There is a dogfight brewing in the Bronx over a parcel of land the city wants to develop into a long-promised animal shelter.
The city’s proposal to transform 2050 Bartow Ave. into a 46,000 square-foot, two-story facility for stray and homeless animals is making its way through the city’s land review process.
At the same time, records show a developer has been paying a firm to lobby elected officials about developing the city-owned property. And a group of vocal Co-op City residents have argued the neighborhood would be better served by a community center — something the developer, First Hartford Realty Corporation, has said it would include if building affordable housing at the site.
That preference is part of what led the local community board to reject the city’s plans with its advisory vote.
“We don’t want it to be a struggle for the neighborhood,” said City Councilman Andy King, who represents Co-op City. “The neighborhood is saying this is not the location. They have been looking for a youth center.”
But animal advocates in the Bronx and across the city have argued the borough is in dire need of a full-service shelter, like those in Manhattan, Staten Island and Brooklyn. The Bronx and Queens rely on animal receiving centers, which have limited hours and fewer services. A recently passed law requires the city to ensure all boroughs have a full-service shelter.
Earlier this year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would build a $60 million facility equipped to offer shelter, adoption and veterinary services on the Bartow Avenue site.
“We do not receive the same services for our animals as the rest of the boroughs,” said Dotti Poggi, who is part of the Bronx Animal Shelter Endeavor group backing the city’s plans. “If you lose a dog in the Bronx, it gets shipped to another borough the same day because it can’t stay overnight.”
The proposed shelter would use land First Hartford Realty Corporation has spent years paying lobbyists to discuss with King and other elected officials, records show.
Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates reported earning $200,000 since 2016 to perform “governmental relations and consulting services related to the potential development of 2050 Bartow Avenue,” according to periodic lobbying reports filed with the city clerk’s office. The firm has raised the matter with King, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and various officials in de Blasio’s administration, the reports show.
First Hartford Realty Corporation is a member of the Project Hope, Bronx partnership that owns and manages a senior housing development adjacent to 2050 Bartow Ave., a First Hartford spokesman said.
“It is a 100 unit building, all of which is affordable senior housing and is currently undergoing major renovation. Should the city’s plans change, they have expressed interest in adding more 100 percent affordable housing for seniors and veterans, incorporating a multiuse community center, on the proposed site,” the spokesman said in a statement.
King would not say whether he supported First Hartford’s plans, but noted local residents have been asking the city to build a youth center on the site for years.
“If someone is asking you for orange juice and grape juice for 10 years, you can’t give them tomato juice,” King said.
In a statement, the Health Department said 2050 Bartow Ave. would be a convenient location for a shelter because it is close to public transportation and ample parking spots.
“Along with a state-of-the-art space where all New York residents can adopt pets, the shelter would bring more than 100 permanent jobs at all levels to the community,” the agency said in a statement. “The Health Department plans to listen to the concerns of Bronx residents and work with elected officials to achieve the best outcome.”
Under the city’s review process, the proposed animal shelter will next head to Diaz for a recommendation, then be reviewed by the City Planning Commission and finally be voted on by the City Council. The Council typically defers to the local representative when voting on development projects.