Mayor Edward Koch today proclaimed the surprise death of the $1.5 billion plan to redevelop the south Bronx, which was born after President Carter's much-publicized visit to the devastated area in October 1977.
"The South Bronx is dead. The plan is dead. There's no doubt about it. It's disgraceful," echoed Deputy Mayor Herman Badillo, the city's coordinator for the South Bronx.
According to Koch and Badillo, the fatal blow was administered by the Board of Estimate when it voted down a proposal to reroute a street to permit a 732-unit apartment project on Charlotte Street.
The project was to be the first step in a seven-year plan that would bring 27,500 housing units to the South Bronx, a moonscape of block after block leveled by arson and virtually uncontrolled crime.
The board's vote came only two days after Koch happily made public a letter from White House special assistant Jack H. Watson that the mayor said fully satisfied his request for a White House commitment to the enormous renewal plan.
City Council Chairman Carol Bellamy, City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin and the borough presidents of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens voted down the proposal. Koch and the borough presidents of the Bronx and Staten Island voted for it.
Donald Manes, Queens borough president, called Koch's issuance of the South Bronx project's death certificate an overreaction. Comptroller Goldin said he hoped Koch would reconsider.
The mayor, however, told reporters that if the Board of Estimate couldn't agree on the Charlotte Street housing, it couldn't agree on anything.
The opponents said that Charlotte Street was an ill-fated first step and that their negative votes did not mean they would oppose other, better-planned projects.
"We should have learned from bitter and tragic experience that isolated housing efforts are doomed to fail," Goldin said of the $32 million Charlotte project in one of the most devastated parts of the South Bronx.
Before the vote, Koch said that New York City would lose millions of dollars in federal aid if Charlotte Street was not approved.
The effect of the vote, Koch said, was that "there will not be this special, herculean effort for the South Bronx."
There was no immediate comment from the White House. Carter is likely to want some development in the South Bronx, which he helped boost as a symbol of urban devastation with his visit.
However, Koch has now made the South Bronx an all or nothing proposition. "There is no fallback," said one aide. The vote was the most significant defeat Koch has suffered from the Board of Estimate in his 14 months as mayor.