Tensions were at a high at City Hall today, as supporters and protesters weighed in on a controversial plan to rezone the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx.
At issue is a proposed housing plan to upzone Bruckner Boulevard that would include 349 housing units, of which 168 would be deemed affordable. Of those units, 99 would be reserved for seniors and 22 for veterans. The plan would also include a new supermarket and community space for local youth.
Additionally, the project proposes that at least two buildings be eight-floors high — a top sticking point of many critics of the project.
Supporters, including Mayor Eric Adams, say the city needs the project to help blunt the effects of the current housing crisis gripping the five boroughs.
Earlier this year, the average rent price in Manhattan exceeded $5,000 a month, a sign of the deepening affordability crisis currently facing New Yorkers.
“The rent is too damn high and we need to find places where the rent can be affordable,” Adams said at a rally in support of the Bruckner Boulevard project.
The mayor pushed back on the idea that housing projects should be relegated to specific areas of the city.
“The lack of diversity in this community of believing that you can only have certain communities that you can develop in, that is unacceptable,” Adams added.
However, local opposition, including from City Councilmember Majorie Velázquez, who represents the area, argue that the new project has the potential to diminish the ability for longtime residents to invest in the community.
“Affordability means that our community is losing opportunities for affordable homeownership and our neighbors are increasingly rent burdened. Almost 50% of rental households are rent burdened and our population of homeowners has been declining for years,” said Velázquez at a Wednesday hearing.
Other opponents of the rezoning proposal say that any new development should match the existing one- and two-family homes that currently dot the district.
“We welcome every person, from every ethnicity, to come live in our community. We have a beautiful community. We just want to keep it the way it is,” said John Cerini, president of the Bronx Coalition Against Upzoning. The group has been at the forefront of the fight against the redevelopment plan, with many members being local residents and homeowners.
Critics also say the project doesn’t fully address other underlying issues in the waterfront neighborhood like a lack of public transportation, sewer infrastructure and traffic congestion.
Wednesday’s City Council subcommittee hearing lasted over six hours. The proposed rezoning plan still needs to get final approval from the City Council before moving forward.
Usually, the council member who represents the district in which the project is located will normally get the final say on the project’s future. Velázquez reiterated her concerns and opposition to the project in her district.