Op-Ed | What’s so different about this Democrat? Marjorie Velázquez is about to find out.

white plains road shelter
The former bingo hall at 2028 White Plains Road was destined to become a men’s shelter, until the city pulled its plan on March 18, 2022.
Photo Adrian Childress

I’ve been a passionate community leader since becoming a member of Bronx Community Board 11 in 2008, a founding member of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance (VNNA) two years later, and the civic organization’s president in 2015. 

As a volunteer, I’ve been doing the constituent services work of a city councilmember for 14 years: 

  • In my role on CB11, I attended City Planning Commission info sessions and community workshops since 2011. In December, the commission unveiled new plans to build 6,000 “affordable” housing units along the Morris Park-Van Nest stretch of the Metro-North route to midtown that includes 900 units for the homeless. I’m now working with the commission to ensure neighborhoods impacted by this 46-block upzoning proposal are informed, involved and their voices heard.
  • As a CB11 board member, I’ve also been fighting for years against city proposals to build single men’s homeless shelters on Blondell Avenue, Poplar Street and White Plains Road. Pushback from a task force I initiated with Pelham Parkway community leaders prompted NYC Department of Homeless Services to withdraw the proposal for the White Plains Road shelter.
  • Under my leadership as VNNA president, $1.3 million for Van Nest Park was secured from various elected officials, plus $60,000 for the flagpole at the War Memorial Plaza. VNNA also got $400,000 for the plaza from NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.
  • In 2011, the DOT commissioner closed the White Plains Road entrance to Mead Street. I insisted that FDNY make a dry run to test response times. Sure enough, the fire truck wasn’t able to turn onto Mead Street from Unionport Road. I informed the DOT commissioner and Mead Street was reopened.
  • I testified four times before the NYC and NYS Redistricting commissions between November 2021 and August 2022 so that state Assembly, state Senate and City Council lines didn’t divide Van Nest between two districts. The redistricting map I drew in support of my testimonies was adopted by the commission, with only slight changes.

So now, I’d like to “make it official” by being elected to serve District 13 on the City Council.

This is one of the most hotly contested City Council races this year. There are already six Republicans running against each other in the Republican Primary. While the Republicans are fighting each other to win the primary, I will be running hard against the incumbent Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez in the Democratic Primary.

Velázquez is far to the left of the district and broke her promise to Throggs Neck residents to invoke “member deference” and ask councilmembers to vote against a plan to upzone a section of Bruckner Boulevard for construction of an “affordable” housing development in an otherwise low-density neighborhood.

As a “Different Kinda Democrat,” my platform is practical and community oriented, and represents the views and wishes of District 13.

In addition to community specific issues like unwanted upzoning, homeless men’s shelters and drug treatment facilities, my platform is simple: C.O.P.E.: Crime, Opportunity, Public Health and Education: 

  • Crime: Oppose defunding the police, as well as replacing Rikers Island with jails located in residential neighborhoods in The Bronx and other boroughs.
  • Opportunity: Make New York City more hospitable to family-owned small businesses and start-ups by reducing burdensome regulations/taxes/fees, and work to establish Opportunity Zones in areas hardest hit by COVID lockdowns to create well-paying full-time jobs.
  • Public Health: I oppose vaccine and mask mandates for public and private sector workers alike, and don’t want New York City to lockdown again, should another pandemic occur.
  • Education: Strongly support parental rights and oversight of public school curricula, and want taxpayer funding to follow the student when parents opt to place children in private or parochial schools, or in home school co-operatives.

I plan to join the bipartisan Common Sense Caucus to oppose legislation that undermines these policies, and the quality of life of voters I am running to represent.

District 13 doesn’t have to flip Republican to get safe streets, good schools and more jobs. I ran on a similar platform in 2021 when Van Nest was in District 15. My common-sense policies resonated with voters, and I finished the primary in the top three — in a close tie for second place.

I’ve been a Democrat for most of my life, and all about democracy. I believe an elected official should represent the community, not a partisan or ideological agenda. What a radical idea, right?

Bernadette Ferrara is chair of Bronx Community Board 11 and president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance.