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Mark-Viverito calls for City Hall to be more ‘proactive’ after La Central approval

The City Council unanimously approved on Wednesday a development project in the Bronx that is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy designed to build more affordable housing units across the city.

But with its approval, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito also suggested City Hall could do more to improve negotiations between local members, the city, and the communities slated for development.

“The mayor and the administration need to focus on being proactive and engaged with council members in their districts and with the communities that we represent to make sure that information is being arrived at in a transparent way about what the project is and what it seeks to do, that needs to happen,” Mark-Viverito said. “It is not just our responsibility to do that, it is also City Planning and it is also the administration’s responsibility to be able to explain to a community why this project is in their best interest and why they would like to see a favorable vote.”

The 992-unit project in the Melrose section of the Bronx known as La Central will include below-market rate housing, a YMCA, green spaces, and an astronomy tower with a rooftop telescope for its residents.

Councilman Rafael Salamanca, who represents the district where the development will be built, said he ultimately decided to vote in support of the proposal because the developers and the administration were willing to negotiate on certain requests made by local residents, including deeper levels of affordability. Salamanca said the developer also committed to hiring union labor and securing the green spaces.

“Even a few weeks ago I was not sure of how I was going to approve this project due to a number of real needs that had yet to be addressed. Fortunately in this instance we were able to come to an agreement where I believe all the needs of our community have been met and were all parties involved are in favor of this project,” Salamanca told reporters during a press conference before the vote.

Aaron Koffman, principal at The Hudson Companies, which is developing the site, said the project will also include education facilities, public open space and a daycare center.

“We’re proud that La Central will have a transformative effect on the neighborhood and create hundreds of local jobs,” Koffman said.

Salamanca’s approval of the project comes weeks after the City Council voted to block another development project in Northern Manhattan known as Sherman Plaza after the administration and the local council member deadlocked on an agreement over levels of affordability and the height of the project.

La Central’s vote also follows a set of acrimonious back and forth between Mayor Bill de Blasio and councilman Jimmy Van Bramer who is currently in the middle of negotiating a deal for another development in Sunnyside, Queens which he represents. That project has been strongly opposed by the local residents there.

Mark-Viverito said on Wednesday the different debates around projects in members’ districts are each separate issues and should not be interpreted as opposition to the mayor’s Inclusionary Zoning (MIH) plan, which the council voted to approve earlier this year.

“Every project is very different, the interests of the communities vary and as such, that is why we allow the deliberations at the local level to take precedence,” Mark-Viverito told reporters at City Hall. “So it’s not fair to say that it was just a rejection of MIH, it was a deliberative process in which the local member came to the conclusion that the needs were not being met and as such had to vote against it,” she said in reference to the Northern Manhattan project.

Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for de Blasio said, “there is a need for affordable housing in every neighborhood in this city, and we welcome every opportunity to make the case for it directly to communities.”

Of the Sunnyside project, Grace said the project would be entirely made up of affordable units in a community where “more than 7,000 residents are on affordable housing waitlists.”


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