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July 18, 2008

National ACORN's (episode of) scandal, and NY ACORN's dubious Brooklyn stadium deal (in 2000)

Atlantic Yards Report

ACORN founder [and former national director] Wade Rathke wrote 3/1/07 on his blog about AY:

Surprisingly, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the divide among the Park Slope liberals and others who were unwilling to join us in making the diversity of the community the core issue.

As Norman Oder examines ACORN NYC's role in a previous Brooklyn stadium controversy, you gotta worry that Rathke's head scratching might be genuine; if so, he missed the part about how Bertha Lewis cut a deal and sold out her coalition partners, who, incidentally, fought on.

The result was a win-win for everyone involved: local stakeholders benefitted from the renovation of the Parade Grounds, the Mets built the minor league ballpark in Coney Island (a location much better served by public transporation) and jobs were created.

But Bertha Lewis's penchant for being a solo broker for the community left one journalist a little suspicious. From Oder's interview with Neil deMause:

Q. Was there a parallel with the Atlantic Yards affordable housing agreement signed by ACORN?

A. It just happened much earlier in the Nets deal. She sold out or bought in, depending on how you want to put it, very early. Ok, fine, if you’re going to give me what I want, then I’ll go for it. There are arguments for doing CBAs [Community Benefits Agreements] where, if developer does do enough things for the community, then that’s OK, people buy in.

The problem of course is that Bertha didn’t get together with everybody in the community and say, OK, let’s figure out what the community wants, and let’s present a list of demands to Ratner and, until you make us all happy, we’re not going to go along with it. It’s that I’m going to cut a deal for myself and everybody else is then the enemy.

So, yeah, speaking of people who’ve lost credibility. I mean, ACORN’s done a lot of good things, and I’m sure Bertha has done good things in her time, but she definitely has this capacity for selling her support for projects based more on narrow self-interest of her and the organization rather than what’s good for community or the city. That’s disappointing, to say the least.

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NoLandGrab: Keep in mind that ACORN stands to profit financially from Atlantic Yards by acting as the administrator for the project's affordable housing component.

Posted by lumi at July 18, 2008 6:04 AM