Velázquez, Marmorato to square off in City Island ahead of hotly contested Council District 13 vote

Left: City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez checks the returns with her team ahead of her Democratic primary victory on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Right: Kristy Marmorato, hosts her campaign party at Brewski’s Bar and Grill on June 27, 2023.
Left: City Council Member Marjorie Velázquez checks the returns with her team ahead of her Democratic primary victory on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Right: Kristy Marmorato, hosts her campaign party at Brewski’s Bar and Grill on June 27, 2023.
Photos Pamela Rozon

In what’s been dubbed one of the most interesting New York City races this campaign cycle, East Bronx City Council candidates Marjorie Velázquez, the incumbent, and challenger Kristy Marmorato are preparing for a week of head-to-head debates before Election Day. And it starts tonight. 

The pair is set to attend the City Island Civic Association’s candidate forum in the Community Center tonight at 7:30 p.m., where they’ll be able to give short speeches about their platforms and take audience questions. Later this month, the two are also scheduled to debate on BronxNet, which will air on Oct. 31 (Halloween) at 9 p.m. on Optimum 67 and Fios 2133.

The duo also held court earlier this month, on Oct. 4, at a Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance candidate forum. 

Velázquez, 42, the Democratic incumbent representing District 13, originally won her seat on the council in 2021 after an unsuccessful bid in 2017. But her first term in office hasn’t come without some criticism — notably from low-density housing proponents after her about-face over the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning project a year ago. The plan, which is set to bring 348 new apartments to Throggs Neck, including units set aside for seniors and veterans, passed the full City Council in October 2022 after Velázquez’s unexpected decision to back the project.

The incumbent said Tuesday that she views the original Bruckner proposal and the one she landed on as being “vastly different.”

“Let’s be clear, the ultimate Bruckner rezoning agreement I brokered was vastly different than the initial proposal because I stepped in to negotiate a strong deal that directly addressed community needs, including home ownership guarantees, priority housing for local seniors and veterans, reduced building heights, affordability requirements, infrastructure enhancements, and hundreds of local union jobs,” Velázquez said. “My job as council member is to listen to the community and demand that local priorities are delivered. The tremendous improvements we ultimately secured demonstrate I did just that.”

There are five City Council races in the Bronx where incumbents are being challenged in the general election. Only one race, Council District 13 in the East Bronx, is expected to truly be contested, however. Chart courtesy Camille Botello

Republican challenger Marmorato, a newcomer to politics, has been one of her prime critics over the Bruckner project. A staunch opponent of the rezoning  proposal, the 45-year-old has claimed she would have maintained a “no” position had she been on the council at the time of the vote. 

But even with some backlash over her Bruckner vote, Velázquez was able to easily scoot past her Democratic challengers in a June primary — securing 67% of the total vote, and the win, in the first round of ranked-choice voting. Opponents Bernadette Ferrara, Irene Estrada and John Perez — who ran to the political right of Velázquez — gathered 19%, 7% and 5% of the vote, respectively. 

Marmorato’s journey to the Republican podium hasn’t been as cut-and-dry. The GOP-backed candidate faced a lot of scrutiny from her primary challengers Hasime “Samantha” Zherka and George Havranek during a heated Schneps Media/PoliticsNY virtual debate this summer — who accused Marmorato of being a nepotism party pick. The Morris Park resident is the sister of Bronx GOP Chair Michael Rendino, and is married to Gino Marmorato, the Republican commissioner for the city Board of Elections. She did not respond to request for comment on nepotism accusations Tuesday, but told the Bronx Times in a previous interview that her brother and the Bronx GOP haven’t had a role in her campaign.   

Because the primaries incorporated ranked-choice voting, candidates were required to surpass more than 50% of the vote in order to claim victory in the first round. As a result, the Republican Primary turned into a tightly contested race for the East Bronx in June. Marmorato was inches away from the threshold after round one with 48%, while Havranek trailed closely at 44%. In the third round, however, Marmorato eclipsed the 50% threshold to claim victory. 

The Republican said she’s looking forward to discussing her platform at tonight’s forum, adding that she thinks her opponent’s tenure on the council has been “abysmal” thus far. 

“This will be a great event, as many can hear my firm commitment to our community and for (Velázquez) to defend her lack of record in the community,” Marmorato said. 

But Velázquez emphasized her commitment to public safety, small businesses and local union jobs as reasons to check the ballot for her again. 

“This forum is an opportunity to talk with City Island constituents about my record funding the City Island Oyster Reef, cleaning up abandoned vessels, and supporting FDNY Engine 70/Ladder 53,” the East Bronx Democrat said. “Every opportunity to engage with District 13 residents is one I cherish.”

A Republican has not been elected to public office in the Bronx since 2004. Council District 13 includes the neighborhoods of Throggs Neck, Allerton, Morris Park, City Island and Pelham Parkway.

Other City Council incumbents facing challengers in the Nov. 7 General Election include District 12 City Council Member Kevin Riley, District 15 Council Member Oswald Feliz, District 16 Council Member Althea Stevens, District 17 Council Member Rafael Salamanca and District 18 Council Member Amanda Farías. None of those races are expected to close contests, however. 

Early voting starts this Saturday, Oct. 28, and runs through Nov. 5. To find out where to vote, visit the New York City Board of Election poll site locator at

Reach Camille Botello at For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes