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May 13, 2006

Report from Democracy for NYC's Brooklyn Candidate Forum

While the unveiling was the media event of the week, Brooklyn political candidates were talking up a storm at Thursday's Democracy for NYC's Brooklyn Candidate Forum at Brown Memorial Church. Here is how they answered questions from the public about the Atlantic Yards Proposal:

State Assembly in District 57:

Bill Batson On fighting AYP: It's impossible to have an argument with a shadow. We don't know who is doing what, we don't know what they're doing. I'm on Community Board 8 – all we got from FCR was a sheet of paper – not the showy stuff, a Xerox paper that said CBA, which I'm thinking is either Consultants Benefit Agreement or Corporate Benefit Agreement.

I want to reopen CBA and make it binding. There's no veto that we have as a community, we don't have a secret veto that if they engage in a real debate we can suddenly pull it out and say 'gotcha.' You know, like a "Don't Build" card. So why can't they talk to us, civilized, like over a table, with real issues and take our input? It's always staged, it's always very manufactured, consultant driven, and very offensive. Why is our fate being decided in Albany?

We don't get anything in Brooklyn for centuries, and then they want to build everything – 400 years of stuff all at once, without planning. And they don't want to have to debate about it. Well they're going to have to debate about it.

Hakeem Jeffries Supports a 'principled compromise' on AYP with three caveats: real affordable housing, no eminent domain for an arena, and that the "CBA promises to deliver what it intends to deliver." Also said he was concerned about the scale of the project. Also declared that the people on Ratner's side are being unfairly demonized. Also explained that his definition of affordable housing is about purchasing, not just renting, and that the income limit for a family of four to qualify for affordable housing should be raised to $195,000.

U.S. Congress in District 11: (The current representative Major Owens is retiring so this is an "open seat.")

Carl Andrews This project needs to be very very very very very closely scrutinized. (environmental impact, jobs, affordable housing, effect on community) It's a good project even though there might be some concerns as to the way it is being implemented and the manner they are gathering community input.

Yvette Clarke Said she did not know what role the federal government would have in being able to prevent developments that could be terrorist targets.

Chris Owens I'm one of the folks that advocates for Brooklyn jobs, not simply saying we're going to promise construction jobs and promise jobs in arenas and developments that may not exist. There ought to be industry here in Brooklyn that is supporting alternative energy. Where were these colleagues in Dec. 2003 who could say, you know what? If the local elected officials have a problem with [AYP] so should we. They didn't say a word. They waited to see the benefits they would get from the developer.

Nick Perry You don't do things without community input and you always make sure it is substantial, that it counts, you listen to the people. And so my instinct is to listen to the people who live around the area of the proposal and get a sense of what they want. Mind you I am generally supportive of development, as I'm sure most of you are, but we can't move along with a project when so many of the people who live in the precincts of the project raise serious questions and concerns. I have been working with my colleagues who represent the immediate vicinity around the project, [Brennan, Millman, Montgomery and James] and I have been very cautious in taking a position on this project. [Supports Brennan bill] Would not support the use of eminent domain in this project.

David Yassky Was for waterfront rezoning, de-landmarking of the Austin-Nichols Warehouse and removed people from their homes. Said that $50,000 donations from two developers (one of which is of Greenpoint Terminal fire fame, and their families, per the Daily News) to his campaign is not a large amount of money and does not influence his politics. Insists that most of his money is from environmentalists because he personally sued Exxon-Mobil.

State Senate in District 20:

Eric Adams First of all I am not in support of subsidizing developers to build luxury houses. There's no such thing in New York as non-prime real estate, so why are we paying developers to develop it….To deal with the AYP directly – I cannot support that project as it stands. [reasons: terrorism, asthma, sewer, traffic, evacuation] I would never be supportive of any project that deals with eminent domain. Until we answer all of those questions, it's difficult to move ahead with any project of that magnitude.

Anthony Alexis Started by saying the AYP is in Downtown Brooklyn. Against eminent domain and subsidizing private development, but supports projects where people say in good faith that the intention is to create jobs in our community, which he says is the case with the AYP. "We need to continue the dialog with the developer, but unless people come to the table with a real plan about how to help the community create jobs and other issues then clearly to me it's just playing politics. When I say I support the project, it doesn't mean the project is perfect, it simply means that I think that might be an opportunity to help our community in terms of creating jobs."

Elizabeth King I want to tell you from working on a construction site that it is a myth that jobs will be provided to the community. It's not gonna happen. It is a myth that there's gonna be affordable housing, it's simply not gonna happen. I work at a construction site in the community at Medgar Evers College, the community comes in every day in great numbers, they're all looking for jobs, where are the jobs? There are no jobs. If I get elected I will put your voices ahead of anything that comes from the construction industry. I know that many people are concerned about what Ratner is able to do, and developers are able to do, but there will be no jobs, I can attest to it. I have to tell people every day, there are no jobs.

Posted by amy at May 13, 2006 2:12 PM