Election night showdown: CD-13 winner hangs in the balance with opinion on casino at Ferry Point a likely decisive factor

Trump Golf Links in the Bronx is seen on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Trump Golf Links in the Bronx is seen on Saturday, March 4, 2023.
Photo Max Blease

Who proves to be victorious in the Council District 13 election race tonight between Republican candidate Kristy Marmorato and Democrat incumbent Marjorie Velázquez could well depend on each candidate’s view regarding the proposed casino at Ferry Point Park.

Currently, the future of the site adjacent to the Whitestone Bridge with views of the Manhattan skyline remains uncertain, after Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point was sold to the Bally’s Corporation for $60 million in September. Bally’s, a gaming, betting and entertainment company, is expected to open a casino at the current location of the golf course within the park.

Bally’s will take over the Trump Golf Links property through 2035, having acquired the Trump Organization’s 20-year lease from the city parks department that began in 2015.

Velázquez, 42, while noting that the application for the casino has not been approved by the state yet, said she is an advocate for it and is excited about the prospect.

“This project is about more than just a golf course,” Velázquez said at a recent BronxNet debate, adding that she is working with Bally’s to make sure it not only invests in the area of Trump Golf Links but also in the community surrounding Ferry Point Park.

“We have families and kids playing soccer in the park — literally, on rocks,” Velázquez added. She said that the development could bring resources to the area.

Marmorato, 45, on the other hand, is not supportive of the casino proposal, and said at the BronxNet debate that the project would be an “environmental disaster.”

City Council District 13 candidates Marjorie Velázquez, the Democratic incumbent, and Republican challenger Kristy Marmorato come after each other during their televised BronxNet debate that aired on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023.
City Council District 13 candidates Marjorie Velázquez and Kristy Marmorato were on the attack during their televised BronxNet debate that aired on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. Screenshot courtesy BronxNet

Furthermore, Marmorato said that the Bronx would hardly see any of the tax revenue generated from the project, with most of the local taxes generated going to New York state and just a small portion going to the city, according to Marmorato. She said that the Bronx would not receive any direct revenue from the casino.

She also added that the project would lead to increased traffic congestion, noting that 11,000 vehicles already travel over the Whitestone Bridge on a daily basis to get from Queens to the Bronx.

“This venue will bring hundreds of thousands of more people to an area that already has no parking and nearby highways that have not been set up to have a casino in the area,” Marmorato said.

Marmorato added that she would like to see Bally’s redevelop and transform the former Trump Organization-owned golf course into a family-friendly environment with a beautiful boardwalk and restaurants.

“We need something that can be used by families — not gamblers,” Marmorato said. “This [casino] is not what the Bronx needs.”

Velázquez and Marmorato went head-to-head in three public debates last month, including on Oct. 4 at a Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance candidate forum and a debate held by the City Island Civic Association on Oct. 24. The most contentious debate, hosted by BronxNet on Oct. 31, was particularly noteworthy since the two candidates took pot shots at one another during and after the 30-minute program.

Debate host Gary Axelbank, who has moderated 95 debates over the past three decades, said that he had “never had two candidates, right at the end of the program, go at each other like that.”

Amidst the jabs that took place between the two during the BronxNet debate, both Velázquez and Marmorato seemed to agree on most topics pertaining to the East Bronx, such as putting a proposed ferry terminal in Orchard Beach instead of City Island; more NYPD patrol cars throughout the borough; and stronger law enforcement regarding smoke shops illegally selling marijuana.

They also both said that they are not in support of the Just Home initiative, which was announced by NYC Health + Hospitals and the city Department of Housing Preservation & Development in August 2022 that aims to develop housing and meet the medical needs for New Yorkers who were previously incarcerated. The proposal has been controversial from the get-go.

Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point, which was purchased by the Bally’s Corporation for $60 million in September, offers a view of the Whitestone Bridge in the East Bronx. Photo Aliya Schneider

The Just Home proposal, hinging on a City Council vote that would ultimately decide the fate of the project, calls for 70 residential units on the Jacobi Medical Center campus in the Morris Park section of the Bronx.

The opinions, however, differ in other areas. Along with not supporting the casino proposal, Marmorato also criticized Velázquez for backing the 348-unit Bruckner Boulevard rezoning project, saying that the streets in the area are too small and are unable to support the increased parking needs.

Velázquez was also criticized by Marmorato for an alleged “about-face” regarding the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning, after she changed her mind at the eleventh hour about the project, which will also bring commercial space and units reserved for seniors and veterans along a strip of Bruckner Boulevard near East Tremont Avenue.

However, Velázquez has maintained that the initial and final proposals for the project were completely different, leading her to eventually support it.

Velàzquez and Marmorato are expected to be competing in the only close contest in the Bronx, where most of the other City Council incumbents are almost guaranteed to win.

A Republican candidate, however, has not been elected to public office in the Bronx since 2004.

Stay with the Bronx Times throughout Election Day for the latest updates

Reach Steven Goodstein at [email protected] or (718) 260–8326. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes