to embolden those establishments during and after the rezoning, the Davidson Community Center has launched the Burnside Jerome Tremont (BJT) Bronx Commercial District Marketing Campaign and Merchant Association.
The campaign is funded by a $130,000 grant awarded by the NYC Department of Small Business Services’ (SBS) Neighborhood 360 Degrees Program which supports commercial revitalization projects in partnership with local stakeholders, according to the SBS website.
“Now is the optimal time for us to do this and make our organization visible,” Shannon Goodson, Economic Development Program Manager for the center told thisistheBronX, “so we can be a resource for merchants along the Jerome Avenue corridor and those affected by the rezoning.”
BJT hopes to use the grant for merchant organizing and district marketing by setting up events like street and food fairs. Up next is the Burnside Avenue Summer Festival on Saturday, July 21st.
The BJT Bronx Commercial District was actually launched in 2004 and called the Burnside Avenue Commercial District, but has now changed its name because it includes Jerome and Tremont Avenue, the areas challenged in the rezoning. It will service about 210 businesses in Community Board 5’s district from 175th to 184th street, which is almost the entirety of the rezoning plan.
BJT operations will function essentially like a Business Improvement District (BID), but because the campaign is running in conjunction with the Davidson community center through SBS, businesses will not have to pay taxes for the services.
Opponents are concerned that the rezoning will displace the auto and mechanic businesses that have called the corridor home for several decades and the Executive Director of the community center, Angel Caballero, believes that there are also other problems that need addressing.
“I don’t think it’s only about space and money,” said Caballero. “It’s the matter of them qualifying for what they need to continue their business because the majority of them are sublets on top of sublets with no insurance and no sense of direction.”
BJT intends educate and organize them into a Merchant Association and provide support as the rezoning proceeds.
“We’re dealing with a couple of businesses now that are being threatened by the owners to abandon their lease,” said Caballero. “SBS has been very instrumental in giving us information to give back to the merchants on what they can and cannot do to protect themselves.”