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Westchester Square BID a step closer to approval

The Westchester Square Business Improvement District inched another step closer to becoming a reality with the pivotal approval of the City Planning Commission.

The BID project cleared another important hurdle on Wednesday, May 25 when CPC voted unanimously in favor of a district plan submitted by the Association of Merchants and Business Professionals of Westchester Square and the New York City Department of Small Business Services.

The CPC is now in the process of preparing an internal report that will be sent to the Department of Small Business Services and other related agencies.

The next step will be to go before the City Council, where the proposal to become the Bronx’s ninth BID will be reviewed by the appropriate committees, before a final hearing takes place.

“The City Planning Commission approving the Westchester Square Business Improvement District is a great thing for Westchester Square,” Councilman Jimmy Vacca said. “Now it comes before the City Council, which is the final step towards approval.”

Vacca was a major part of the initial meeting shortly after taking office in 2006 between the merchants on the Square, the Bronx Business Alliance, and civic leaders, that helped spur efforts to get the BID underway.

Vacca said he is immensely gratified that the efforts have come so far and that he is confident the BID will see its final approval shortly.

“We have come a long way in the last five years with our efforts to revitalize Westchester Square,” Vacca said. “This is a major piece of the puzzle in that effort.”

Millions of dollars have also been allocated by Vacca for the renovation of the Owen Dolen Recreation Center, which should serve as a centerpiece of the BID’s efforts to spur the economic engine of the shopping district by having weekend events that feature performing arts and music, BID steering committee chairman John Bonizio said.

The approval by the City Planning Commission is a real shot in the arm for the effort to bring the Square back to what it was in the late 1970s, when the introduction of express bus service drained straphangers away from Westchester Square due to new travel patterns.

With a influx of money from major real estate firms and a revitalized merchants association, the Square has seen an upsurge recently.

“I think that the CPC vote more or less galvanizes the effort so far, and the fact that the commission unanimously voted in favor of the formation of a Westchester Square BID is telling,” said AMBPWS program coordinator Joe Regina. “We had a good feeling about the vote after offering testimony before the commission, and we got the sense that we were getting a good reaction from the commissioners. We are elated that they voted unanimously in favor of it, and are gearing up for the next round.”

Regina offered testimony before CPC along with Bonizio and Joseph Kelleher of Simone Properties, who represented landlords in favor of the project, on Wednesday, April 27.

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