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September 16, 2009

Primary Election Round-up: Atlantic Yards edition

It's hard to say that Atlantic Yards played much of a role in the outcomes of yesterday's primary elections, since in many races, such as Brooklyn's 33rd and 39th District City Council primaries, all the candidates professed at least some degree of opposition to the project.

There was one race, however, which could be viewed as a referendum on Atlantic Yards, and the results were not pretty for Bruce Ratner's hand-picked candidate. More on that, and all relevant results, below.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], James, in a Landslide

City Councilwoman Letitia James coasted to victory over Delia Hunley-Adossa and Medhanie Estiphanos in the Democratic primary tonight, drawing more than 80 percent of the vote and virtually guaranteeing that she will be elected to a third term in the general election in November.

With 99 percent of the votes tallied, Ms. James had 7,479 votes to Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s 1,275 and Mr. Estiphanos’s 460, the city Board of Elections reported. That works out to 81 percent for Ms. James, 14 percent for Ms. Hunley-Adossa and 5 percent for Mr. Estiphanos.

The campaign took place against the backdrop of Atlantic Yards, the gargantuan $4.9 billion development proposed for the western edge of the district. Ms. James has fought against it. Ms. Hunley-Adossa, as head of a coalition of nonprofits that entered into a community benefits agreement with the developer, supports it.

At Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s headquarters on Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, the scene was also animated, but not in a happy way. A cluster of her campaign workers milled in front of the office, complaining loudly and profanely that they had not been paid.

The Brooklyn Paper, In the 35th District: Letitia James steamrolls Yards-loving foe

Letitia James* 7,479 (81.2 percent)
Delia Hunley-Adossa 1,275 (13.9 percent)
Medhanie Estiphanos 460 (5 percent)

35th Council District covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

The popular incumbent James fended off a challenge from Hunley-Adossa that turned out to be mostly a financial one. Backed by construction union workers thanks to her support for the Atlantic Yards mega-project, Hunley-Adossa was able to raise more money than the incumbent — a rarity in New York.

But her inaccessability, plus her poor performance in a Community Newspaper Group-sponsored debate, hurt her ability to capitalize on her funding.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, The Results Are In: Three Who Oppose Atlantic Yards Win Local Races

In the three districts that surround the proposed Atlantic Yards site, all three primary election victors have professed opposition to Atlantic Yards.

Here are the positions of the winning candidates on the beleaguered project:

33rd Council District (seat currently held by David Yassky)
Winner: Steve Levin
(33.7% of the vote)
"At the present moment, it looks like it's probably not going to happen," Levin said. "So I do not support the plan as it currently stands. I think it's too much, it's too big. And I believe that it shouldn't be supported because the silver lining in the original plan, the affordable housing and the union jobs that would be created, does not look like it's going to be there."
(From Atlantic Yards Report coverage of News12 debate.)

35th Council District
Winner: Incumbent Councilmember Letitia James
(81.17% of the vote)
Councilwoman James is the leading political opponent of the Atlantic Yards proposal since it was unveiled in December 2003.

(AY Community Benefits Agreement chairwoman, Forest City AY Partner and political surrogate Delia Hunley-Adossa whose Brooklyn Endeavor Experience received at least $400,000 from Forest City Ratner for her salary and other questionable uses, received 13.4% of the vote.)

39th Council District (seat currently held by Bill de Blasio)
Winner: Brad Lander
(41.15% of the vote)
Brad Lander said, "We should scrap the Atlantic Yards plan and go back to the drawing board." He referenced a critical report he co-authored in 2005 and said the developer "had time to address" the critiques but made the project worse.
(From Atlantic Yards Report coverage of News12 debate.)

We look forward to working with our newest local councilmembers.

Congratulations to all of the candidates who competed, and congratulations to the winners.

Now, let's all hold their feet to the fire when it comes to their campaign positions on Atlantic Yards.

Atlantic Yards Report, The election results, the argument for IRV, and the AY effect

Maybe I was wrong when I took the New York Times to task for not issuing an endorsement in the race for the 35th Council district.

The Times announced endorsements in "several of the most competitive districts" and I thought that Delia Hunley-Adossa would give incumbent Letitia James a decent run. Well, despite something of a stealth campaign, Hunley-Adossa's camp worked hard in the final weeks, with a significant presence putting up posters.

But James won 81% of the vote in a low-turnout election, despite some Hunley-Adossa shenanigans. I still think the race deserved editorial comment, but it clearly wasn't competitive.

The ever-clear-eyed Oder gauges what it all means for the Atlantic Yards battle.

The AY effect

The current configuration regarding Atlantic Yards is changed only somewhat. DDDB claims that three who oppose AY won, but one is a fence-sitter and the other a latecomer to opposition. Veteran opponents of AY lost in both districts.

Project opponent James remains in office. In the 33rd, Levin's fence-sitting posture is not unlike that of incumbent David Yassky, though clearly the current climate pushed Levin toward more rhetorical criticism.

Lander, though not a longtime opponent like Skaller, is a longtime critic who now says the project should be scrapped--again, likely to respond to Skaller's challenge.

Though Lander may feel pressure from some supporters to moderate that position, it's a much tougher position than that held by the incumbent, Bill de Blasio. So Lander should be more of an ally to James on the issue.

Public Advocate candidate Norman Siegel, an AY opponent, lost, and the two candidates in the runoff, Mark Green and Blasio, are supporters. But so is incumbent Betsy Gotbaum.

In the Comptroller's race, AY supporter Bill Thompson will be replaced by either Council Member David Yassky and John Liu, both of whom have expressed occasional skepticism along with essential support.

Thompson beat AY opponent Tony Avella in the race for Democratic nomination for mayor. Perhaps most importantly, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, an unyielding project supporter, is highly favored to win a third term.

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], The Day: Yay for James, Nay for Atlantic Yards?

The Brooklyn Paper, In the 39th District: Lander crushes four rivals

Lander, an affordable housing developer best known for his work leading the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Center for Community Development, dominated his four Democratic rivals, winning all but one polling location outside the heavily Orthodox Jewish, and largely conservative, Borough Park portion of the district.

“As badly as we lost, we also won something,” Skaller told his supporters at Johnny Mack’s on Eighth Avenue and 12th Street. “Before we got into the race, the importance of taking on Atlantic Yards was not seen as serious, the need to fight developers in Carroll Gardens was not on the agenda, and the urgency of a Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal was not understood — but it all is now.”

park slope on a rope, Primary wrap and Park Slope

What does this mean for you? I have no idea, I didn't vote either. What I do know is that Lander used to be for Atlantic Yards before he was against it. He's a public housing advocate though and now that well known sonofabitch Bruce Ratner, of AY developer Forest City Ratner, has all but punted on the affordable housing component that was crucial to getting city approval for the project, watch for Lander to be a thorn in Ratner's side. Good. Make sense? Great.

Last note is that Lander held his victory party at Commonwealth, home of the world's greatest bathroom graffiti. I like this guy more and more.

NoLandGrab: Brad was never for Atlantic Yards; he's been a critic from the beginning.

City Room, Snapshots of Primary Day

Dan Avallone, a remodeling contractor who declined to say whom he was voting for, said he was not excited about the election.

“I’m one of the few people who think the Atlantic Yards is a good idea,” he said, blaming the opposition for the long delays that have hampered the project. “Politicians and my neighbors missed an opportunity. They are looking at the future through a rear-view mirror.”

Pardon Me For Asking, Disappointed? Yes! Regretful? No! The Day After The Primaries

I hope that Josh will continue to be a strong voice for change. We need him, be it in the fight against Atlantic Yards, in the fight for the Gowanus Canal Superfund designation or in the fight to preserve our brownstone neighborhoods.

Posted by eric at September 16, 2009 10:48 AM