George Havranek, early leader of Bruckner opposition, to run for Velázquez’s seat

headshot of George Havranek
George Havranek, a Republican candidate for City Council District 13, in front of Bruckner Boulevard.
Photo Aliya Schneider

George Havranek, an early champion of the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning opposition, is vying to oust Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez and swing her district red in his quest for the Republican nomination for the 13th City Council District.

Havranek, 66, has lived in the Spencer Estates neighborhood since he was 6 years old.

The Bronxite, who has a wife and three grown children, described his neighborhood as a former swampland that was littered with vacant, unkept lots when he moved in that has since blossomed into a populated, low-density community. Active through the Spencer Estates Civic Association, Havranek calls his community a “SLICE” of suburbia (Suburban Life Inside City Environment).

Development was necessary to make his neighborhood what it became, but he emphasized that it was “organic.”

“When you have the long-term outlook, and you take a long-term solution, the long-term always includes the short-term,” he said in his first interview about his candidacy over coffee at the Crosstown Diner, right off the Bruckner Expressway. “But the short term does not include the long term, so you may end up with problems down the road you have to address.”

In Havranek’s eyes, communities need a sense of equilibrium to avoid tipping points, like the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning, which will override low-density requirements in the neighborhood — with the approval of the City Council and Mayor Eric Adams — to create 348 units across four buildings.

Havranek hails himself as the one who informed the community about the scale of the project and served as an accelerator for the local pushback to the plan. The project was approved by the council in October after the district’s current Councilmember Velázquez, a Democrat, changed her long-held position against the project and encouraged her fellow lawmakers to support the rezoning. Her about face came with the backdrop of lawmakers and advocates pointing to a citywide housing crisis, and Adams’ agenda to build more housing stock.

“Lose your zoning, lose your community,” is one of Havranek’s mantras.

A former Community Board 10 member, the alarm bells went off when he saw the proposal in the summer of 2021, and created a petition to alert the community. Soon after, residents were protesting at the project site and shouting at public meetings. Velázquez made assurances that she was against the project, both on the campaign trail and then as the local representative.

Choosing his words carefully, Havranek told the Bronx Times that Velázquez’s final decision was one of betrayal. But his sentiment is no secret. Havranek’s former profile picture on Facebook, in meme form, has a photo of him pointing at the camera and says “Bruckner Betrayer Our Eyes Are On You.”

But his posts also have a positive tune to them, with smiley face and heart emojis sprinkled in, encouraging readers to have a “Meaningful Monday,” and sharing two of his mantras: “Community = Common-unity” and “Inclusion brings solutions.”

Havranek told the Bronx Times that low-density communities in City Council District 13 in the past were in their own world, and reliant on elected officials they viewed as being a phone call away if they needed help. The district spans the most eastern sections of the Bronx, and includes neighborhoods like Throggs Neck, Morris Park, Pelham Bay and Country Club.

“It’s almost like Manhattan didn’t come to our neighborhood, so to speak,” he said. ” … People felt they were insulated, you know, can’t touch this, type thing.”

five people sitting at table in City Council chamber
Second to the left, George Havranek speaks about the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning in the City Council chambers on Wednesday, Sept. 7. Photo Aliya Schneider

But over the years, Havranek, who hasn’t run for political office before, started seeing a shift in the political landscape. One-family homes were being replaced with four-family homes; city agencies, particularly DOT — which normally stands for Department of Transportation, but Havranek likes to refer to the agency as Dismiss Our Thoughts — started embarking on infrastructure projects with a new tone that seemed to care less about community involvement.

He felt that residents of low-density communities in his district had to become more unified and aware of what was going on in “the outside world.”

“And whether you think it’s good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant,” he said. “It’s just that you have to be aware that things are coming. It’s about awareness and civic engagement.”

Havranek believes residents’ quality of life has declined, particularly in the last year, leaving residents feeling uneasy.

He believes there needs to be more police, and a gap needs to be bridged between law enforcement and society.

Havranek, who is now retired but worked in various telecommunications roles for Verizon and as a freelance research consultant, hasn’t always been a Republican, pointing to roots as a union man and a Democrat.

But Progressive Democrats have gone too far left for his liking, tipping the scale in the wrong direction, he said, calling them impatient.

Though he said he has been a Republican for “many years,” campaign filings show that he donated to Democratic District Leader John Doyle in 2021, and in 2019 he gave to the district’s former Councilmember Mark Gjonaj, a moderate Democrat. As for those donations, Havranek said that he supports “common sense,” and that it’s important to work across the aisle.

Filings show Havranek, who described himself as “right of center,” also donated to Republican gubernatorial candidate Andrew Giuliani’s campaign in 2022, as well as local Republican Phyllis Nastasio’s local Assembly campaign.

Financial contributions to Havranek’s campaign haven’t been filed yet, but he shared on his Facebook page on Sunday, the day after his first campaign event, that he was nearing the threshold of $5,000 raised across 75 district residents required for the city campaign finance matching program.

Although a Republican hasn’t been elected in the Bronx in more than a decade, the 13th City Council District seems to be the best bet.

Though 61.5% of active voters were registered Democrats in 2021, the district voted 48.5% in favor of Republican Curtis Sliwa in the mayoral election the same year, a slight edge over 47.4% to Adams.

After running unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2017, Velázquez won the seat in 2021 defeating Republican Aleksander Micci by a 10-point margin, which was much more competitive than the other races in the borough.

But Velázquez seems unfazed by the prospect of another Republican challenger.

“I am excited to run for re-election to continue my record of delivering for all our communities,” she said in a statement to the Bronx Times. “We’ve accomplished a lot, bringing violent crime rates down, supporting our schools and small businesses, and securing funds for our community, but there is much more to do. And I will proudly compare my record of results against anyone climbing out of the clown car of extremism and dishonesty that defines the Republican party today.”

So is the district ready to elect a Republican?

The district is ready for “common sense” change, Havranek said. And he believes he can bring that.

“I think they could elect me, and I’m a Republican, yes,” he said.

The 2023 primaries will take place on June 27 and the general election will be on Nov. 7. City Council terms are two years.

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