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What Democrats (and New York City) can learn from the GOP victory in the Bronx City Council

Some will attribute Kristy Marmorato’s election as the first Republican to represent the Bronx on the City Council in 40 years to selfish NIMBY-ism.

And there is no doubt that his opposition to two subsidized (aka “affordable”) housing developments in the northeast Bronx (13th District) were a key factor in defeating incumbent Democrat Marjorie Velázquez, a result that Rep. Ritchie Torres said it would be a “national embarrassment” for Democrats.

Here’s what even a moderate Democrat like Torres doesn’t understand: Kristy Marmorato is right about affordable housing.

New York City needs new and different types of housing; what it doesn’t need is more subsidized housing.

Common sense Democrats like Torres need to understand why.

Housing advocates fail to recognize that New York already has far more public and subsidized housing than any other American city: 180,000 public housing units, 125,000 housing vouchers, and nearly a million rent-regulated apartments.

Simply put, if subsidized housing can solve a housing “crisis,” New York would have solved ours a long time ago.

Instead, all of the subsidies mentioned above, along with newer versions like the one Mamorato opposed in the Bronx, help a favored few while distorting the overall housing market.

Income-restricted “affordable” units require households to qualify based on their income, but they can stay as long as they want even if their income increases.

There is also no time limit for public housing, where about 20% of tenants have lived for 40 years or more.

Similarly, rent-stabilized units turn over much more slowly than unregulated apartments.

If you get a good deal in New York, you keep it, even if it has more rooms than you need as you get older, even if you have a summer house in the Hamptons.

Ambitious newcomers give up on finding a place in the city they can afford or must live in split units with adult roommates.

What’s more, middle-class neighborhoods like Throggs Neck and Morris Park, where Marmorato triumphed, correctly understand that subsidized tenants are a quality-of-life concern.

Of course, not all subsidized tenants are drug dealers or thieves.

But middle-class homeowners know that those who received the gift of affordable housing have not made the same life decisions and sacrifices (scrimping and saving for down payments) as they have.

The sad reality is that affordable projects look great when the ribbons are cut, but they deteriorate over time. Homeowners have seen it in other places.

This is an old story in New York that the left has not recognized for a long time.

As early as 1972, the Forest Hills middle class was stridently opposed to a subsidized skyscraper project, and so persecuted and undermined John Lindsay’s failed presidential campaign.

The controversy launched the career of an obscure Queens lawyer, Mario Cuomo, who forged a compromise (scaling down the project) but acknowledged, in his book “Forest Hills Diary,” that opponents had a good point.

Presciently, he noted that African-American homeowners were just as likely as whites to oppose the projects.

They, like middle-class Bronx residents, have moved in and out of low-income neighborhoods and don’t want what they left behind to follow them.

Opponents of subsidized housing were “sincere and reasonable” when they argued that “any substantial influx of poor carries with it the danger of crime and decay,” Cuomo wrote. “Those blacks” in Queens’ Hollis “are lucky to have their own homes.” . . “They said without hesitation that they would not want the project in their neighborhood.”

You wouldn’t be surprised by what a Bronx Stop Upzoning member told NY1.

“We are struggling to pay our mortgage and then they do this,” said Rosaura Rodríguez, objecting to the idea that those who oppose the project are racists. “Here we are all mestizo, they are black, Spanish, Indian,” she said. “I feel sad because I don’t understand why they do this.”

This is how a Republican can win in a district where only 14% of voters are members of his party.

In other words, Kristy Marmorato’s victory by 1,000 votes should be a lesson to Democrats across the country.

Failure to understand the concerns of middle-class voters (including black and Latino voters) is a recipe for defeat.

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