Bronx Commons via Danois
The $160 million Bronx Commons mixed-use development, located in the borough’s Melrose neighborhood, broke ground in January. When complete, it will combine affordable housing, retail, landscaped public space, and a 300-seat music and arts venue known as Bronx Music Hall. As 6sqft previously reported, the Hall was envisioned as a way to celebrate and revitalize “the deeply rooted history of cutting edge Bronx music,” which nonprofit developers WHEDco and BFC Partners also hoped to address by setting aside 15 percent of the 305 below-market rate apartments for older musicians. But as the Times explains, despite the South Bronx’s past as a hub for jazz and doo-wop music venues and sidemen, the city says this may be in violation of fair housing laws that prohibit preferences based on age or race.
With changes in the music business, it’s become harder for older musicians to book gigs like they used to. In addition, many South Bronx neighborhoods have been the target of gentrification and increasing rent prices. These changes have many musicians struggling to find affordable housing, living off money earned from gig to gig. Which is where WHEDco’s Nancy Biberman got the idea to allocate some of the project’s affordable housing for aging musicians. “There is senior housing, but that’s depressing, honestly. The elder artists I met did not want to be living in a building with people who are just old. They wanted to be who they were — musicians — and not isolated in an old-age home,” she explained. The plan was also to incorporate the Bronx Music Hall as a way for the musicians to continue making and teaching music,
Though Mayor de Blasio has committed to providing 1,500 units of affordable housing for artists, a spokeswoman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development told the Times “there would be many opportunities for this population in future developments.” She suggested the musicians enter the city’s general affordable housing lotteries, which often attract tens of thousands of applicants.
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