Testimony of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Before the Regional Economic Development Council
RE: Infrastructure Improvements in Co-op City/Bay Plaza
I testify today in favor of improved infrastructure surrounding the Bay Plaza Shopping Center in Co-op City, and I urge this council to support this important project.
In November of last year, we announced that Prestige Properties would develop at The Mall at Bay Plaza, a new $303 million, 780,000-square-foot enclosed fashion mall anchored by a new Macy’s combined with an existing JC Penney department store. The three-level, state-of-the-art mall will be located on a corner parcel at Prestige’s thriving Bay Plaza Shopping Center near Co-op City, already one of the largest shopping centers in New York City.
The project has broken ground and is fully underway. This tremendous investment by Prestige Properties has validated something we learned while conducting our 2011 Bronx Wellness and Quality of Life Survey: something needed to be done to keep Bronx residents from leaving our City to do their shopping.
Our office received almost 2,000 completed surveys. We tracked participation by zip code, age, and Community Board to collect a representative sample of the entire borough. It found that a high proportion (40 percent) stated they did most of their general shopping outside of the Bronx. More than half of these individuals (59 percent) listed Westchester County and New Jersey as their shopping destination of choice. As a county of approximately 1.4 million people, this represents a tremendous flow of consumer spending out of our region.
Just as important are the 2,000 immediate construction jobs and 1,700 long term jobs that would be created. My office has been an active and consistent participant of the Regional Economic Development Council since its inception. Our great Governor Andrew Cuomo and his team at the Empire State Development Corporation have reiterated on every possible occasion our mission is “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” A project that will create almost 4,000 jobs has to be a priority project.
Furthermore, throughout this journey we have been on together as council members, we have continuously discussed whether a project was transformative and whether it was “shovel ready.” One metric we often cited to differentiate projects was whether they were a P3 – a public private partnership.
In this case, the private sector has come forward with almost $300 million of its own capital and has asked government to come forward with $3.5 million to cover the cost of ramp improvements that everyone agrees are needed for an area with an already high degree of congestion. In other words, at an almost 10-to-1 multiplier for our dollar, we can help insure that this remarkable project is a success and that millions in consumer spending comes back to the Bronx. Moreover, this project is beyond shovel ready, it is shovel wielding.
Lastly, I’ll point to the Crain’s New York article last month that reported on the Bronx’s famous “Little Italy” on Arthur Avenue located within the nearby Belmont Business Improvement District. It notes that “[m]ore than 85% of its shoppers and diners come from more than five miles away, and 40% come from more than 40 miles away, according to a recent study by the Belmont Business Improvement District.”
The Bay Plaza expansion will absolutely drive further traffic to this already in demand destination. The ramp improvement will help relieve congestion and facilitate more visitors from nearby areas like Westchester.
We have aspired to make government a partner and catalyst for development. This is that opportunity.