Trangucci in Pay for Play Scheme: Illegal Campaign Contribution, Family Connections Fuel Interest in “Odd” Request to Rezone Residential Neighborhood into Hospital District

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle Council Member Louis Trangucci pushed a development project in September for the same real estate developer who made an illegal campaign contribution to Trangucci in June. The proposal was scheduled for a hearing on October 7th but pulled after Talk of the Sound began working on a story about Trangucci’s pay to play deal.

Trangucci accepted an illegal $2,500 campaign contribution from Greg A. Gonzalez on June 20, 2019. Trangucci refunded a portion of Gonzalez’ money after getting heat from the Republican Party; Trangucci, who was first elected 12 years ago, claimed to be unaware there was a $1,000 limit in his campaigns.

Gonzalez is one of the partners behind a proposed development involving 83-85 Washington Ave, LLC, 95 Washington Ave LLC and 99 Washington Ave Realty LLC. Gonzalez and his partners paid roughly $1.5 million for three parcels at 83, 95 & 99 Washington Avenue and are looking to flip the property for twice that amount if they can convince the City Council to gerrymander the Zoning Map to incorporate the three parcels into the Hospital District to allow them to build a 7-story market-rate apartment building within a residential neighborhood near Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital.

The proposed site is an 0.89 acres L-shaped area where each parcel is currently developed with a residential structure, including one two-family, and two multifamily homes.

83-85 Washington Avenue was owned by Anthony Marciano, also a partner in the deal. Trangucci’s daughter is married to Philip Sidoti who works for Marciano.

Gonzalez was on hand at the New Rochelle City Council Committee of the Whole Meeting on September 10, 2019 as Anthony Gioffre of Cuddy & Feder, a White Plains law firm, presented to Council.

Gonzalez, Marciano and there other parters filed a Petition for Rezoning the Hospital District.

The Hospital District was created to encourage Montefiore Medical Center to consolidate on its own property by increasing the allowable FAR in the district not convert residential property into high-rise apartment buildings.

FAR or Floor Area Ratio is a measure of the density based on the total amount of usable floor area that a building has, or has been permitted to have. and the total area of the lot on which the building stands. The higher FAR the better for developers.

Gonzalez, Marciano and Trangucci want to drastically alter the FAR for the three parcels on Washington Avenue, dramatically increasing the property’s value. Gonzalez, Marciano and their partners have no interest in actually building on the location but rather to bring about the zoning change, then flip the property to another real estate developer, according to a source at City Hall familiar with the group’s plans.

The properties are currently zoned as RMF-0.4 Multifamily Residence District with permitted principal uses of one-family dwellings, two-family dwellings and multifamily dwellings, not to exceed four dwelling units per lot.

The allowed FAR in the Hospital District is 3.0 which would allow for a 14-story building, 180 feet tall with a building length of 310 feet taking up 70% of the property. The developers claim they will limit the building to 7 stories with 105 units (12 Studios, 72 1BR, 21 2BR) but, as Aragon acknowledged to Council, they could always come back and ask for more, all the way up to 14-stories.

Whether 7 stories or 14 stories or something in between the building would loom over the residential dwellings around it.

New Rochelle Development Commissioner Luis Aragon acknowledged that the size and scale of the project scares people.

Trangucci pushed hard for the project at the September 10th COW Meeting.

“It needs to happen,” Trangucci implored as the people involved in the project, including those funding his campaign, looked on.

Trangucci claimed that the project was necessary because people in the West End of New Rochelle are being forced out of the community due to the lack of affordable housing for seniors. Gioffre later admitted the apartments would be sold at market rate.

Trangucci went on to point out that some people who work at Montefiore are over 55 years old so the development would be attractive to them, undercutting his own argument that the development was aimed at providing housing for West End seniors.

Council Members appeared befuddled by the proposed re-zoning.

“It’s an odd thing to do”, said Council Member Ivar Hyden who expressed concern that development was occurring without a Master Plan.

Council Member Barry Fertel was incredulous.

“Right in the middle of a residential neighborhood?”, asked Fertel rhetorically, not waiting for an answer, he dismissed the proposal with a sharp “no further questions”.

Jared Rice questioned whether there was really strong demand for market rate senior housing in New Rochelle and expressed concern that the development was more likely to attract empty nesters from outside the neighborhood than West End seniors.