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Luxury Builder Courts Controversy by Reprising 'Piano District' in Bronx

By Kate Pastor | July 26, 2017 2:38pm
 A screenshot of the Crescendo website posted on WELCOME2THEBRONX.
A screenshot of the Crescendo website posted on WELCOME2THEBRONX.
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www.25brucknerblvd.com (via Ed García Conde)

PORT MORRIS — Another developer has chosen to strike a sour note by claiming its luxury Port Morris development is located in the "Piano District" — a controversial nickname that spurred backlash the first time it was used to market the neighborhood

The Crescendo, a complex of two luxury buildings, is being billed by Carnegie Management as "a residential complex built to commemorate the history of an area once filled with musical references."

But a study of more recent history might have dissuaded the developer from using the Piano District moniker altogether, following a similar campaign nearly two years ago.

In October 2015, a billboard went up near the Third Avenue Bridge declaring Port Morris to be the Piano District. The sign was installed by Somerset Partners and The Chetrit Group, the developers that joined together to buy two properties along the Harlem River, at 2401 Third Ave. and 101 Lincoln Ave., for $58 million with plans to turn them into a residential community featuring retail.

The backlash was swift, spurring use of the hashtag #WhatPianoDistrict on social media.

"Did these people not learn about what a disaster that was for Somerset Partners and The Chetrit Group when they attempted to rebrand the neighborhood and host a tasteless Bronx is Burning party?" asked Bronx booster Ed García Conde in the story he wrote yesterday about the Crescendo's marketing on his Welcome2TheBronx site.

Facing pressure back in 2015, Keith Rubenstein, founder and principal of Somerset Partners, said he hadn't meant for the Piano District term to offend and took the billboard down. But he made matters worse by helping to host a party called "Macabre Suite" at a former piano factory under the Third Avenue Bridge in Port Morris that featured  bullet-riddled, burnt-out cars and garbage can fires.

Such scenes are far from what's being peddled on Carnegie Management's website, which advertises a complex at 25 Bruckner Boulevard made up of two six-story buildings with studio apartments starting at $2,300. The development boasts a pool, sauna and a yoga room among its amenities and promises "an all-new rhythmic living experience specific to the South Bronx." The names Legato and Staccato have been floated as names for the two buildings.

Carnegie Management also owns the luxury Clock Tower building at 112 Lincoln Ave., located near the last round of developments marketed as being located in the Piano District.

A press release for the project sent out this week and its website both made reference to the Piano District, but the name was removed from the site some time since Tuesday night because the company was receiving confused calls about the location, according to Mdrn., the company handling marketing for the development.

Still, Mdrn. CEO Zach Ehrlich said the company is not backing away from the name.

The term was "brought to light” by other developers, he noted, explaining that the goal of using it was not to distance the development from the broader neighborhood, which is also referenced in marketing material — only as Mott Haven and not Port Morris.

Rather, he said the title was meant to distinguish a small subsection of the neighborhood where most of the new development is occurring. 

“That's really what we’re focused on tying into,” he said.

But a spokesman for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. wasn't buying it.

"Port Morris is not the Piano District,"  John DeSio said. "It will always be Port Morris, no matter what anyone says," he said.