Column: Throggs Neck upzone proposal is a threat to the community

Photo Walter Pofeldt

Rampant over-developments and subsequent As of Right builds endanger low-density communities. The recent Throggs Neck Associates LLC proposal to aggressively upzone four segments along Bruckner Boulevard, from Crosby to Gifford avenues and de-map Meyers Street will threaten another suburban-like enclave. A proposed eight-story building at the current Food Town site is a key component of this complex 35-parcel, four-building upzone plan, slated to house 1,100 residents.

The Bruckner Boulevard upzone proposed by Throggs Neck Associates LLC is a potential community changer. If permitted, the R-6 upzone will forever erase segments of low-density areas from city maps; their quaintness, charms and appeal from hearts and minds. Throggs Neck Associates LLC recently presented approximately 300 pages of information to the community. The project timeline suggests a 2025 “build year” and possible fast track approval prior to term expirations of current City Council, borough president and mayor. However, project approval could await November’s newly elected in January.

Community opposition to the aggressive upzone came swiftly. Petitions, letters, phone calls and social media statements led to news coverage with displays of community support from former Councilman James Vacca and Community Board 10 District Manager Matt Cruz. As of this writing, a soft statement issued by current Councilman Mark Gjonaj was operatic in comparison to library room silences of council candidates Marjorie Velazquez and Alex Mici. Uncertainty and tight-lipped council candidates have bewildered residents. Our communities yearn for strong statements of support as they ponder both their fates and Gjonaj’s successor.

This aggressive bomb like upzone was dropped on Waterbury-LaSalle’s Bruckner Boulevard perimeter. The Waterbury La Salle Civic Association is now spearheading a multiple-community effort to thwart this heinous act of investor greed before community need. Petition drives, rallies and news events are being planned. The current political climate has created a dire need for inter-community unifications. Political, social and personal differences must be cast aside. In this “we before me” endeavor, selflessness must supersede selfishness. American industrialist Henry Ford stated, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Zoning regulations are a community’s ultimate protection against overdevelopment. If an upzone can happen here, or there, it can happen anywhere. To paraphrase the late, esteemed former Councilman Michael DeMarco, lose your zoning, lose your community. If we want to keep and reap the blessings of our fine quality of life, we must endure the fatigue of supporting it.

Bruckner up zone project points of interest

A land use document filed by Throggs Neck Associates LLC and signed by J. Bivona to the Hon. Marisa Lago, chair of city Planning Commission, is dated Sept. 21, 2020. The 10-month gap before the July 19, 2021, public release of the project should be explained. Although questionable, the occurrence could be standard operating procedure, which could begin another conversation.

Council Person Deference is an unwritten tradition of the New York City Council siding with a district council person in situations, such as land use, that primarily effects his/her council district. Anti-deference coalitions within the City Council can eradicate member deference and allow any council person to “save face” with their community. Candidate stances on council member deference must be transparent and publicized. U.S. Rep. Richie Torres, a former city councilman and once a longtime staffer of former Councilman Jimmy Vacca, in a co-written op-ed in the Daily News from August 2020 stated, “Member deference has its place to be sure … But it becomes dangerous when it morphs into veto power over the growth of the city’s economy.”

Does the Bruckner upzone project markedly effect our city’s economy? In this situation, indifference to deference is unacceptable. This is a shortened two-year council term; 2023 re-election efforts come quickly.

Legal Actions are glitzy in the court of public opinion but sometimes ineffective in the court of law. An apparent victory against The Two Bridge Tower Project by well-organized, well-funded Lower East Side community groups was overturned in 2021 by a state Supreme Appellate Court ruling. Throggs Neck Associates LLC, although formidable, is not on par with the well-funded Two Bridge development team that included JDS Development Group and  L and M Development. We are in a necessary, provoked multiple-community dog-fight against investor greed before community need. The common goal, preservation of a precious commodity, our low-density zoning designations.

Monthly meetings resume in September, however, the traditional summer respite could be interrupted by circumstances requiring ad hoc attention (one is on the horizon). Our community has traditionally exhibited a  “We are Family attitude.” Now is the time to let it shine. Communicate; make that phone call, text message or email. Please check on family, friends and neighbors, especially the elderly and vulnerable. Any area homeowner or renter interested in the Spencer Estate Civic Association,  send an email to spencerestatecivic@gmail.com.

Remember: Community=Common-Unity and Inclusion brings Solutions.

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