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Locals Give Bronx Cheer to Developers' 'Piano District' Rebranding Push

By Eddie Small | November 3, 2015 11:01am
 Bronxites concerned about gentrification have responded to the Piano District billboard with the social media campaign #WhatPianoDistrict.
Bronxites concerned about gentrification have responded to the Piano District billboard with the social media campaign #WhatPianoDistrict.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

SOUTH BRONX — The backlash to the attempted rebranding of the South Bronx as the "Piano District" has arrived.

Bronx artist Karen Pedrosa recently launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #WhatPianoDistrict as a way to help raise awareness of what has been going on in the South Bronx with respect to gentrification.

The hashtag comes in response to a billboard that recently went up by the Third Avenue Bridge announcing that the Piano District is coming soon.

Pedrosa said she was furious when she saw that billboard, particularly its claim that fine dining was coming to The Bronx even though the borough already has several great restaurants.

"Them just trying to rebrand an already established neighborhood is what really pissed me off, and that’s why I said, 'What Piano District?'" she said. "To me, there is no Piano District there."

The social media campaign is also a response to a celebrity-studded party that the real estate developers Somerset Partners and The Chetrit Group hosted in the South Bronx on Thursday complete with burning trash cans and bullet-ridden cars that many Bronxites found very offensive.

#WhatPianoDistrict has already taken off on Twitter and Instagram, with many users posting it as a way to express their feelings about changes coming to the South Bronx.

Even Batman has gotten in on the action.

The hashtag is also meant as a way to help bring together people who share concerns about South Bronx gentrification, according to Ed García Conde, founder of the blog Welcome2TheBronx, who has been highly critical of both the party and the billboard.

"It’s, one, a way to raise awareness about what’s going on and what’s happening," he said. "And two, to help keep the movement going of like-minded individuals where people don't want to be priced out of their neighborhoods."

Somerset Properties and The Chetrit Group teamed up to purchase two South Bronx sites for $58 million at 101 Lincoln Ave. and 2401 Third Ave., where they held the controversial party. They plan to turn the area into a residential community with retail.

"When people of this caliber come with money like this, they really don’t care about the neighborhood," Conde said.

Keith Rubenstein, founder and principal of Somerset Partners, did not respond to a request for comment.

SoBRO Director of Special Projects Michael Brady described trying to rebrand a neighborhood as "arrogant" but stressed that the developers and the community would have to work together going forward.

"I do believe that sustained dialogue needs to occur between the private property owners, elected officials and community based organizations and community leaders to develop a cohesive plan to ensure that community development occurs," he said.

Pedrosa and Conde are now trying to organize a party with local artists and activists from The Bronx as a way to counteract the one that the developers threw.

She said she was not surprised by the strong reaction that Bronxites have had so far to #WhatPianoDistrict.

"The people of the South Bronx, they’re very resilient and they stand up for their rights," she said.

"If people want to come to The Bronx, it’s fine. But people already live there."