By Bill Parry
A sudden rift has developed between Mayor Bill de Blasio and a key ally, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), the majority leader of the City Council, which has unanimously voted down a project in upper Manhattan that would have delivered 67 affordable apartments to Inwood section.
During an unrelated press event in the Bronx Thursday, de Blasio said without the necessary rezoning, there is no requirement for the developer to build affordable units on the Inwood site.
“So this one makes no sense to me,” de Blasio said. “I’m going to be very straight up with people in this community and every other community: Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”
And then the mayor turned the spotlight onto Van Bramer, who will hold sway over the final decision on the controversial Phipps Houses project that would deliver 209-units of 100 percent mixed income affordable housing just outside the Sunnyside Gardens historic district. Van Bramer, who has the power to determine the fate of the project as the area’s representative in the Council, renewed his opposition to the proposal after the City Planning Commission approved it by a vote of 12-0 Aug. 10. City Planning’s blessing was expected due to support from the mayor and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been.
“This project now comes before the City Council where I will oppose it, vote against it and encourage my colleagues to do the same,” Van Bramer said. The Council rejected the upper Manhattan proposal Tuesday following the lead of Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), another key ally of the mayor.
It was the first test case of de Blasio’s newly passed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy, which requires affordable units when a project benefits from rezoning. The Phipps Houses project will be the next test case of those rules.
“I am going to have a polite but firm conversation with the councilman, who I know very well and respect greatly,” de Blasio said Thursday. Van Bramer returned fire through social media, immediately tweeting “and he will be met with a polite and firmer response.”
In articles published Friday morning, Van Bramer went ballistic.
“I don’t work for the mayor. And I do not appreciate the tone that I will be spoken to in a firm manner,” Van Bramer told the Wall Street Journal. “I suppose if I disappointed my husband or my father, I might get that reaction, but you know, I am fighting for my community.”
When Van Bramer, a resident of Sunnyside Gardens, first rejected the Phipps House plan in the spring, he said he got more feedback from residents and neighbors that on any other issue in his 6 1/2 years on the City Council.
“I have gone back and forth for over a year, listened to my constituents,” Van Bramer told Politico New York. “He can be firm if he’d like, but I will be equally firm if not more so at this point in defending my position and the position of the vast majority of people in my community. The only people that I work for are the people of the 26th District, and I might add the mayor also works for them.”
Van Bramer said he and the mayor have not had one conversation about the project.
“If the mayor wishes to have a polite conversation about his arguments in support of the Phipps development and my reasons for being opposed, he has my phone number,” Van Bramer said Friday morning. “I gladly await his call.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr