In the East Bronx, development is afoot.
And while City Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez said managing the change will preserve the district’s future, those looking to unseat her say that slowing, or even stopping, it will preserve their way of life.
“It’s about being more proactive than reactive,” the incumbent said.
What You Need To Know
- In the Democratic primary, Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez is facing off against Bernadette Ferrara, Irene Estrada and John Perez
- In the more competitive Republican and Conservative primaries, it's George Havranek vs. Kristy Marmorato vs. Hasime Samantha Zherka
- At issue are the Bruckner Boulevard rezoning, the Metro-North expansion and “Just Home,” the initiative to house formerly incarcerated people at Jacobi Medical Center
Republican George Havranek listed the work underway: “In this district, it’s been Bruckner and now you have a Just Homes project. … And also you have Metro-North coming in. And those are going to be big, big things going on.”
In this month’s Democratic primary in Council District 13, Velázquez is facing off against Irene Estrada, John Perez and Bernadette Ferrara, who disparages the incumbent as too woke.
The district includes Throgs Neck and Morris Park.
“I feel that in this particular race that a moderate Democrat will win,” Ferrara said. “And myself, I am community-orientated, common sense and old school.”
In the more competitive — and more expensive — Republican primary, Havranek, Kristy Marmorato and Hasime Samantha Zherka are facing off.
They’re also competing in the city’s only Conservative Party primary.
Velázquez is targeted for her vote to rezone part of Bruckner Boulevard, which passed unanimously in the City Council.
She stressed that she negotiated union jobs and housing for veterans and seniors.
She added, “And then, we also have a component of units directly for generational wealth. It’s housing ownership and giving that, that access to our families who want to do more than just rent.”
Havranek, who calls himself right-of-center, led an upzoning opposition group.
“If we want to keep and reap the blessings of our fine quality of life, we all must endure the fatigue of supporting it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Marmorato is fiercely opposed to the “Just Home” initiative at Jacobi Medical Center, set to begin mere hundreds of yards from where she lives. The campus will house formerly incarcerated patients with complex medical needs.
“What’s going to happen if someone who decides to climb the fence and go into someone’s home?” Marmorato asked, adding: “You’re placing these individuals from one institutionalized setting right into another and we do not have the proper amenities to support this kind of project.”
Marmorato is a health care professional and first-time candidate endorsed by the Bronx Republican Party, which is run by her brother.
Zherka’s parents were tortured in communist Albania.
“They were told to submit to the regime, and they rejected it,” she recounted. “My father was imprisoned. My mother attempted to escape, and she was caught.”
Zherka, who counts a Jan. 6 defendant among her top campaign aides, argued that the “Just Home” building could be used instead to train nurses.
She also wants the East Bronx to remain lower-density.
“If we attack Throggs Neck, County Club, then where does one aspire to move to?” she said. “If we’re all upzoned and we have tremendous skyscrapers, there’s an infrastructure issue.”
Ferrara, the leading Democrat facing Velázquez, said she would have been a flat-out “no” to the Bruckner rezoning, which paves the way for more than 300 units.
She believes another threat to the district is the Homeless Bill of Rights that passed the council with bipartisan support, including Velázquez’s vote.
“You’re going to have tents everywhere,” Ferrara said, gesturing down the Pelham Parkway Greenway.
Velázquez said she won’t shrink from a fight for her constituents — or for her seat.
“Oftentimes, the fear-mongering is what prevents genuine discussions about what can really take place here,” the councilwoman said, “And how can we imagine a better Bronx, a better district?”