Thursday, January 12, 2006

Whither the BTM Merchants?

As the Gateway application becomes the focus at the City Council, it is useful to point out that the application before the body is actually two separate land use actions. One involves the mall but the other involves the so-called "Velodrome site," west of Exterior Street. This application would de-map the streets and pave the way for converting the area into parkland.

The space in question would be ideal for a newly constructed BTM. This is an idea that has been promoted by Congressman Serrano's office, and through its intervention, discussions have occurred between the merchants and Irwin Cohen, the founder of the Chelsea Market. Cohen has also reached out to the city and to Related and talks have ensued between those parties as well.

Cohen's concept is to transform the Velodrome space into a BTM retail and wholesale market that wouldn't exactly mirror what he did at Chelsea but would be based on some similar principles. He believes that the array of exotic ethnic products would generate excitement and turn the new BTM into a destination location.

In this context we are reaching out to the council for support. One possible avenue of that support would be for the council to turn down the Velodrome application and insist to the city that the space be reserved for the BTM merchants. Goodwill alone will not be sufficient and a dose of political power is definitely needed.

Since most of the Bronx council delegation that has supported Gateway has expressed a desire to "save" the merchants (who are facing a potential imminent eviction), this would provide them with just the appropriate opportunity to do the right thing.