Veteran housing provider Tunnel to Towers no longer involved in Bruckner rezoning plans: developer

foodtown bruckner intersection
The development team behind the proposed Bruckner Boulevard rezoning said the Stephen Stiller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is no longer part of the project, while the foundation said otherwise.
Photo Aliya Schneider

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation will no longer operate veteran housing as part of the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning proposal, according to the applicant team. But the foundation is saying otherwise, adding to a string of supposed miscommunications throughout the proposal process.

The most recent iteration of the proposal would bring community space, a new supermarket replacing the Throggs Neck Super Foodtown and 349 units across four sites, including 168 income-restricted units, of which 99 would be designated for seniors. Developers have also promised 22 units of veteran housing that would be rent-free for the tenants, an evolution from the initial proposal, which didn’t designate units for seniors or veterans.

But these details were in conjunction with the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation operating a three-story building on one of the project sites. Now that plan seems to have stalled, and the details of what will replace it are unclear, other than it being permanent housing.

A spokesperson for the project confirmed with the Bronx Times that Tunnel to Towers is no longer part of the proposal, saying the breakup was a mutual decision and that the situation is fluid.

But the foundation didn’t describe the decision as mutual — in fact, they disputed no longer being involved with the project.

Matthew Mahoney, the executive vice president of the foundation, told the Bronx Times on Tuesday that the organization has not pulled out of the project, nor have they been asked to.

“I know the developer is getting pushback from some members of the community and I’m sure it’s an evolving situation on many levels,” he added in an e-mail to the Bronx Times. “Regardless, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation will always support America’s heroes in the Bronx and throughout the United States.”

In a statement to the Bronx Times, Sam Goldstein, a spokesperson for the applicant team from Marino PR, said the developers decided to go with a permanent housing mode, as opposed to a transitional one with Tunnel to Towers.

“Veterans housing is an important component of our project and we have heard from many stakeholders on this issue,” he said. “While Tunnel to Towers does remarkable work on behalf of those who served our country, we agreed that a more permanent model of housing is more suitable for this community.”

But Mahoney said that Tunnel to Towers’ housing model nationally includes both transitional and permanent housing, and that the type of housing that the organization would utilize for the Bruckner Boulevard proposal had not yet been finalized.

Goldstein did not have answers to a list of questions about what this means for the project.

This isn’t the first time information was unclear about the proposal, which has been floating around the community for more than a year now. Just two days before the City Planning Commission vote on the project, the applicant and commission had different ideas of how many units were being proposed. Then, at the City Council public hearing, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson announced that applicant Throggs Neck Associates LLC — an entity that consists of local property owners — agreed to lower one of the buildings, which the applicant team said was incorrect. Though Gibson’s office confirmed after the hearing she was off by one-floor, a spokesperson for Gibson stood by their office being told the building would be lowered. Meanwhile, the applicant team remained vague about the building height, saying they were considering lowering it.

Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez, who has stood against the project in line with opposition from local residents, said in an interview with the Bronx Times last month that “the vagueness of the whole project” has left her unsettled, and that the applicant team has left too many questions unanswered.

Among her concerns were details of the veteran housing, such as how big the units would be, which veterans they would target and how, and if there would be an elevator in the proposed three-story building that was planned to house the Tunnel to Towers units.

“I understand this is their first development, so maybe instead of doing four sites, they take the application out and start really working with the community and develop one site at a time — if they knew how to get things done, right?” she said. “Or just go back to the community, have a serious conversation and ask us what we really want, instead of trying to figure it out by adding something, taking it away —  you know, it just feels to me like a fishy expedition … lack of clarity has caused a lot of these concerns.”

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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