Bronx Councilman, Borough Prez Signed Off on Controversial Project Following Campaign Contributions

A rendering of Blondell Commons.

By Kevin Deutsch
kdeutsch@bronxjusticenews.com

Neighborhood activists are fighting the city’s plan to build an affordable housing complex in the Bronx after local news outlets revealed campaign donations made by the complex’s developer to key borough officials, who later signed off on the project.

Blondell Commons is set to be erected on the site of a former junkyard on Blondell Avenue, despite opposition from two Bronx community boards who deemed the development too big for the location. The City Council unanimously approved the project, plus $1.4 million in city funds, after its endorsement by Bronx city councilman Mark Gjonaj. The project also got the go-ahead from Bronx Borough Present Ruben Diaz Jr.

It turns out both politicians received campaign donations from people closely connected to Exact Capital, the developer of Blondell Commons.

Crain’s New York Business reported that Gjonaj’s campaign received $11,000 from people related to the owners of Exact Capital, while NY1 reported that Diaz received $15,000 in campaign donations in 2014 and 2016 from Exact Capital Co-Owner Craig Livingston, his wife, and relatives of Exact Capital’s other owner.

Gjonaj told NY1 there was nothing improper about his involvement.

“I know who I am. I sleep very well with myself. I can’t be bought off,” Gjonaj told the station.

As for Diaz, NY1 reported he declined multiple requests for an interview.

About Kevin Deutsch 134 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, incarceration, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, and the New York Post, among other publications. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.