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October 26, 2007

LID nay to AY

We've been wondering why Lambda Independent Democrats (LID) chose this late date to take a position against Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards plan, nearly ten months after the project received approval from the NY State Public Authorities Control Board.

Initially, we speculated that the move had something to do with project cheerleader Borough President Marty Markowitz's support of notorious anti-gay former city councilmember Noach Dear.

This week, another clue surfaces in two articles in the weekly papers The Brooklyn Paper and Gay City News.

From our perch here in Ratnerville, it appears that Marty and Bruce might have been trying to co-opt the gay community by offering them space in a Ratner-owned building. Uncomfortable with such cozy quarters, the executive board members of LID, many of whom are ardent critics of the Ratner megaproject, sought to make their position clear on the project in general.

The Brooklyn Paper, Gays won’t shack up with Bruce

Many political groups and activists have opposed Atlantic Yards, but there is a deeper context to Lambda’s seemingly day-late/dollar short resolution. Earlier this year, Borough President Markowitz promised gay and lesbian activists that he would work towards developing a community center, much like the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village, in a Ratner-owned building in Downtown.

At Monday’s meeting, many members of the Lambda club honed in on the irony.

“I feel like our favorite borough president [Markowitz] is holding a carrot in front of our faces saying, ‘Ooh, gay people, you can have a community center if you support Atlantic Yards,’” said Lisa Badner, a member of the Lambda executive committee.

Gay City News, Gays Tackle Atlantic Yards

A leading gay political group voted to oppose the Atlantic Yards, a $4 billion development project that would build a basketball arena and 16 towers in downtown Brooklyn.

"The process here has been so abhorrent," said Ken Diamondstone, a member of the executive committee of the Lambda Independent Democrats (LID), Brooklyn's gay political club. "We need to go on record here and I support it."

Not everyone thought that taking a position was a good idea, though no one spoke in favor of the project:

"I want to know why Lambda should touch this issue at all," said Alan Fleishman, an LID member and longtime gay politico who serves as a Democratic district leader and opposes the project. "Outside of the death penalty and abortion, Lambda hasn't dealt with issues outside of gay rights."

Others said the project was inevitable and a vote opposing it now would only alienate public officials who support it.

LID invited Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn's borough president and a project booster, to speak in favor of the development, but he declined. No one spoke in favor of Atlantic Yards.

Though the article doesn't quote a the Ratner spokesperson directly, it seems that the developer is eager to promote the idea that the project isn't going require very much public money at all:

A Ratner spokesperson said the development would get $300 million in subsidies. Other estimates have put that figure at nearly $2 billion.

It appears that Ratner and Marty miscalculated the effect that their overture would have on the group:

James Whitty, an LID member and Atlantic Yards opponent, said the club is responding, in part, to a proposal by Markowitz to include a gay community center in the development.

"They feel that the enticement to the gay community to offer us a lesbian and gay community center in Brooklyn was made to divide people," Whitty said. "It hit home where we were like we don't want to be involved in this."

Ratner's clean-up crew issued this statement:

In a statement, Forest City Ratner wrote that it has "a tremendous amount of respect for New York's gay and lesbian communities and it is unfortunate that this organization did not get their facts correct prior to their vote. Atlantic Yards was approved by the state last year after three years of lengthy and rigorous discussions with the local community, local leaders, and city and state officials... The Frank Gehry-designed Atlantic Yards will revitalize the current site, creating over 2,250 units of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers... Atlantic Yards is not only supported by a majority of Brooklyn's State Assembly, State Senate, and City Council delegations, but also, according to the last major poll, the development is supported by over 60 percent of all Brooklynites and New Yorkers."

Posted by lumi at October 26, 2007 10:32 AM