Column: Lame duck elected officials create precarious situations

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
Photo Jewel Weber

Pitcher looks in, gets the sign, batter readies, the pitch is on the way. Check swing, a lazy pop fly into shallow left field. Leftfielder moving in; shortstop moves out. No one taking charge; looks like trouble. The ball drops as a chorus of boos emits from a disappointed crowd. Just like that, the visitors are gifted a baserunner. In baseball parlance this is a tweener; a seemingly routine play that fell in between two indecisive fielders. The tweener creates opportunity. Today, our community confronts a variation of the tweener.

Current City Councilman Mark Gjonaj, District 13, is not seeking re-election. Term limits will oust Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio. Successors to these influential positions, along with nearly 2/3 of the NYC council, will be determined in November’s election.

During this precarious, in-between period our community faces major issues.

Throggs Neck Associates LLC, seeks upzonings along a 3/8 mile stretch of Bruckner Boulevard. The proposed 4-section Bruckner project includes approximately 36 parcels of land and multiple property owners. In specific sections, including the current Foodtown location, the proposed upzone would replace highly sought, hard fought, low-density R-4A zoning with higher density R-6A zoning designation. The R-6A designation permits construction of 85-foot tall structures and lays the path for future upzoning and uncontrolled as of right overdevelopment.

DeBlasio’s appointed City Hall Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform reached consensus on 10 initial recommendations. The commissions’ goal is to address perceived inequities in the current property tax system and create an impartial, understandable property tax structure. In typical City Hall fashion, these recommendations create more questions than answers. However, the undefined and obscure consensus verbiage strongly indicates NYC middle class home owners should anticipate property tax increases.

Tropical Storm Ida brought death and destruction to our city. Thankfully, property damage in our neighborhood was not accompanied by sorrowful loss of life. The consequences of Ida beg questions: Does the sewer and storm drain infrastructures in low-density communities meet needs? Would proactive measures, including routine sewer and storm drain maintenance, have mitigated flood damages and possibly saved lives? Should NYC’s Basement Apartment Conversion Pilot Program, which creates Additional Dwelling Units (ADUs), remain suspended pending thorough damage and infrastructure assessments? Will elected officials scrutinize NYC storm preparations as they did Con Edison after Isaias?

The gap period between outgoing and incoming elected officials creates political uncertainty.

Embracement of complacent political lame duck status by outgoing elected officials makes communities vulnerable and susceptible. Until replaced, they remain our leaders, the go-to, take charge people; obligated to take definitive positions and actions on behalf of their communities. Outgoing elected officials cannot avoid or display indecision about up in the air tweener situations. Our communities must send the message: You still wear the community team uniform; lead the team, align the defenses, put on the glove and make the catches.

Monthly meetings resume Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at Knights of Columbus. If we want to keep and reap the blessings of our fine quality of life, we must endure the fatigue of supporting it. 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 attend a meeting or send an email to spencerestatecivic@gmail.com.

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

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