“Hosts Rally in Support of Affordable Housing” was at the top of Mayor Eric Adams’ schedule for Tuesday, located at the site of a highly controversial Bruckner Boulevard rezoning proposal in the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx.
By Tuesday morning, his appearance was quietly canceled, but he still declared support for the redevelopment, which would bring four new buildings with 349 apartment units, of which 168 would be designated affordable, including 99 units for seniors. An additional 22 units would be designated for veterans and privately subsidized, according to the development team. But Bronx residents of Community District 10 have responded with uproar against the project, branding it as a harmful upzoning that will overload their previously designated low-density community.
“Mayor Adams wholeheartedly supports this project to create more than 150 new affordable homes in a community that desperately needs them, and we will continue working closely with the City Council and the community to get this project done and create the affordable housing we need,” said Charles Kretchmer, deputy press secretary for the mayor.
Kretchmer said Adams couldn’t attend the rally because of an emergency meeting.
But the rally still went on, primarily organized by the 32BJ SEIU and Laborers Local 79 unions, with speakers from advocacy groups Open NY, Jericho Project, Regional Plan Association, NY Housing Conference, Black Institute and Fortune Society, the nonprofit that would operate another controversial project, the proposed Just Home project at Jacobi Medical Center in Morris Park. Advocates at the rally also spoke in support of Just Home, which would provide housing for formerly jailed medically complex individuals and is also facing fierce community opposition from the neighboring Community District 11.
“We have enough rooms in our hearts and in this world to provide places for people to rest their heads, to build communities, to feel loved, to be engaged, to be valued, and to add to the diversity of a community,” Stanley Richards, deputy CEO of Fortune Society, said at the rally. “So I encourage you all, all residents of this community: walk with love in your heart, see people for not what they did, not for who you see them to be on the streets. See them as you would see your family members: someone to be valued, someone to be loved and someone to be welcomed.”
Supporters chanted about affordable housing while contained to the side of the Bruckner Super Foodtown parking lot furthest from the street, with barriers and NYPD officers keeping protestors chanting “No Upzoning!“ on the other side of the lot. Yet the advocates weren’t entirely protected from the opposition, with a next-door neighbor lifting a garden hose with running water over the parking lot fence.
— Logan Phares (@loganphares) August 30, 2022
“The contours of this fight are clear: On one side you have a diverse and broad coalition of union workers, housing advocates, and everyday New Yorkers who are committed to creating a livable city, affordable housing, and union jobs,” Logan Phares, political director at Open New York said in a statement to the Bronx Times. “On the other side you have a small group of individuals so afraid of change that they’ll even resort to spraying advocates with hoses.”
But local opposition has been vast, with all but one member of the local Community Board 10 striking down the project and local Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez also stating she is against the project — although the City Planning Commission greenlighted the project to continue onto the City Council for consideration. Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson lent her support to the project with conditions that have not been fulfilled.
While residents against the project have often criticized advocates for not living in the neighborhood themselves, Shirley Aldebol, executive vice president of 32BJ SEIU, said she has lived in Throggs Neck for more than a decade, and her family has for about four decades.
“Working families cannot afford to live here,” Aldebol said. “You know, when people bought their houses 40 years ago it was affordable for a working family to be able to buy a starter house and live here and raise their families, but that’s not the case anymore.”
She pointed to building and trade jobs that would come from the proposed development and said the union has been in touch with the developers and city.
Bertha Lewis, founder and president of Black Institute, said that people against the proposal are acting like they’re not from New York — and that Throggs Neck isn’t on its own island.
“We got empty lots,” she said. “You don’t want to build something for veterans on an empty lot? Or would you rather have the empty lot? If you’d rather have an empty lot, then you empty, okay? Because you think you secure, you don’t want nobody else to have nothing. Well that ain’t happening.”
While advocates at the rally argued that Throggs Neck residents aren’t devoid of responsibility in addressing a citywide crisis in affordable housing, protesters told the Bronx Times they aren’t against multi-family homes being built, but rather changes to their local zoning that could invite larger developments and taller buildings being crammed into small parcels. They also have concerns about the sewage system, schools and local police and fire departments being overloaded.
As the residents spoke with the Bronx Times after the rally, someone drove by the site with a no upzoning sign in the car window, hand on the horn, showing solidarity with her neighbors against the project.
“They make us seem like we’re against affordable housing and the types of people that come in, and the homeless,” said lifetime local resident Carmine Bonanno. “We’re not against that. We’re against the upzoning change, not just for here but for every block throughout the neighborhood.”
He also shares concerns about affordability in the neighborhood, saying that even though his kids have good jobs he doesn’t think they’ll be able to afford to stay in the neighborhood. Fellow longtime resident Carol Brumley-McManus said she’s not convinced the proposed apartments will actually be affordable.
Yet when Brendan Cheney, of NY Housing Conference, said that Throggs Neck isn’t doing its part, and every neighborhood needs affordable housing, a woman came up to the barricades and said: “No we don’t. No we don’t. I pay my taxes.”
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes