City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez turned on her long-touted public stance against the proposed Bruckner Boulevard rezoning late Thursday morning, urging fellow lawmakers to approve the project.
And her wish was granted, as the subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises and the Land Use Committee both unanimously passed the proposal, which will now head to the full 51-member City Council for a vote.
The hotly contested proposal would bring 349 apartments to Bruckner Boulevard, including 168 affordable, to Throggs Neck, an area with lower density growth management zoning, if the plans are approved.
“It has always been, for me, about my district and meeting their needs, and I would like to say, thankfully, we’ve gotten there,” Velázquez said prior to the subcommittee vote. “And so with this, I ask my colleagues — the same ones that said that you’re with me — then be with my community. Please put this as a yes and more importantly, let’s hold every single developer accountable and make sure they know that they’re not just dealing with one, but they’re dealing with 51 members united in making a decision that is best for our individual communities. … I look forward to building together.”
Community Board 10 chair Joseph Russo told the Bronx Times that he doesn’t know what community Velázquez is talking about.
“We’ll deal with the hand we’re dealt with, but we were not supportive at all,” he said. ” … I don’t know what community the councilwoman is speaking of, because the community was very adamant about their lack of support for this project — not only for the project, for the applicants. So I’m pleased that she is saying yes to a community, but I’m not sure what community that is she is saying yes to. But good for her.”
Velázquez could not be reached following the vote. Her office provided a statement attributed to the councilmember a couple of hours after the second vote citing a citywide housing crisis that makes it difficult for district residents to stay in the neighborhood. She said the updated project brings deeper affordable housing, more good jobs and additional benefits but did not detail the changes.
In her opening remarks right before the subcommittee vote, Velázquez, a Throggs Neck Democrat, said her priority has always been about building with local labor. She had previously expressed concerned with the carpenters’ union being excluded from the project. But the union, while previously against the proposal, confirmed now being onboard.
The councilmember’s stance against the proposal was never just about the union, however, with a slew of criticisms of the proposal and applicant team, ranging from a lack of community input to infrastructure concerns.
As to whether any changes to the proposal would make her reconsider it, Velázquez told the Bronx Times on Sept. 15 that she doesn’t think the developers “understand what it takes to get done.”
“It just leaves me unsettled, and if it leaves me unsettled I can only imagine how it’s been affecting our families,” she said.
For months, with residents furious over the proposal and skeptical of Velázquez’s stance against it, the councilmember assured them she has been against it from the start, and, per public remarks in April, that her stance “has not” and “will not” change.
As of Thursday, the intricacies of the project aren’t entirely clear to the public. The developers this week confirmed that the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, as previously promised, was no longer going to provide veteran housing, but would not offer any details of what would replace it other than permanent housing. However, the mayor’s office on Thursday said there will be 25 units of veteran housing incorporated into the project, as well as the promised 99 units of senior housing.
Russo, the CB10 chair, said he hasn’t been kept in the loop about the proposal, last hearing from developers in a call facilitated by Velázquez on Sept. 22 that left him questioning the reality of the applicant’s promises.
“I have no idea what backroom deal has been agreed to,” he told the Bronx Times Thursday afternoon. “I have no idea what has changed.”
Sam Goldstein, a spokesperson for the applicant team from Marino PR, did not respond to questions about changes to the proposal but sent a statement thanking politicians for their support.
“We applaud Council Member Velazquez for her leadership in standing up for Throggs Neck and ensuring seniors, veterans and young people will have an opportunity to call this community home,” he said. “We’re especially grateful to Speaker Adrienne Adams for her leadership, and to Mayor Eric Adams and Borough President Gibson for their commitment to addressing the urgent need for affordable homes and good union jobs across the five boroughs.”
At the subcommittee meeting Thursday, Velázquez made it a point to say that council deference — an unofficial rule that members of the council vote in line with the local member — is not dead, and that she loves her fellow lawmakers for that. The councilmember allegedly said she was against member deference when seeking out an endorsement from Open New York, a housing advocacy group, during her campaign.
With the local member’s support, the project is expected to be passed by the full council next week.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected]media.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes