City Planning approves contested Bruckner rezoning, project proceeds to City Council

FoodTown_-5
A proposal to develop the Super Foodtown property on Bruckner Boulevard along with three other sites has made it to the next step in the application process after being approved by the City Planning Commission on Wednesday.
Photo Adrian Childress

The controversial Bruckner rezoning proposal will move on to the City Council for a public hearing and vote after the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve it Wednesday morning.

Eleven commissioners voted in favor of the project moving forward, while Chair Dan Garodnick was absent. Commissioner Orlando Marín said that although he was voting to approve the proposal, he is not convinced the zoning designation is correct and hopes the City Council will address that.

City Planning Deputy Press Secretary Joe Marvilli told the Bronx Times on Wednesday that commissioners base their votes on “the appropriateness of the proposed land use actions before them.” He referred to Marín for elaboration on the commissioner’s comment. The Bronx Times reached out to Marín and is awaiting a response.

The project, as described by Vice Chair Kenneth Knuckles before the vote, would bring approximately 349 apartment units, 168 of them affordable and 99 designated for seniors. The housing would span four buildings on Bruckner Boulevard and the proposal also includes community space and a new supermarket to replace Super Foodtown.

There was confusion earlier this week over how many units were being proposed, with NYC Planning citing 361 total and the applicant Throggs Neck Associates LLC — an entity consisting of a handful of property owners — citing 349.

The 168 affordable units include 99 permanently affordable per the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) spread across four buildings. Also included are the remainder of 99 senior units, of which 30 are part of MIH.

Sam Goldstein, spokesperson for Throggs Neck Associates LLC, told the Bronx Times that 22 units of veteran housing will also be considered affordable through private subsidies.

The project has faced uproar from local residents who want to preserve Lower Density Growth Management Area zoning installed in the community in 2004. While the local Community Board 10 opposed the project with just one member supporting it, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson lent her approval with conditions, including a reduction of one of the two 8-story buildings to 5 stories, a recommendation the applicant did not implement, as all building heights of three-, five- and two eight-floors remained as initially proposed.

Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez speaks to residents at an April 19 Community Board 10 meeting. Photo Aliya Schneider

While local Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez, a Throggs Neck Democrat, has said she is against the proposal, the spotlight on her brightens with the plan soon coming to the council, as members typically vote according to the local representative’s position. While she has been insistent on being against the project from the start, some residents gave her flak in the spring for not speaking as adamantly against it as they wanted her to. But the councilmember responded to the criticism by saying that while “there are people who want to nitpick” what she says, her stance has been clear.

“It hasn’t changed, and it has not and it will not,” she said in May.

Velázquez did not attend the community board’s vote on the project, saying threats were made against her.

In response to whether she is open to negotiation and if she plans to advocate against the proposal while before the council, Velázquez provided the following statement to the Bronx Times on Wednesday:

“As this project finds its way through the land use process, I continue to oppose the Bruckner proposal. As a Council, we must work together to identify solutions that meet the needs of our unique communities. No one project works for all demographics and constituencies, and it is my mission to advocate on behalf of my district. It is my belief that any development in my diverse district needs to garner local support, provide local housing and local jobs, have union support, and have real affordability. If any of my fellow council members have specific questions, I welcome the discussion as we move forward to identify an equitable solution for the people of District 13.”

Following Wednesday morning’s vote, Goldstein, the applicant’s spokesperson, praised the project in a statement to the Bronx Times.

“This is the right project at the right time for our community and our city,” said Goldstein, of Marino PR. “We face an unprecedented housing crisis — especially affordable housing — for New Yorkers from young professionals and families to veterans and seniors. This is a significant investment in our community that represents opportunity — housing for a full range of New Yorkers, saving and creating good-paying jobs, and expanding access to programming for our youth. We appreciate the leadership of Borough President Vanessa Gibson and her prior recommendation as the review process has progressed. Today’s vote is an important step forward for the Bronx.”

The City Council has 50 days after Wednesday’s vote to consider the application. In order to make it to a full council vote, the application first needs to be approved by the Land Use committee, chaired by Bronx Councilmember Rafael Salamanca, a Longwood Progressive, and the Zoning and Franchises subcommittee, chaired by Councilmember Kevin Riley, a Baychester Democrat. A public hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 7.

If the project does make it through the City Council, Mayor Eric Adams would have the ability to veto the project for five days — which the council can override.

This article was updated at 1:24 p.m. on Aug. 25 to reflect the Bronx Times reaching out to Orlando Marín after obtaining his contact information.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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