As expected, on June 18, Bronx Community Board 10 voted against the city’s proposal to construct a state-of-the-art full-scale animal shelter at 2050 Bartow Ave.
Even though the community board is advisory with no real powers, their “no” vote shields the developer and elected officials from community backlash. After the vote, Councilman Andy King said that he would not support a plan that the community opposes. Yet before the vote, King sat in the front of the table alongside the community board members and facilitated the opposition with chants of “people over animals.”
Soon after, the community board chair closed public testimony and took the vote, even though more than 50 persons signed up to speak — many in favor — yet just six persons were permitted to speak. It was apparent the community board failed to maintain their objectivity.
Also, the board and Councilman King failed to disclose First Hartford Realty Corp. is eyeing this site to develop supportive housing. As amNewYork reported, the developer paid Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates $200,000 since 2016 to perform “government relations and consulting services related to the potential development of 2050 Bartow Ave.” Per records, the lobbyist raised this matter to elected officials, including Councilman King and borough president Ruben Diaz Jr.
Also, Mr. Jenkins was present at CB10’s housing and zoning committee on May 24, when the animal shelter issue was on the agenda and the board members expressed strong opposition even before the city presented its proposal for a full-scale shelter at the site.
The main expressed opposition to the animal shelter at this site is to hold a former borough president to a promise made almost 20 years ago of a youth center at the site. The opposition stated a youth center is needed and urgent. Yet no one is against a youth center, except for Riverbay, their management company.
Riverbay’s board of directors voted against a youth center at a large space that used to be a movie theater at the Bartow shopping center. They voted against it so they could instead rent it to stores, yet it still remains vacant and available for a youth center.
At the housing committee meeting, the board members, Councilman King and even lobbyist Jenkins stated they would provide an alternative location for the animal shelter. Yet in June, they voted against the animal shelter without providing an alternative site.
The city stated it took close to three years to find this site after more than 50 sites were visited. The 2050 Bartow site meets all the criteria for the animal shelter including ample space, public transportation accessibility, and no rent costs since it is city-owned property.
The city council unanimously passed the bill mandating full-scale animal shelters in each of the boroughs. Even the community board that voted down the proposed animal shelter at the Bartow location stated their support for an animal shelter in the Bronx. Many of our elected officials made promises of support for an animal shelter in the Bronx in exchange for our votes.
Now, almost 20 years, the time has finally arrived to have our animal shelter built, and the support is wavering.
Not only does this issue go beyond the Bronx, since a full-scale shelter will ease the overcrowding in the city’s animal shelters outside the Bronx, it goes beyond animals, since it is about the people over insiders and developers, and their influence.
Based on the community board’s non-sensical objections and their apparent lack of objectivity as well as Councilman Andy King’s lead role in the opposition, there is more to this than dogs and cats.
The author is a member of Bronx Animal Rights Electors.