September 24, 2012

Markowitz has his (wrong) mantra: Atlantic Yards area "not a bedroom community" (and project will be a "masterpiece of urban planning")

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz sure has chutzpah. His latest mantra, repreated in at least three interviews, is that those living near the Barclays Center arena, or displaced, should not be complaining. In the 9/21/12 Crain's New York Business, he declared:

"Time will soothe ruffled feathers," he said. "I do not believe this is a bedroom community."

In the comments, Dean Street resident Tracy Collins replied, with links:

Literally right across Dean Street and 6th Avenue from the arena are many actual bedrooms.

What Markowitz ignores is that the state overrode city zoning barring sports facilities from within 200 feet of residential districts.

Click through for more analysis of Markowitz's rantings to New York Magazine and WABC's Diana Williams.

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Posted by eric at 2:52 PM

September 21, 2012

Political Turnout for Barclays Center Ribbon Cutting Pretty Pathetic

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

So, Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards, right Markowitz? And it has widespread political support? Right?

Wrong. Besides Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz, and Lieutentant Governor Duffy (not even Gov. Status Cuomo would show his own face, on this the day that Brooklyn "arrived," as Mayor Bloomberg declared at the ribbon cutting), the only Brooklyn elected officials that came to the hoopla ceremony at the Barclays LIBOR Fixer Center were:

Assemblymembers Lentol, Camara and Brook-Krasny, Senator Golden, and Councilmembers Vann, Gentile, Recchia, Mealy.

Eight Brooklyn elected officials. In a borough of 2.6 million.

Pretty telling wouldn't you say?

link

NoLandGrab: Here's the latest Vegas line on the chances of these Assembly and Council members ending up indicted. Lentol, 7-1. Camara, 4-1. Brook-Krasny, 8-1. Golden, 5-2. Vann, 4-1. Gentile, 6-1. Recchia, 2-1. Mealy, 8-1.

Posted by eric at 9:59 PM

September 20, 2012

Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo attend Barclays Center ribbon-cutting tomorrow? At very least, a Cuomo bobblehead at counter-ceremony (and maybe a housing announcement)

Atlantic Yards Report

The Governor of New York State is the key public official in charge of Atlantic Yards: because it's a state project, overseen and promoted by Empire State Development, the gubernatorially-controlled state authority, the buck stops at the governor's desk.

Gov. George Pataki was a crucial early booster, attending press conferences in support of the project, Gov. Eliot Spitzer maintained support, and Gov. David Paterson attended the March 2010 arena groundbreaking and famously pronounced that Atlantic Yards would have "job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen."

In the media advisory announcing the official arena ribbon-cutting, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not listed as among the attendees, which include Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Borough President Marty Markowitz. I queried the Governor's office and got no response.

That doesn't mean he's not coming. Cuomo's schedule seems to be updated day-to-day. He's in Albany today. I'd bet he wants to make it; elected officials tend to think such events provide good publicity.

Then again, given that Cuomo is ultimately responsible for the very limited oversight of Atlantic Yards, he couldn't be thrilled about facing questions about reforming project governance--or seeing himself as one of the two officials targeted as responsible for the project's failure to deliver promised benefits.

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Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

September 6, 2012

Better Know a District - New York's 9th - Yvette Clarke

Representative Yvette Clarke believes that rich people like Stephen could still create jobs without their Bush tax cuts.

The Colbert Report

And she also believes that the Dutch were enslaving Brooklynites in 1898.

Professional basketball has now come to the district, with the rechristened Brooklyn Nets, who are partly owned by rapper Jay-Z. Yes, they got 99 problems, all of which involve winning at basketball.

link

Posted by eric at 12:28 PM

September 3, 2012

Meet the new Kings County Democratic boss, Frank Seddio; same as the old boss?

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times reports that veteran south Brooklyn political operative Frank Seddio seems positioned to succeed scandal-tinged Assemblyman Vito Lopez as the leader and kingmaker (judges and other party positions) of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

And yes, there's an Atlantic Yards angle, sort of. Seddio comes from the powerful Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, home of former Forest City Ratner external affairs chief Bruce Bender, and a reliable source of Atlantic Yards-loving pols, including Carl Kruger (now disgraced), Alan Maisel, and Steve Cymbrowitz.

Seddio's main rival seems to be Brownstone Brooklyn reformer JoAnne Simon, who lost to Lopez protege Steve Levin (strategically silent lately) for the 33rd District City Council seat, but might have won without such a large field. (Cumulative voting, anyone?)

Simon is a leader of BrooklynSpeaks, the coalition that began as "mend it don't end it" regarding Atlantic Yards but has become increasingly vocal about the need for oversight and reform.

link

NoLandGrab: Looks like a "reformer," right? And having had to resign a judgeship due to an ethics inquiry makes him imminently qualified for heading Brooklyn's Democratic Party machine.

Posted by eric at 2:04 PM

Candidate Profile: Walter T. Mosley

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Matthew J. Perlman

The Local is profiling the three candidates running in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary for the state Assembly in the 57th Assembly District. For the final installment, we spoke with male Democratic District Leader Walter T. Mosley about his past, his politics and his current campaign.

Walter T. Mosley has been around politics most of his life.

His mother, Marilyn Mosley, is the president of a local political club, the Progressive Association for Political Action. Her work getting an African-American judge elected when Mr. Mosley was just a boy cemented his interest in politics.
...

“I’ve seen how it all interconnects,” said Mr. Mosley about his experience in the city and state government. “I’ve seen how an idea becomes policy and then legislation.”

Democrats in the 57th Assembly District elected Mr. Mosley as their male district leader in 2008. Since then he said he’s tried to ensure opportunities for local residents in development projects like Atlantic Yards, recently criticizing the Forest City Ratner Company’s commitment to the surrounding neighborhood, saying the firm has not provided the jobs or housing it promised.

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NoLandGrab: Mr. Mosley needs to try harder.

Posted by eric at 1:13 PM

August 29, 2012

Flashback: at a funeral, the intersection of Bruce Ratner and Vito Lopez

Atlantic Yards Report

A 7/22/12 essay from Paul Berman in Dissent, Regular Politics: Judge Reichbach, contains cameos for both Bruce Ratner and Vito Lopez, both typically in the news for other reasons:

On Saturday, July 14, a New York State Supreme Court judge named Gustin L. Reichbach succumbed to cancer. On Sunday his funeral service took place at a synagogue in Brooklyn Heights. And the first and most eloquent of the speakers to address the mourners was a politician named Vito Lopez, who holds the office of New York State Assemblyman from Bushwick, Brooklyn, and the still more exalted office of chairman of the Democratic Party of Kings County, otherwise known as Brooklyn Democratic boss, whose powers are myriad, vast, and rooted in affairs so profoundly local as to be incomprehensible. The boss is known, for instance, to influence the election of minor officials called District Leaders, who are unpaid yet nonetheless have the power to select the modestly paid workers who supervise the voting on Election Day. And God knows what happens next, except that everyone recognizes that, when the Brooklyn Democratic boss presides over a nonprofit organization, the state and municipal contracts descending upon the organization tend to be profitable indeed, even if the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council is currently under investigation. And still larger contracts come into play. The very skyline is at stake. And, lo, prominently mentioned at Gus Reichbach’s funeral was a man named Bruce Ratner, who, in the Brooklyn of our time, is widely known—reviled!—as the preeminent developer, the destroyer of Brooklyn’s antique charm (as per his detractors), or else the creator of jobs (as per his admirers) and the benefactor of basketball (objectively true). And, to be sure, Bruce Ratner turns out to have been a law school roommate of Gustin L. Reichbach. And Lopez made a point in his funeral oration of invoking Bruce Ratner’s influence in the most affectionate of terms, and the name of George Pataki, the former Republican governor of New York, came up, whom Bruce Ratner evidently lobbied on behalf of the judicial career of Gus Reichbach, and no name was left unsaid.

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Posted by eric at 1:32 PM

August 25, 2012

In NY1 debate, Assembly candidate Alabi challenges rival Mosley about Atlantic Yards, but there's more heat than light

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards came up last night in a NY1 debate between 57th District Assembly candidates Walter Mosley and Olanike Alabi, but it generated more heat than light.

It begins at about 7:20 (and excerpted incompletely in Patch, which has broader coverage), when Alabi had a chance to address her rival: "You're also been cited as being on both sides of the Atlantic Yards issue, for and against.... How can we trust you? Where do you stand on Atlantic Yards?"

(Here's some coverage of his positions.)

Mosley responded with a slip at first: “I was the only candidate in this race to support this project--to take a stance on this project. It was a project that dealt with creating affordable [sic] jobs, it was a project that dealt with the issue of housing, as it relates to our middle-class families, our working-class families. Now this project has broken its promises. But I do believe that because I was supportive of it at the very beginning doesn’t mean I gave up my opportunity to be critical of it, and as a result, I understand that these promises that have been broken, as it relates to housing, as it relates to construction jobs, are promises that we're going to fight for as we go forward."

Alabi didn't say anything about Atlantic Yards during the debate, though she has been supportive of the Atlantic Yards opposition, for example showing up at a 2008 walkathon for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

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Related coverage...

NY 1, NY1 Online: Brooklyn Assembly Candidates Debate

Prospect Heights Patch, Attacks Fly in Race to Replace Hakeem Jeffries

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

Candidate Profile: Olanike Alabi

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Matthew J. Perlman

We’re continuing our series of posts profiling the three candidates running in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary for the state Assembly in the 57th Assembly District. For the second installment, The Local spoke with female Democratic District Leader Olanike Alabi about her life and what she plans to do if she wins the state Assembly race.
...

“Atlantic Yards is a major issue,” Ms. Alabi also noted. “We’ll be dealing with the aftermath of the construction.”

She has issues with the use of eminent domain for the project and is also weary [sic — we think] of the Atlantic Yards Governance Act, legislation intended to ensure oversight of the project through the Atlantic Yards Development Trust.

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Posted by eric at 9:34 AM

August 21, 2012

Map: Is Your Favorite Sports Team for Romney or Obama?

It's a Free Country
by Steven Melendez and Stephen Reader

In a town with two football teams, local fans are divided. Turns out the same goes for the team owners and their politics.

A big RNC donor owns the AFC team, a DNC donor the NFC team. We're talking about Woody Johnson and Jonathan Tisch, owners of the New York Jets and Giants, respectively.

Johnson's a Republican bundler who's contributed over $70,000 to national Republican committees, presidential candidates, and a pro-Romney PAC this election cycle. Tisch has given over $60,000 to Barack Obama and Democratic committees.

Basketball in the Big Apple? Similar story. Knicks owner James Dolan contributes to Mitt Romney; Nets co-owner Bruce Ratner gives to Obama.

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NoLandGrab: Bruce Ratner is a "co-owner" the way Joe Biden is "co-President." The Nets' real owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, did more than give — he ran a phony campaign for the Russian Presidency to help smooth the way for the autocratic Vladimir Putin's election.

Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

August 3, 2012

Assemblyman and Congressional Nominee Still Keeps Subway Office Hours

MetroFocus
by Georgia Kral

A half-block from the 78th Precinct and practically in the shadow of the controversial Atlantic Yards development, residents stopped and talked with Jeffries about the hot topics that residents of Prospect Heights and Park Slope are most likely affected by: affordable housing, development in the area and of course, the soon-to-open Barclays Center — the heart of Atlantic Yards.

Many of the area’s residents have come to terms with the fact that the Barclays Center is happening, said Jeffries. While a group of residents fought a long legal battle to stop the arena and the entire project from coming to the area, most people have shifted their focus.

“Before construction began, concerns were about whether it [Atlantic Yards] could be halted. Then it shifted moving on to concerns about how to deal with quality of life issues,” said Jeffries. “There’s still an active group of residents in Prospect Heights who are committed to mitigating the adverse impacts of the project.”

And over time, Jeffries added, there has been an acceptance of the reality of the development.

Kathryn, a resident of nearby Park Slope for 16 years who did not want to give her last name, agreed with Jeffries’ assessment of the state of the protest against Atlantic Yard.

“It’s a done deal, unfortunately,” she said. “But as residents it’s important for us… to continue to be proactive.”

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Related coverage...

Prospect Heights Patch, Hakeem Jeffries Holds 'Subway Office Hours'

Ralph Vernon, a Prospect Heights resident for more than 40 years talked to Jeffries about how he is thankful for the jobs that the Barclays Center will bring, but is worried about the increased rent that will come along with the neighborhood becoming a destination.

“Times are tough and a lot of families are struggling,” he told Metrofocus. “This is affecting people who live here. People will have to move out.”

NoLandGrab: It's nice that Hakeem Jeffries is talking to constituents about the Barclays Center, but nearby residents don't need him to be their shrink — they need him to do something about it.

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

August 1, 2012

Bill de Blasio channels Carl Kruger, Marty Golden in condemning heavy-handed, rapacious bureaucrats” blocking development

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder picks up on New York City Public Advocate (and mayoral hopeful) Bill de Blasio's recent speech to business "leaders"...

de Blasio, actually, sounds like a couple of seeming ideological opposites, a conservative Democrat and a Republican from south Brooklyn, who in the spring of 2009 beat up on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to get the agency to give Forest City Ratner a sweeter deal.

Consider a press release from Marty Golden:

State Senator Martin J. Golden (R-C-I, Brooklyn), strongly advocated for ending the government generated delays that have prevented the Atlantic Yards project from moving forward at a meeting of the New York Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions held this past Friday.

Or one from Carl Kruger:

Senator Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) is demanding that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority hand over its financial records concerning the Atlantic Yards project in the wake of the MTA’s “apparent refusal to move forward on a project that is critical to New York City’s economic future.”

Given that Kruger's now in federal prison and Golden's had his ethical problems, maybe de Blasio might choose some better role models.

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Posted by eric at 9:32 PM

Bill de Blasio Tries His Best to Court Business Allies Ahead of Mayoral Run

NYMag.com
by Chris Smith

Speaking of values, integrity and honesty, alleged Mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio made a speech to business leaders yesterday, in which he assailed "rapacious bureaucrats" and praised Bruce Ratner. You can't make this stuff up.

De Blasio delivered his nearly hour-long address at an NYU event sponsored by the Rudin family, one of the city’s best-connected real-estate dynasties, with patriarch Bill Rudin in the front row. He ripped “heavy-handed, rapacious bureaucrats” getting in the way of development, and beat up on the city’s land use approval process and its buildings department, two eternal villains in the business community. And as a badge of business-friendly courage, de Blasio cited his support of Atlantic Yards despite the fierce opposition the project provoked in Park Slope, the neighborhood he represented in the City Council.

“When it came to the criteria that mattered above all others — good jobs and affordable housing,” de Blasio said, “it was clear that Atlantic Yards would help stanch the bleeding in an area facing huge problems of affordability.”

If only that were how things have turned out. The Barclays Center arena will open this fall, but its construction has generated far fewer jobs than promised; the housing at the site — affordable and not — hasn’t materialized at all. De Blasio blamed the economic downturn, Governor George Pataki, and even — to his credit — “my friends at Forest City Ratner,” an allusion to the thousands of dollars that the Atlantic Yards developer has contributed to his campaign.

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Posted by eric at 7:07 PM

July 25, 2012

Mosley launches Assembly campaign, offers mealymouthed vagueness on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Thanks to the Observer's Colin Campbell, who posted Walter Mosley Hopes to Replicate Hakeem Jeffries’ Magic yesterday with video, we have the 57th Assembly District candidate (and current male District Leader), friend and presumed heir of the House of Representatives-bound Jeffries, talking about Atlantic Yards.
...

"Where do you stand on Atlantic Yards?" asked the inimitable Stephen Witt, formerly of the Courier-Life chain and now of Our Time Press.

“Y'know, I supported the Atlantic Yards arena from--at the beginning, but obviously, promises have been broken, with regards to affordable housing going forward, with regards to the full-time jobs that were going to be there, in the residential towers," Mosley replied.

Except the residential towers were not supposed to be the source of jobs beyond a handful of maintenance/support positions. There were supposed to be office towers.

"We’re going to hold them to the task," Mosley said, without mentioning any steps, such as calling for the long-past-due Independent Compliance Monitor for the CBA.

"Obviously, know, the the stadium is here. But we can't continue to carp on the past," he said. "We have to continue to move forward and hold them true to their word, as it relates to affordable housing for our growing families. Decent affordable housing for those that wish to make Brooklyn their home, while at the same making sure that the full-time jobs are going to be available to our residents right here in the 57th Assembly District."

Mosley, however, has sat out the opportunity to comment on plans for the first tower in the project, which does not do much for "our growing families.

We'll see if Olanike Labai or Martine Guerrier, Mosley's rivals in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, have anything more to say.

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Posted by eric at 10:43 AM

July 24, 2012

Walter Mosley Hopes to Replicate Hakeem Jeffries’ Magic

Politicker
by Colin Campbell

In the sweltering heat earlier today, District Leader Walter Mosley formally kicked off his campaign for the State Assembly seat currently held by Hakeem Jeffries. Mr. Jeffries, of course, is set to cruise into Washington D.C. after his dominating congressional primary win in the heavily Democratic area, leaving a vacant seat behind him.
...

Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Mosley both belong to the same Democratic club, so most expect and endorsement from Mr. Jeffries to come landing down at some point in the campaign, although it hasn’t been formally rolled out yet. Mr. Jeffries obviously won his own assembly district by a strong margin in his own race and his backing can only help as Mr. Mosley seeks to beat primary rivals Ola Alabi and Martine Guerrier.
...

And on the most charged and controversial issue in the district, the construction of Atlantic Yards, Mr. Mosley took a middle-of-the-road position of acknowledging his support but demanding more action on the chief complaints of the project’s opponents.

“I supported the Atlantic Yards arena at the beginning, but obviously promises have been broken, with regards to affordable housing going forward, with regards to the full-time jobs that were going to be there,” he said in response to a reporter’s inquiry on the matter. “We’re going to hold them to the task."

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NoLandGrab: How, exactly?

Posted by eric at 8:03 PM

July 6, 2012

Markowitz's summer concert series: patrons include Forest City, Barclays Center, Brooklyn Nets, and Barclays

Atlantic Yards Report

One hand washes the other four, and vice versa.

Just in case you were wondering, no less than four entities associated with the new Brooklyn are are backing--as patrons, above sponsors--Borough President Marty Markowitz's two summer concert series.

The Seaside Series in Coney Island cites the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets, and Forest City Ratner Companies, among eight patrons.

(There are many more sponsors. Last October the New York Times explained how Markowitz raised big bucks for charities associated with projects that boosted his reputation, drawing on donors who did business in the borough.)

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Series in Crown Heights/PLG adds a fourth sponsor: Barclays. That might not be the best timing, but who cares, really.

link

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

July 3, 2012

City Agency Admits Illegal Lobby Effort

The Wall Street Journal
by Michael Howard Saul

Is there anyone or anything associated with the Atlantic Yards project that isn't crooked or corrupt? Anything?

New York City's economic-development agency and two related organizations admitted in a settlement Monday that they illegally lobbied the City Council on behalf of projects at the heart of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's redevelopment agenda.

The concessions came after a three-year probe by the state attorney general's office. Investigators found that the Economic Development Corp. worked behind the scenes with the groups—called local development corporations—to nudge lawmakers to support projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn.

Let's not forget their knowingly dishonest Atlantic Yards boosterism.

"These local development corporations flouted the law and lobbied elected officials, both directly and through third parties," Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
...

The findings seemed to give ammunition to critics of the Bloomberg administration and its economic-development arm, which has been accused of pushing through large-scale projects over community objections.

Where've we seen this phony astroturf act before?

In pushing the Council for zoning and other land-use changes, city officials "took steps to foster the appearance of independent 'grass-roots' support for the projects in the local community," said the agreement signed Monday by the EDC and the other groups.

For example, the agreement said the EDC directed the Queens group to use its fax machine to send a letter drafted by city officials about the Willets Point project to Council members because, in the words of one city official, "we felt this letter coming from our fax machine would have been lobbying."

Other lobbying activities included ghostwriting op-eds and preparing testimony, according to the agreement.

Heads will roll, though, right?

The finding carries no fine or harsher penalty.

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NoLandGrab: Let us be the first to call publicly for EDC President Seth Pinsky to join Barclays' "Diamond" Bob Diamond in tendering his resignation.

Posted by eric at 2:02 PM

June 29, 2012

Dear Park Slope Neighbor...

Some registered voters in Brooklyn's 7th Congressional District received a "Dear Neighbor" letter from the "Concerned Residents of Park Slope" just prior to last Tuesday's primary election, touting the candidacy of Erik Martin Dilan, a City Council member and the hand-picked candidate of Brooklyn Democratic machine boss Vito Lopez. Dilan was running against popular 10-term Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who is most decidedly not under the sway of Lopez and his cronies.

Among the half-dozen signatories to the letter were Brigitte LaBonte, Assistant VP of External Affairs for Forest City Ratner, and Amy Bender, wife of former Forest City Executive VP Bruce Bender.

The letter praises Dilan, of course, while failing to mention that he was named "the worst of the worst" among City Council members by the Daily News just last year, and — no surprise here — was one of the first elected officials to support Atlantic Yards. No surprise either that Dilan is a veritable pork processing plant among Council members.

Lastly, we couldn't help but chuckle at a line in the letter praising the way Dilan "miraculously secured funding to vital community services." Amy Bender's husband knows a thing or two about miraculously securing funding, too, but his funding miracles, it should be noted, involved colorful conversations with jailed ex-State Senator Carl Kruger that were being surreptitiously recorded by the Feds.

The letter promoting Dilan came up a bit short of miraculous, by the way — he was trounced by Congresswoman Velazquez by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Posted by eric at 4:32 PM

June 28, 2012

Consistently inconsistent: Marty Markowitz wants the Barclays Center (liquor license, metal detectors) to be treated like other sports facilities--except regarding its fundamental placement in a neighborhood

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, in recent comments on the proposed liquor license for the Barclays Center and the plan to use metal detectors, has had a seemingly consistent message: treat the Brooklyn arena the same as any other sports facility.

The inconsistency? From early on, the Brooklyn arena was not treated the same as any other sports facility.

The state agreed to override city zoning that bars sports facilities from being within 200 feet of residential areas, as well as override many other zoning rules.

So the tight fit of the arena into Prospect Heights has to be recognized, as even Empire State Development CEO Kenneth Adams--whose agency overrides the zoning--acknowledged this week, pointing to the dicey operation of the arena loading dock, with no ramp or holding area for trucks.

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Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

June 26, 2012

Jeffries vs. Barron: Head-to-Head On the Issues

Comparing the positions of both Democratic candidates for the newly created 8th Congressional District in Central Brooklyn.

Bed-Stuy Patch
by Paul Leonard

It's decision time.

With voting set to begin Tuesday in this year's first-of-a-kind early summer primary, registered Democrats in the 8th Congressional District will make a choice between Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Councilman Charles Barron.
...

To help voters decide, here is a head-to-head matchup of the respective candidates' views on important issues based on a mix of Patch's own reporting, the reporting of others, or statements in the public record.
...

Atlantic Yards

Barron

Fiercely opposed. As a Congressional candidate, Barron has emerged as one of the most forceful critics of the soon-to-be-opened Barclays Center and the rest of the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project—calling on residents to boycott Brooklyn Nets games and arena concerts such as Jay-Z's planned series of shows in September.

Jeffries

Highly critical. Compared to Barron, Jeffries' position on Atlantic Yards redevelopment has been more nuanced, with the Fort Greene Democrat calling for more oversight in the form of an Atlantic Yards Governance Act that would create an independent board to keep the best interests of the community in mind.

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NoLandGrab: One man's "nuance" is another man's fence-sitting.

Related coverage...

People of Color Organize!, On the Smears Against Charles Barron: A Letter to MoveOn

Joan P. Gibbs takes issue with MoveOn's support for Jeffries.

I write to express my opposition to your recent email concerning the congressional race in the eighth congressional district in Brooklyn, New York and to tell you why I will voting for Charles Barron on June 26, and, hopefully, in November, notwithstanding my disagreements with his statements and actions referenced in your email.
...

I am voting for Charles Barron on June 26 because he has been one of the most consistent champions for affordable housing, jobs, health care, public education (from pre-school to graduate school) as well as well as an outspoken critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, Charles is one of a few elected officials York City who has consistently opposed the Atlantic Yards project, another issue of great importance to many, including myself, in the eighth congressional district.

Over the years, I have attended many marches rallies on the aforementioned issues where I have seen or heard Barron speak. I have nothing against Hakeen Jeffries, his major opponent. However, I have rarely seen or heard him at these marches and rallies. I recently saw Jefferies at the “Silent Anti-Stop and Frisk March’; however he was not at the rally against Atlantic Yards the week before. In short, on balance, I believe that Charles is the candidate who most passionately represent and fight for the issues and concerns of the residents of the eighth congressional district.

Posted by eric at 9:28 AM

June 25, 2012

THE GATEWAY (REYNA TERROR EDITION)

Room Eight

Howard Graubard, aka "Gatemouth," thinks City Council Member Diana Reyna is making a mistake by endorsing Charles Barron in tomorrow's Congressional primary rather than Hakeem Jeffries.

Could anything define parochial idiocy better than a so-called "progressive" who thinks Atlantic Yards is more important than same sex marriage.

Wow, she has something in common with Bruce Ratner besides being utterly repugnant.

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Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

June 19, 2012

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson's curious EB-5 gig: helping market green cards to immigrant investors from China

Atlantic Yards Report

I have an article in City and State headlined THE “VOLUNTEER” V.P.: John Sampson’s unusual new gig marketing green cards to Chinese nationals.

It's not about Atlantic Yards, but there is a skein of connection. I wouldn't be following the (generally) little-scrutinized EB-5 industry if I hadn't gotten a tip in the summer of 2010 that it would be used for Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Since then, despite ample reasons for closer scrutiny, the EB-5 business has been booming.

In this case, Sampson, the Senate Minority Leader, quietly--as in no announcements/press releases in English--began participating as the (seeming) Chief Executive Vice President of the New York City Real Estate Regional Center (NYCRERC).

Sampson's role? To help market green cards to would be immigrant investors from China, under the federal government's EB-5 program.

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NoLandGrab: What the hell's a "Chief Executive Vice President?" Either you're the chief executive, or you're a vice president. Not both.

Posted by eric at 1:14 PM

June 5, 2012

Yes, Atlantic Yards is a (small) part of the race to succeed Rep. Towns

Atlantic Yards Report

Yes, Atlantic Yards popped up yesterday as a small factor in the 8th Congressional District race to succeed Rep. Ed Towns, who has endorsed (despite their differences) relative underdog and radical Council Member Charles Barron against the better-funded, more widely endorsed, and more mainstream fellow Democrat, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries.

From NY 1:

In the debate that was moderated by NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis, Barron accused Jeffries of changing his position on several key issues in the community, including the Atlantic Yards development.

Barron: “Why should we trust you? You flip-flop on Atlantic Yards. You flip-flop on charter schools so you can get money from the hedge funds. So…why should we trust, if you do all this flip-flopping…why should we trust you when you go to Congress?”

Jeffries: “You have no evidence that I’ve flip-flopped on any of those issues. In fact, this is just another example of the reckless type of charges that you have been making for the last 10 years on a wide variety of people from President Obama to Governor David Paterson on down.”

Well, I wouldn't say that Jeffries has flip-flopped on Atlantic Yards, but he has muddled about the center, early on more positive than not, these days more negative than not.

Barron has been a staunch opponent, despite his longstanding ties (former Chief of Staff to the National Black United Front Daughtry headed) to the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a prominent project supporter and signatory of the much-criticized Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

And, despite Jeffries' response, on the NY 1 clip you can see him blinking uncomfortably at Barron's charges.

article

Related content...

NY1, NY1 ItCH Alert: Barron And Jeffries Square Off In Heated NY1 Debate

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

May 18, 2012

On Gov. Cuomo's Schedule: Al D'Amato

Gov. Cuomo posted another batch of his daily schedules on his CitizenConnects website this afternoon.

Daily Politics [NYDailyNews.com]
by Celeste Katz and Glenn Blain

The latest offerings cover the first three months of 2012 and – like the previous postings on the site – offer a limited view of how Cuomo spends his day. They include an array of meetings the governor had with officials, labor leaders and educators leading up to passage of the 2012-13 budget.
...

One of the more interesting meetings took place on Feb. 20 in Cuomo’s New York City office between Cuomo and former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (the schedule misspelled D’Amato’s first name as Alphonse). Also in attendance: Top Cuomo aide Joe Percoco.

Cuomo’s office has not responded to a request for information about the meeting and a D’Amato spokeswoman said she had no information on what the sitdown was about.

There's more of that transparency that Status Cuomo has been trumpeting.

D’Amato is now a registered lobbyist with a bevy of deep-pocketed clients, including telecommunications giant Verizon New York.
...

Other D’Amato clients include the Atlantic Yards Development Company , the Trustees of Columbia University and the Real Estate Board of New York.

article

NoLandGrab: In other words, D'Amato's client list is a Who's Who of eminent domain abusers.

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

May 8, 2012

Citizens Union: City Council discretionary/capital funding should be distributed more equitably; more transparency needed not only for Council but for Borough Presidents

Atlantic Yards Report

Something's rotten in the City Council. Citizens Union on 5/1/12 released a comprehensive report on the New York City discretionary funding process that concluded that, despite past reforms, the process of allocating funds to Council members for distribution is based on political ties to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, rather than the needs of the district:

"While the city's discretionary funding process is improved in significant ways from a decade ago, it remains flawed and needs additional reform," said Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union. "Recent reforms in the City Council have improved the vetting of organizations receiving funding and provided additional disclosure, yet the distribution process to members remains too politicized and not equitable and objective enough."

The Post reported 5/2/12, Council’s pots of gold go to power pols. The Daily News reported, 3 Brooklyn Democrats were best at stuffing coffers with pulled pork: Dominic Recchia, Erik Dilan and Lew Fidler top $10 million each in City Council discretionary funding, Citizens Union reports.

Should we be surprised that Recchia, Dilan, and Fidler, two of whom represent fairly affluent districts, have been reliable supporters of Atlantic Yards? And that Council Member Letitia James, no Quinn ally, was down on the list, ranking 48th of 51 Council Members, as The Local explained.

article

Posted by eric at 12:20 PM

May 7, 2012

Hakeem Jeffries rides a wave of (mostly deserved) praise, which happens to ignore his caution on Atlantic Yards; what kind of AY governance compromise is coming?

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries was anointed yesterday by the New York Times as one of the city's ten "rising" power players, a nod to his record of accomplishment and his role as the clear front-runner in the race to succeed Rep. Ed Towns, who chose to retire rather than face Jeffries and Council Member Charles Barron:

Mr. Jeffries, 41, a former lawyer at the Paul Weiss firm, is politically moderate and untouched by scandal, and can talk to the gentrifiers in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene and to the Hasidim in Crown Heights. “He has the potential to swing a much larger bat in the power game than any of the black leaders in Brooklyn,” said Norman Adler, a Democratic political consultant.

Indeed, Jeffries has real accomplishments in his record, notably, as the Times put it, sponsoring a bill that "prohibited the police from collecting data on people stopped and frisked but not charged with a crime." I'd add that he got another bill passed that ensures that prisoners upstate are counted as part of the population of their home counties.
...

Jeffries and Atlantic Yards

For all the reasons to admire Jeffries, his not-so-forthright stance on the most controversial issue in his district, Atlantic Yards, should not be ignored. Jeffries has been close to the fence, sometimes a supporter, more often a critic, but generally not standing with the activists out front nor Council Member Letitia James, the clear political opponent of the project. He doesn't mention Atlantic Yards on his campaign web site.

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NoLandGrab: Jeffries has plenty of sizzle. It's the steak we're worried about.

Posted by eric at 11:04 AM

April 29, 2012

Mike Bloomberg: It's "education inequality," not "income inequality" (Really?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Mike Bloomberg is a brilliantly successful businessman, who tends not to dither making decisions. As mayor, such certainties have served him both well and poorly.

Indeed, he is a man so suffused with confidence that he could say, as he did April 26 at the Barclays Center press conference, that the arena was built for hockey, even though exactly the opposite is true. Or, choosing not to know--or find out--how many full-time equivalent jobs would be provided by the 2000 arena jobs promised, he got testy, rather than answer a reasonable question.

Bloomberg on inequality

And Bloomberg could offer a theory about inequality in this country, one that certainly would become controversial should he follow the entreaties of columnist Thomas Friedman and reconsider running for president as an independent.

"Will the people without a great skill-set have jobs that are high-paying?" Bloomberg soliloquized at the press conference, responding to questions about low-wage jobs. "Probably not. In this country, we talk about an income inequality. It is not an income inequality. It is an education inequality. And the example you should look at is: why does it take a two-breadwinner family today to be middle class, where 40-50 years ago, it was a one-breadwinner family that could do exactly that."

"And the reason is all in education," Bloomberg continued. "If you look, other countries are starting to have great schools, great universities, great public schools. And they are becoming much more productive at a much greater rate than we are doing in America. We stopped improving our productivity 20-30 years ago, and the education system started going downhill, and certainly not growing and improving as fast as the rest of the world. And that's really what you see out there, and it's a great challenge, and the answer is to go back to the basics, education, and in the meantime getting people the experience they need, and working."

Hold on. Doesn't the United States have the best universities in the world? Isn't the issue a little more complicated? Hasn't productivity been doing pretty well? Maybe the issue, as economist Dean Baker points out, is the distribution of the gains from productivity growth.

link

Posted by steve at 10:44 PM

April 27, 2012

Former State Senator Is Sentenced to 7 Years in Vast Bribery Case

The New York Times
by Benjamin Weiser

Sorry you won't be at the Barc for opening night, Carl. Don't forget to write!

Carl Kruger, the once-powerful New York State senator from Brooklyn who resigned his office in disgrace and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in December, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday by a federal judge in Manhattan.

Mr. Kruger, 62, was the first defendant to be sentenced in a widespread bribery conspiracy case that originally ensnared eight people, and was seen as offering yet more evidence of the apparently unending wave of corruption in Albany.

article

NoLandGrab: Albany... and Prospect Heights.

Posted by eric at 12:00 PM

April 21, 2012

Columnist on Albany: politicians do "things that damn well ought to be against the law but aren’t"

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News columnist Bill Hammond's 4/17/12 column, headlined Albany, land of legal scandals: A blatantly partisan move by Dean Skelos to help Republicans, analyzes the Senate Republicans' effort to add a 63rd seat to the state Senate, which was called "disturbing” by a judge but not clearly unconstitutional:

So what Skelos (R-L.I.) is trying to do — and may very well get away with — is disturbing but just barely legal.

And that’s Albany in a nutshell. Politicians doing things that damn well ought to be against the law but aren’t.

As political columnist Michael Kinsley has often said: Sometimes the real scandal is what’s legal.

And wouldn't that apply to, say, the Empire State Development Corporation's production of an Atlantic Yards Blight Study with bogus crime information?

link

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

March 16, 2012

57th Assembly candidate Mosley criticizes broken Atlantic Yards promises, "toothless" CBA (but last November saluted CBA signatory BUILD and Forest City Ratner)

Atlantic Yards Report

Walter Mosley, a candidate to succeed his friend Hakeem Jeffries as the Assemblymember for the 57th District, spoke last night at a forum for candidates sponsored by Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform. The rival candidates are Olanike Alabi and Martine Guerrier.

"I love basketball," Mosley said. "But there were promises for basketball, promises for jobs... promises for affordable housing. But unfortunately, the developer has broken our trust. The developer has broken those promises."

"We now have a toothless document called a CBA [Community Benefits Agreement], that really serves no one in the community," Mosley said, speaking to an organization that included many critics of Atlantic Yards.

A different tune

I should point out that, when speaking last November at a ceremony for customer service training graduates organized by CBA signatory BUILD, Mosley was more effusive about the CBA and the developer:

"We are blessed that we have a group like BUILD, a company like Forest City Ratner, who did not ignore the necessity to occupy Central Brooklyn, to make sure places like Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bed-Stuy, and Ocean Hill, Brownsville, people who live in those communities have an opportunity to make a difference... I've got to occupy Central Brooklyn. We've got to make sure that people in Central Brooklyn are working.”

article

NoLandGrab: Sounds like Walter Mosley would be just as tough on Bruce Ratner as Hakeem Jeffries has been... Charlie Rose-tough.

Posted by eric at 2:39 PM

March 9, 2012

Tish James Says NYPD Should Have Consulted with Community on Barclays Policing

A police annex at the Barclays Center and a collaborate effort between police precincts would have been more effective, she says.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Earlier this week, the NYPD chose the 78th Precinct to keep order at the Barclays Center because of it’s station house’s proximity to the under-construction arena, but Councilmember Letitia James, D-Brooklyn, says there should have been more of a discussion between the police, elected officials and community groups before the decision.
...

According to James, her solution would be to “place new officers in a police annex dedicated to the Barclays arena site,” with the 77th, 78th and 88th precincts working collaboratively. Developer Forest City Ratner, she says, should underwrite the cost of security.

“There is no reason to cherry-pick from one precinct over another, and no reason to take vital resources from any precinct,” said James. The most important factor is ensuring that the officers in these local precincts remain dedicated to community policing.”

article

Posted by eric at 2:25 PM

February 27, 2012

Assemblyman Joe Lentol, some curious connections, and the Ridge Hill/Yonkers corruption trial that resumes today

Atlantic Yards Report

So, who knew Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol had played a key cameo in the machinations that led to passage of Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill development in Yonkers? Not until testimony last Thursday in a federal corruption trial did that surface, and only glancingly so.

The upshot: Lentol, an Atlantic Yards supporter, seems closer to Forest City than most people knew.

The reasons? Unclear, but Lentol's close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, himself a key Forest City ally, probably doesn't hurt. (Lentol chairs the Brooklyn delegation and the Codes Committee, both key positions.)

The linkage? The go-between who connected Lentol, Forest City, and defendant Zehy Jereis--charged with bribing Council Member Sandy Annabi to change her vote--said he knew the Assemblyman from the very mainstream Lions Club.

But both the go-between, Joseph Galimi, and Lentol also have been reported to have connections, however indirect, with organized crime figures, factoids that should be filed away in case more information surfaces.

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NoLandGrab: And here we thought the Ratners were the only crime family involved in this case.

Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

February 13, 2012

Consultant Melvin Lowe: another Forest City Ratner connection who may be mentioned in Ridge Hill corruption case

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender's name is expected to come up during the Yonkers corruption trial beginning this week, which includes the developer's Ridge Hill project. Bender might even testify.

What about Melvin Lowe, a consultant connected to Forest City, who's had a surprisingly central role in state Democratic politics, thanks to his links to Brooklyn powerbrokers?

It's unclear whether he'll be mentioned in the trial, but it's worth a quick look back at his history with Ridge Hill, Forest City Ratner, and local politics. There are a lot of seeming connections.

How Lowe can you go? Click the link to find out.

article

Posted by eric at 11:06 AM

February 12, 2012

Mayor-bid $ecrets

New York Post
By David Seifman

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s campaign didn’t report the true number of contributions raised for his mayoral campaign by Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

De Blasio’s filing last month with the Campaign Finance Board showed Ratner took in $4,000 from three individuals with ties to the construction industry — Michael Kaleda, Joseph Posillico and Lloyd Sokoloff — in what turned out to be a record $1 million six-month fund-raising period for the Democratic mayoral contender.

Following inquiries by The Post, de Blasio aides conceded that another $4,500 from construction executives Anthony Mann, Richard Minieri and Vincent Sciullo wasn’t reported as linked to Ratner, which is required by law.

...

At a time when local activists were attacking the Atlantic Yards project, de Blasio — a progressive with close ties to the Working Families Party — was coming out in support by citing the jobs and affordable housing that would be created.

De Blasio aides said they plan to file an amended intermediary form with the CFB correcting all the errors, a move that should take care of any legal issues.

While they’re at it they might want to add employer information for five of the six construction executives who somehow didn’t list that information, making it difficult to spot their connections to Ratner without a scorecard.

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: Ratner bundled contributions for de Blasio, but both made efforts to downplay it

New York Post Inside City Hall columnist David Seifman reports, in Mayor-bid $ecrets: Ratner pals’ mystery cash, that mayoral candidate and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio reported $4,000 from three individuals via developer Bruce Ratner as intermediary, but failed to report another $4,500 from three more construction executives.

That's a relative pittance, given de Blasio's $1 millon haul, but it looks kind of fishy. Beyond that, Ratner's not supposed to be listed as the “intermediary,” since the total was actually solicited by FCR construction executive Bob Sanna, Seifman was told.

Seifman writes:

In that case, why change the name of the intermediary from Ratner to Sanna?

There’s no way Sanna would do any of this without direction from Ratner, who has made no secret of his support for de Blasio. In December 2010, Ratner wrote a check for $4,950 to help close out debts from de Blasio’s 2009 campaign for the public-advocate job. Last year, Ratner hosted a birthday party/fund-raiser for de Blasio.

One political insider speculated that the developer wanted to play down his role so as not to antagonize other candidates.

Added reason for raised eyebrows: on de Blasio's filing, Ratner is listed as "Forrest City Ratnor Companies CEO."

That's a double spelling error, since it should be Forest City Ratner. Are those filing so dumb they don't know how to spell? Or so Mickey Mouse they think that misspelling the firm's name, as well as the last name of the CEO, could stymie those doing keyword searches?

Posted by steve at 5:28 PM

February 11, 2012

Liu Wants To Change Community Benefit Agreements, Development Subsidies

The New York Observer
By Eliot Brown

Atlantic Yards gets yet another mention when it comes to the wrong way to do development in New York City.

For the second time in as many days, Comptroller John Liu has announced plans to revamp a process related to real estate development.

On Tuesday, he called for general changes to the way subsidies are awarded

Wednesday belonged to community benefit agreements, the un-regulated deals often struck between eager developers and community groups concerned about their projects, usually after concessions and money have changed hands.

Calling the unstructured employment of CBAs in New York City an “embarrassment,” Mr. Liu, without offering much specificity, said in a statement that he would create new standards for the agreements “in the coming months.”

There’s much criticism to go around about CBAs in New York: Just who sits at the table to negotiate with the developer (i.e. who represents the “community”) is always subject to debate, and the same elected officials who are approving the project are often negotiating the CBAs as well. The CBAs, which usually have nothing to do with zoning, have become a prerequisite nonetheless for a necessary zoning approval, a common complaint from developers.

Here’s Mr. Liu’s full statement.

Community Benefit Agreements have become commonplace whenever private developers seek public assistance, ranging in form from tax subsidies and no-bid contracting to zoning changes and invocation of eminent domain. In the absence of standards, however, these agreements will become more problematic and ultimately irrelevant.

From Atlantic Yards to Yankee Stadium to the Columbia University expansion, the public has seen a string of broken promises to communities and questionable involvement by some government officials. Furthermore, an additional layer of unpredictability confronts developers when they engage in private negotiations over benefits associated with their projects. In fact, studies have singled out New York City’s community benefit agreements as examples of what not to do.

link

Posted by steve at 5:22 PM

February 6, 2012

Eric Adams confirms he's running for Borough President

Atlantic Yards Report

When state Senator Eric Adams organized a surprising January 22 press conference on Atlantic Yards, I speculated that one motivation was his rumored run for Borough President in 2013.

Adams wouldn't confirm that he was running, but he did to Room 8 columnist Rock Hackshaws, who wrote 2/3/12:

I have had many credible sources tell me for quite some time now that Adams was going to seek the boro-prez position after Marty Markowitz is term-limited in 2013. In a phone conversation with Adams yesterday, he stated that right now he is first seeking re-election to his senate seat this year; then once he is successful, he will announce a run for the Brooklyn borough presidency sometime before Christmas 2012. He believes his chances of success are very high. I concur.

Well, Adams does have name recognition beyond his elective service, notably as a co-founder (according to his bio) of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Both his law enforcement background, as well as his willingness to question the police, gives Adams crossover credibility with some voters who might be less favorable toward a black candidate or an ex-cop.

As Hackshaw notes, Adams would be the borough's first black Borough President.

article

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

February 3, 2012

Retail politics vs. policy positioning: a contrast between the Markowitz and Stringer "State of the Borough" speeches

Atlantic Yards Report

OK, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is running for mayor. And he presides over a borough that, unlike Brooklyn, doesn't have an identity independent of the city at large nor, arguably, needs one.

But it's still worth noting how Stringer's State of the Borough Address, unlike Markowitz's version, focused on policy.
...

By the way, here's the word count per speech:

  • Stringer: 4,190
  • Markowitz: 11,246

link

NoLandGrab: Y'know what they say — if you have nothing to say, talk for 95 minutes.

Posted by eric at 1:41 PM

February 2, 2012

State of the Borough: Markowitz's overstuffed tribute to Brooklyn, with only mild enthusiasm for the new arena

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, maybe next year, once it's open, the Barclays Center will make a bigger splash. As in past years, the diverse crowd at Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's typically overstuffed State of the Borough address was only mildly enthusiastic to mentions of Atlantic Yards and the new arena.

Then again, he brought it up 38 minutes into a speech (full text) that went more than 95 minutes, and that's a lot of speech.
...

The arena mention

Just after that "ink" remark, Markowitz transitioned this: "After years of struggle and false starts, 2012 is the year that the Barclays Center will really come to fruition. With the new arena nearly complete, it's clear this area will be the hub of a new city center, creating the jobs in and around the arena that we desperately need."

There was no reaction. It's not at all clear that the area will create jobs "that we desperately need," since most jobs, it seems, will be in the fields of restaurants, entertainment retail, and arena services, which generally don't pay well.

But Markowitz found some applause lines. "For an old-timer like me, it feels like Brooklyn has gone 'Back to the Future' —to the days when Downtown was teeming with nightclubs and dancing halls — when we rocked — and we rolled — our way to the Fox Theatre, the Paramount, and back," he continued, generating some claps from old-timers.

"I can't wait to sit in the arena watching the Brooklyn Nets mop up the floor with the 'Manhattan Knicks,'" he continued, provoking more enthusiasm with a line that always works by appealing to reflexive borough pride.

"And I'm filled with hope that the Nets will get Dwight Howard, someone I really 'look up to!,'" he added, as a photo illustration of the diminutive Markowitz and the itching-to-leave Orlando Magic center appeared on the screen. "In fact, my ultimate dream would be Dwight Howard on the Nets — and Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand on stage."

The Dwight Howard mention didn't do much for a crowd that apparently included relatively few basketball fans. Then again, it didn't have time to sink in. In a rather bizarre interlude, a Streisand impersonator then entered the stage, serenading the crowd and, Babs-like, began shaking hands, as if at a bar mitzvah or wedding, with the diverse group of honored guests on stage.

article

Posted by eric at 1:42 PM

February 1, 2012

Markowitz will promote Barclays Center hockey (exhibition game!) in State of the Borough, won't close door on mayoral run, but seems resigned to sitting it out; not sure "son" (gray parrot) understands his legacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who gives his invitation-only State of the Borough address tonight, apparently will be promoting future events at the Barclays Center.

As Newsday first reported yesterday, the Islanders will play the New Jersey Devils in a preseason game on October 2; it's the first NHL game in Brooklyn.

(Would you believe the New York Times devoted a Metro section article to the game, Testing the Ice Where Hockey Was an Afterthought, with credits to four reporters? The Times sure didn't cover the failure to provide the promised Transportation Demand Management plan, or the failure to provide promised larger affordable housing units.)

According to a Courier Life report issued before the official announcement, he indicated he'd be pushing for NHL hockey. Markowitz was appearing at the Bay Ridge Community Council's Presidents' Luncheon, held, not coincidentally, at the Bay Ridge Manor, long owned by state Senator Marty Golden and his family.

article

Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

January 29, 2012

Seen but not heard: the mayor's new emissary on Atlantic Yards issues

Atlantic Yards Report

Lolita Jackson, director of special projects at the mayor's office and described (probably over-described) as an ombudsman to oversee quality-of-life issues regarding the project--attended the January 26 meeting--her first--of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, which includes agency and governmental officials.

She was introduced by Sam Pierre, Brooklyn director at the Mayor's Community Assistance Unit. (Pierre was formerly an aide to Rep. Ed Towns, as well an officer in the powerful Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, both of which have favorable postures toward Atlantic Yards, as does the mayor.)

“Lolita’s role will be to assist some of the work we're already doing here, working with city agencies, so that we can improve quality of life issues around the project," Pierre said. "We’ll be working with Carlo [Scissura, special advisor at the Brooklyn Borough President's Office], and Arana [Hankin, Director, Atlantic Yards Project, Empire State Development], and Forest City. We've had conversations, we’re going to be working together to make sure that we have our agencies work together... so that the project can be done.”

Jackson spoke individually to several people but didn't address the group. She had arrived at the 9:30 a.m. meeting--which normally starts ten minutes late--on time, despite a trip from the Upper East Side. You have to wonder what she thought about the delay in the Transportation Demand Management plan.

link

Posted by steve at 10:15 PM

Illuminating disgraced Senator Carl Kruger: was he a good guy gone bad, or amoral from the start?

Atlantic Yards Report

Earlier this month, New York magazine published an illuminating, somewhat sympathetic profile of King Carl of Canarsie: The gothic saga of Brooklyn power broker Carl Kruger, a state senator who loved a gynecologist and his family so much he was willing to sell his influence for them.

It allowed Kruger to half-explain how he slipped into corruption, clawing his way up from neglect (he was put up for adoption but returned to his mom) and poverty--and it provoked several (mostly anonymous) commenters, as noted below, to observe that Kruger was dirty a lot longer.

And, though Atlantic Yards is unmentioned, the Kruger saga provides excruciating context for the (then)-Senator's over-the-top support for Atlantic Yards, support that, at least in retrospect, seems provoked not by Brooklyn pride, or jobs, but something more.

It's not clear whether (guilty) lobbyist Richard Lipsky's payments to Kruger were predicated on support for Atlantic Yards, but Kruger pleaded guilty to, among other things, directing funds in response to a request from Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender. Was it just because they were old Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club cronies?

link

Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

January 27, 2012

Eye on the Politics of the Atlantic Yards Project

Our Time Press
by Mary Alice Miller

What, OTP couldn't send crack(ed) reporter Stephen Witt to the presser?

For all the good that they do, occasionally, local elected officials do something that makes you want to say, “Hmmm?” Last Sunday, State Senator Eric Adams teamed with Assemblymen Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara to call “Foul” over “Failure of Barclay Arena Developer to Score on Community Givebacks.” Claiming that “many of the community benefits promised by the developers — including job creation, a public safety plan and the inclusion of affordable housing – have failed to materialize,” the trio announced “their plans to introduce legislation that establishes a subsidiary corporation for Atlantic Yards oversight and development.” The group calls on Kenneth Adams, president of the Empire State development Corporation, to “implement oversight changes in the Atlantic Yards development project” which “will ensure transparency and accountability to protect public resources invested in the project.”

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, a staunch critic of the Atlantic Yards development as it was proposed and funded, was not invited to the presser. Neither were Assembly members James Brennan or Joan Millman. Montgomery is the Senate sponsor of the bill; Brennan and Millman are co-sponsors of the Assembly bill. Oddly, Adams has not yet co-sponsored the Senate bill.

Where was the concern expressed this week by Adams, Jeffries, and Camara during five years of displacements, eminent domain law suits, and skepticism from other elected officials and community members over Forest City Ratner’s inflated job and affordable housing estimates. Why is legislation calling for “changes in the governance of the Atlantic Yards Project, the development that includes Barclay Arena, future home of the New York Nets” being announced now?

article

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Who was missing from the press conference last Sunday? Sen. Montgomery and other Atlantic Yards critics

Mary Alice Miller, the Our Time Press reporter/columnist who bluntly asked three belated critics of Atlantic Yards "Where were y'all?" last Sunday, offers her take, in Eye on the Politics of the Atlantic Yards Project.
...

Unrelated but intriguing was the news yesterday that the GOP-proposed Senate redistricting would pit two sitting Democratic Senators, as reported by City and State NY:

Brooklyn State Sens. Eric Adams and Velmanette Montgomery’s residences are now in the same Senate district, spokespersons for both the Senate Republicans and Democrats confirmed, potentially putting the two colleagues in the position of running against one another.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised a veto.

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

January 26, 2012

Two-for-one: Bruce Ratner's wife matches campaign contributions to Cuomo, Senate Republicans, Camara

Atlantic Yards Report

I wrote today about how Pamela Lipkin, Bruce Ratner's wife, gave a $3000 contribution to the campaign of Assemblyman Karim Camara on the same March 2009 day her husband also gave to Camara.

That's not the only time Lipkin (list, reproduced below) has matched Ratner's contribution.

Notably, Lipkin gave $5000 to Andrew Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign in February 2009 and $7500 in May 2010, matching Ratner's contributions.

And she gave $7500 to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee on the same November 2010 day Ratner also gave. (Remember, as architect Frank Gehry put it, "Bruce Ratner is politically my kind of guy, he's a do-gooder, liberal, we can talk.")

I mentioned Lipkin, then Ratner's girlfriend, in a 9/5/06 post, but she's made other contributions since then, including a $3100 October 2006 contribution to the uncontested Assembly campaign of Brooklyn Democratic Chair Vito Lopez, and a $5400 September 2006 contribution to the Senatorial campaign of Martin Connor.

The list (click to enlarge)

article

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

New Atlantic Yards critics Camara and Adams got Forest City Ratner-related campaign money in the past. Maybe now they don't think they need more.

Atlantic Yards Report

When covering the press conference last Sunday by three elected officials previously on-the-fence or supportive of Atlantic Yards, I didn't point out that two of three had received campaign contributions from people connected to Forest City Ratner and Atlantic Yards.

Such contributions, along with constituent feedback, might have nudged Assemblyman Karim Camara and state Senator Eric Adams toward their respective AY positions, supportive and near-the-fence.

My armchair analysis: Camara and Adams don't need such campaign money now, and they're more worried about constituents who haven't gotten expected/hoped-for jobs, contracts, and housing at the project.

While I had covered most of those contributions, I'd also missed some. In no case did the Atlantic Yards-related money represent a large percentage of the total, but the contributions were significant enough to be noticeable.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who did not get Ratner-related contributions, probably is happy to distinguish himself from Rep. Ed Towns, an Atlantic Yards supporter whom he's challenging for Congress. In criticizing Atlantic Yards, Jeffries also might take some votes from those constituents sympathetic to the anti-AY stance of city Council Member Charles Barron, who's also in the race.

article

Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

January 22, 2012

Finally "fed up," Adams, Jeffries, Camara cite lack of Atlantic Yards jobs and housing, call for governance reform; a "litmus test" for Governor Cuomo

Atlantic Yards Report

At a press conference today, three local Democratic officials who've held nuanced and/or supportive positions toward Atlantic Yards adjusted their tune. They condemned the failure to deliver jobs and housing, and urged passage of a state bill to establish a new governance structure, with local input, for the project.

"We are truly concerned--we are outraged," declared state Senator Eric Adams (at podium in photo at left). Developer Forest City Ratner "thought we were going to have short memories and a long construction schedule."

Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries and Karim Camara, with the under-construction Barclays Center looming in the background, echoed similar sentiments.

"We have been extremely patient with this project," Adams said at one point. "I don't think that you can find three more elected officials who have attempted to be a voice of reason around this project. And if we're saying we're fed up, then clearly the developer had gone too far."

Their statements likely represented some measure of political calculation--two of the three are running for office--as well as a reflection that their constituents are frustrated.

The project, when initially passed in 2006, was supposed to take ten years to deliver 16 towers and an arena, with 15,000 construction jobs (in job-years) and thousands of permanent jobs. It also was to include 6430 apartments, among them 2250 subsidized "affordable" units.

The project, however, was delayed by the economic downturn, unrealistic plans, and litigation, and was revised in 2009, with contractual documents that allow a 25-year buildout. Only the arena is is under construction right now, and that, officials said, does not justify the subsidies and special benefits Forest City gained.

link

Posted by steve at 11:36 PM

Press conference on Atlantic Yards governance bill today at 2 pm: Jeffries, Adams, Camara

Atlantic Yards Report

A press release from BrooklynSpeaks:

State Legislators Call Foul Over Failure of Barclays Arena Developer to Score on Community Givebacks

New York State legislators Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and Assemblyman Karim Camara will hold a press conference to call for changes in the governance of the Atlantic Yards project, the development that includes the Barclay Arena, future home of the New York Nets.

Many of the community benefits promised by the developers – including job creation, a public safety plan and the inclusion of affordable housing – have failed to materialize. The group will call on Kenneth Adams, President of the Empire State Development Corporation, to implement oversight changes in the Atlantic Yards development project.

At the press conference, the elected officials will announce their plans to introduce legislation that establishes a subsidiary corporation for Atlantic Yards oversight and development. This new body will ensure transparency and accountability to protect public resources invested in the project.

Date: Sunday, January 22, 2012
Time: 2:00 PM
Location: Front of Barclays Center (Corner of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue)
Presiding: Senator Eric Adams, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Assemblyman Karim Camara

link

Posted by steve at 11:33 PM

January 21, 2012

Dave Zirin Invites Michael Ratner To Cohost A Screening of Battle for Brooklyn

Twitter

David Zirin, sports editor for The Nation and Develop Don't Destroy advisory board member, is concerned about the intersection of politics and sports. He's asking, via tweets, to co-host a showing of the documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" with Michael Ratner and perhaps discuss openly with Ratner the contradiction between his supporting individual rights worldwide while supporting his brother's use of eminent domain here in Brooklyn.

Posted by steve at 9:39 PM

January 19, 2012

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn takes Gotbaum to task for support of Ratner

NY Daily News Sport ITeam Blog
by Michael O'Keeffe

Former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s recent rush to defend Nets’ minority owner Bruce Ratner shows that when it comes to New York politics, the fox is quite welcome in the hen house, according to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“We don't remember her doing any meaningful public advocacy as Public Advocate but she sure hopped to it as Ratner Advocate when Ratner called,” DDDB says on its web site.

Gotbaum is the former elected official who once said she would support Ratner’s plans to build the massive Atlantic Yards project, and its arena for the woeful Nets, because the developer told her he would not use eminent domain to acquire Brooklyn real estate.

Gotbaum is apparently willing to overlook Ratner’s fib. She wrote a letter that appeared in The New York Times last week that praised the developer for always demonstrating the “highest ethical standards.”

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Gotbaum does have her fans, however...

@ShellySilver via Twitter: Betsy, we miss you. As your letter to the editor reminds us, you were everything a Public Advocate should be. http://ow.ly/8zy1b

Posted by eric at 4:37 PM

January 18, 2012

A Call For Governor to Step In and End 'Cycle of Litigation' at Atlantic Yards

Community group wants renewed focus on promised affordable housing at the site.

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch
by Jamie Schuh

Amidst a back-and-forth legal war over the environmental effects of the timeline of Atlantic Yards development, at least one community group is now asking for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step in and make affordable housing at the site a priority.

“Brooklyn needs Governor Cuomo to step in to end the cycle of litigation, and get this project to deliver on its promises,” said Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council. “It’s time to move beyond the past failings of the Empire State Development Corporation, and focus on building the affordable housing and providing the jobs the community so desperately needs—now, not in 25 years.”

The call to Albany coincides with ESDC and Forest City Ratner's recent appeal of a July 2011 court decision ordering further environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project, and the subsequent legal response taken this weekend by groups like BrooklynSpeaks and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

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NoLandGrab: Sure, Status Cuomo will get right on it — as soon as he builds his mega-casino-convention center in the chic downtown neighborhood of Ozone Park, Queens.

Related coverage...

The Real Deal, Brooklyn activists call on Cuomo to bring resolution to AY saga

The legal tug of war started in 2009 when the Empire State Development Corp. allowed Forest City Ratner a 15-year extension on the construction timeline at Atlantic Yards. This summer a court ordered an environmental review of the consequences of the prolonged construction timeframe, which ESDC and Forest City Ratner subsequently appealed. This week, several other activist groups — including Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn — filed legal documents against that appeal.

But the Pratt Area Community Council wants to bypass the legal jostling by getting Cuomo to coerce a resolution.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

January 13, 2012

Forest City Ratner's designated lurker, the powerful Rapfogel family, and the developer's ties to Sheldon Silver

Atlantic Yards Report

Forest City Ratner's designated lurker at certain public events is easy to spot, a round-faced young guy who wears the kipah of an observant Jew: Michael Rapfogel, who comes from a family thisclose to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Rapfogel, who works in FCR's government relations department, was taking notes outside an April 2010 courthouse interview after Atlantic Yards opponent Daniel Goldstein settled and agreed to move--the latter's attorney called it spying.

Rapfogel was, curiously enough, at Brooklyn Borough Hall just before the 12/12/11 meeting concerning a Transportation Working Group, though he didn't stay for the event.

And Rapfogel was across the street (with basketball coach/political consultant Thomas "Ziggy" Sicignano) on 11/15/11 watching the press conference held by Council Member Letitia James announcing a lawsuit filed by seven people who said they were promised construction jobs and union cards after going through an FCR-paid training program.

The Rapfogel connection

Rapfogel holds the title of Vice President--relatively low on the totem pole where such titles later get prepended with "Senior" and "Executive"--but I doubt he's a random hire. Sure, he's got a law degree, so he's competent, but he's also part of a family with crucial political ties. And he's survived while Forest City Ratner has downsized its staff.

His father William Rapfogel serves as the head of a major charity, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and is an old friend of Silver, and his mother Judy Rapfogel is Silver's chief of staff.

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Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

January 12, 2012

Borough President candidate Scissura raises $126,765; yes, there are developers on the list (and auto dealers, bakers, etc.)

Atlantic Yards Report

The heir apparent in the Brooklyn Borough President's race is doing pretty well. The New York Post reported today, in Markowitz’s top advisor off to record start in 2013 Brooklyn Beep race:

Carlo Scissura, senior advisor to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, last night said he’s hauled in a whopping $126,765 for the latest filing period for the campaign to succeed his term-limited boss. The total, which includes more than $123,000 cash on hand, represents the largest inaugural filing for any new Brooklyn Borough President candidate in city history, officials said. The warchest was raised in only 100 days.
...

So who contributed? The press release, according to the Post, said the filings "will show 250 donors, including 198 Brooklynites, with 193 of the Brooklyn donors believed to be eligible for matching funds – nearly doubling the 100-donor threshold required to qualify for public matching funds.”
...

I didn't see any contributions from those associated with Forest City Ratner. Scissura, who stepped down from Chief of Staff for this race, co-leads the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet, among other AY-related duties.

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Posted by eric at 11:45 PM

Bloomberg, in State of the City address, says "we’ll open the new Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards" (who's "we"?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Let's just parse that for a moment. Barclays Center seems to be placed into the category of "attract more visitors" rather than "bring new jobs on line."

Let's see how often he keeps saying, as he did at the March 2010 groundbreaking, "“The world-class arena will bring the Nets to Brooklyn, and the entire project will bring with it more than 25,000 construction and permanent jobs, thousands of units of affordable housing, and tremendous economic activity."

And who's the "we" in "we'll open the new Barclays Center"? More Mikhail Prokhorov and Bruce Ratner than the public.

link

Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

January 11, 2012

Bloomberg: "I don’t like the idea of one state bribing a business to come" (except when he does it)

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg loves talking up the free market, as I've written, and hasn't stopped.

Today's New York Times reports, in New Jersey Tries to Lure Fresh Direct From Queens, that there's a battle of subsidy packages to attract and retain the online grocer Fresh Direct:

New Jersey’s siren call to Fresh Direct comes only eight months after the Christie administration dangled a $200 million incentive package in front of the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Cooperative to move roughly 3,000 jobs to the New Jersey Meadowlands from the Bronx. Stephen Katzman, co-president of the co-op, told The Herald News in June that Governor Christie had called him offering “pretty much whatever it would take to get us to go there.”

That prompted Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to accuse New Jersey of trans-Hudson bribery. “I don’t like the idea of one state bribing a business to come,” the mayor said last spring. “The trouble with that is the next state can do it, too. Anybody can get in that game, and pretty soon, it’s a race to the bottom. I don’t think anybody benefits.”

Many economists and urban planners question the wisdom of giving away tax revenues by the millions for individual companies, instead of investing in public services and transportation that would benefit all companies and citizens.

But Bloomberg was willing to commit hundreds of millions of dollars in city resources to assist Forest City Ratner in building Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at 6:45 PM

January 9, 2012

Forest City defense re Kruger/Lipsky pleas: federal complaint "in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner"

Atlantic Yards Report

Reported Brooklyn Daily, regarding the guilty pleas by former state Sen. Carl Kruger and Richard Lipsky:

The [federal complaint against Kruger and Lipsky] in no way says or suggests that we behaved in an inappropriate manner,” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco explained.

Not so.

Neither the 4/7/11 indictment (superseding a 3/9/11 complaint) suggested that Forest City, or executive Bruce Bender, behaved illegally.

And the indictment, far more terse than its predecessor, did not suggest inappropriate behavior.

But the complaint, as I pointed out 12/21/11, very much suggested inappropriate behavior--at least if you think asking Kruger for $15 million, including $9 million to complete the Carlton Avenue Bridge (and talking rather profanely about it), is inappropriate.

link

Posted by eric at 10:42 AM

January 4, 2012

A couple of Atlantic Yards echoes in Cuomo's State of the State address

Atlantic Yards Report

From Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State Address today, via the press release:

Master Plan for the Jacob Javits Site: With plans for a new convention center in New York City, the Governor called for a master plan for the Jacob Javits site to create a mixed use facility and revitalize New York City's West Side with 18 acres of planned development. The plan would follow the successful Battery Park City model and involve more than $2 billion in estimated private sector development funds to create a new 21st century neighborhood on the West Side.

Note that Atlantic Yards did not follow the "successful Battery Park City model," which involved multiple developers and open space first.

Also:

Implement Campaign Finance Reform: Governor Cuomo called for comprehensive reform of the state's campaign finance system to make sure that all New Yorkers have an equal voice in the political process. New York ranks 48th in the nation in voter turnout and a smaller percentage of New York residents contribute to candidates to state office than anywhere else in the nation. The Governor called for a better campaign finance system that system that includes matched contributions and lower contribution limits, and increase enforcement at the Board of Elections.

Cuomo of course has benefited from this system, but better late than never. Developers like Bruce Ratner and his company can wield outsize influence under the current system.

link

NoLandGrab: Sure, Status Cuomo. How 'bout kicking things off by returning Bruce Ratner's $12,500?

Posted by eric at 11:38 PM

January 3, 2012

Lobbyist Is Expected to Plead Guilty in Bribery Case

The New York Times
by Benjamin Weiser

Why, we just noticed that Richard Lipsky hasn't updated his bombastic, pompous blog since the day before he got pinched on bribery charges. DA got your keyboard, Lipsky?

Richard J. Lipsky, a prominent lobbyist who was charged in the bribery conspiracy case that also ensnared State Senator Carl Kruger, was expected to plead guilty on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Mr. Lipsky’s plea would come just two weeks after Mr. Kruger resigned from the Senate and pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the broad conspiracy case that has been seen as spotlighting the pervasive issue of corruption in Albany. Mr. Kruger faces up to 50 years in prison when he is sentenced in April by Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

Mr. Lipsky was one of eight defendants originally charged in the matter, and was scheduled for trial this month.

Another of his co-defendants, Robert Aquino, the former chief executive officer of Parkway Hospital in Queens, was expected to plead guilty on Tuesday, leaving just one defendant facing trial.

It was not clear on Tuesday morning to what charges Mr. Lipsky and Mr. Aquino would plead guilty. Lawyers for the two men declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is prosecuting the case.

Mr. Lipsky, who is in his 60s, has long portrayed himself as an advocate for the underdog; he has been a frequent presence in City Hall and in the State Capitol in Albany, and has had a reputation as a pugnacious fighter for his clients.
...

"Underdogs" like these:

Mr. Lipsky’s clients included... a real estate developer that has since been identified as Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

December 24, 2011

Marty Markowitz's holiday card: "We got the Brooklyn Nets"

The Atlantic Yards Report

Below, the cover (Goodbye to Hurricane Irene) and the inside of Borough President Marty Markowitz's holiday card. (Here's some Brooklyn Paper analysis of Markowitz's "gay marriage" theme.)

He's so excited, he states, "We got the Brooklyn Nets," even though they won't arrive til next year.

link

Posted by steve at 4:44 PM

December 22, 2011

John Liu And the Mayoral Race: We Are Confronted by A Misfortune. Can Misfortune Be Turned Aside?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White rues the (self-created) pitfalls of John Liu's mayoral campaign.

The Times articles essentially evaluate as nails in the coffin of Liu’s mayoral race the federal investigation into Liu’s fund-raising. The investigation is the result of an apparently successful FBI sting operation. How bad is it?: The article about who is in the potential field of candidates for mayor doesn’t even include Liu’s picture amongst the panel depicting the panoply of contenders.

If the sting operation succeeds in knocking Liu out of the race it will be unfortunate from the standpoint of Noticing New York's family of concerns in one respect: As the collection of alternative candidates considered in the December 11th Times article emphasizes, no one else likely to run is likely to pose the same threat to the Bloombergian real estate industry-dominated status quo as John Liu. The threat Liu presents to that established order calling the shots in this city is best judged by his record. As a member of the City Council Liu stood out as part of a small minority willing to reject the dictates of Bloomberg’s Quinn (serving as Speaker of the City Council): He voted in a principled manner on projects such as the irredeemably tainted Walentas Dock Street project. As City Comptroller he continued to take on Bloomberg when almost nobody else did.

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NoLandGrab: Liu's high regard among Atlantic Yards opponents continues to puzzle us, since he's done little more than pay lip service to earn it.

Posted by eric at 12:03 PM

December 21, 2011

State Senator Kruger pleads guilty, resigns; no mention of "Real Estate Developer #1," but plea includes admission that legislator helped Forest City Ratner executive

Atlantic Yards Report

Sixteen-year Southern Brooklyn state Senator Carl Kruger pleaded guilty yesterday to accepting at least $1 million in bribes--thus supporting his over-the-top residence in Mill Basin and a Bentley--and resigned from the Senate.

The news coverage (Times, Daily News, Post), the more entertaining editorials (Daily News, Post) and Michael Powell's Times column, emphasized Kruger's self-pitying, pathetic, tearful apology, while the Daily News (as did the Observer) pointed to a culture of corruption in Albany. Indeed, Kruger gets to keep his pension.

Neither Kruger's brief allocution nor any of the news coverage mentioned Kruger's interaction with "Real Estate Developer #1" (as detailed beginning on p. 21 of the the 3/9/11 complaint), aka Forest City Ratner.

However, Kruger's guilty plea apparently included admitting that he helped deliver state funds to a cause championed by Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, part of the legislator's work for clients of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who was also indicted but has yet to go to trial.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Quietly, and without allegations of FCR-related influence or bribery, Prospect Park's Lakeside project gets $2.687 million from the state

Prospect Park's $74 million Lakeside ice rink project was put under a cloud when state Senator Carl Kruger got indicted for--and just pleaded guilty to-- directing $500,000 in state funds to a client of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, part of a suite of charges.

(It was a cause championed by Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, whose wife sits on the Prospect Park Alliance board, though it's hardly clear that Forest City lobbyist Richard Lipsky, charged with bribing Kruger, was doing so for that specific cause.)

But it turns out that Lakeside does just fine getting state funds in the conventional way, untainted by bribery allegations or much publicity.

Posted by eric at 11:35 AM

December 20, 2011

Deconstructing Marty Markowitz on Atlantic Yards blame (it's all the fault of lawsuits), residential permit parking, and his claim of being underpaid

Atlantic Yards Report

Better sit down for this one.

In a recent interview by Roberto Perez on The Perez Notes, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gave what likely will remain his standard line on Atlantic Yards: it all would've worked out if there had been no lawsuits.

Well, that ignores the fact that developers of large, multi-phase projects must plan for up-and-down development cycles, and, as already noted by DDDB and NLG, developer Bruce Ratner admitted that his announced plan was never feasible.

The question

At 10:06, host Perez opened up the mike: "Borough President, talk a little bit about Atlantic Yards. There are both sides, of course, the people who are upset about eminent domain, people who are upset that the jobs, supposedly promised by Bruce Ratner have not materialized, and the job training, and the people that are upset over gentrification. Talk about some of the positives of the project, and what do you think of the overall so far, there's a lot of development left that's part of the final project that hasn't happened just yet."

The answer

Markowitz took to it like catnip: "Well, let me just say that, if the folks that opposed this hadn't tied the project up for seven years in litigation, Atlantic Yards, a good piece of it would have been built. The affordable housing would've been on its way. The Nets would be playing in the arena and defeating the Manhattan Knicks. I'm sure, I'm confident. And people would've been working, and it would've been the jobs that were promised. Because when this project was first proposed, the economy was strong in new York and in America. Sadly, seven years of lawsuits that sucked up time, money, and everything else and then we get into the middle of a deep recession."

Wait, the developer originally promised 10,000 office jobs in four office tower. That was bogus from the start. Now there's one office tower planned.

Damning the critics

"Listen, now the critics are complaining that there's not enough jobs," Markowitz continued. "Before, they couldn't care less about the jobs. They couldn't care less about the jobs. They couldn't care less about affordable housing."

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NoLandGrab: Sure, Marty, we couldn't care less about any of that stuff. But what we really don't care about is bringing a lousy pro basketball team to Brooklyn — especially on the taxpayers' dime.

Posted by eric at 1:36 PM

Report: Kruger to plead guilty

The Brooklyn Paper
by Vince Dimiceli

State Sen. Carl Kruger will reportedly plead guilty today to accepting at least $1 million in bribes — and, in doing so, lose his powerful seat in the Senate.

Our sister publication, the New York Post, and a Manhattan publication, the New York Times, reported late Tuesday night that the embattle senator, a Democrat representing a swath of Southern Brooklyn who lives in a posh, seaside mansion in Mill Island, had struck a deal with feds, and would plead guilty to four out of five counts against him.

Kruger’s co-defendant Michael Turano, who shares the home with senator and has been reported to be his lover, is also expected to plead guilty.

Money-laundering charges against both men would be dropped under the deals, in which Kruger will admit to four counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and take bribes. Turano will plead guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy, the Post reported.

If Kruger pleads guilty to the felonies, the 16-year senator would immediately be expelled from the state Senate, where he has served on the powerful Finance Committee.

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NoLandGrab: No word as to whether Kruger has given up any potential indictees with a predilection for bridge-shtupping.

Posted by eric at 11:42 AM

December 19, 2011

Update #8: The role of the dissident

Battle Campaign via Kickstarter

Today I saw that Marty Markowitz once again used the leverage of his office to make the case that the Atlantic Yards project would be almost built if it wasn't for the complaining gentrifiers.
...

Using the power of office to demonize those who raise important questions leads us to a quote from a more powerful politician and profound thinker. Vaclav Havel died yesterday. On the nature of opposition to power he had this to say:

"You do not become a dissident just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society." —Vaclav Havel

Some dissidents get beaten down. Others overthrow corrupt regimes and become President.

link

Posted by eric at 11:15 PM

Marty Markowitz Spreads Holiday Cheer With Bogus Blame and Divisiveness

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

If the folks who supported Atlantic Yards, such as its biggest (as in loudest) cheerleader Marty Markowitz, hadn't attempted to construct the largest single-developer project in NYC history by overriding local zoning, bypassing the votes of all city and state elected officials, utilizing eminent domain for private gain, giving away public assets through sweetheart deals, providing special deals and subsidies totaling somewhere near $2 billion, and breaking housing and jobs promises left and right all while ignoring community input without ever sincerely seeking it, perhaps Atlantic Yards would not be the most reviled development plan in all of New York.

And now, despite all of that plus the growing realization among the non-partisans that the project and its one accomplishment—a money-losing arena—is a clustermess in the heart of Brooklyn, the Borough President is sticking to the absurd line that it is the community advocates' fault the project is a failure. Taking it yet one step further Markowitz astonishingly claims that the use of eminent domain for Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov's benefit was somehow a good thing.

Why do we bring all of this up? Well just look at what holiday cheer Markowitz is spreading.

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Posted by eric at 10:10 AM

December 18, 2011

Guess what: Prokhorov's business associates buff boss to Daily News sports reporter; Russian author suggests "gambler" Prokhorov, even if part of an "arrangement," could shake things up

Atlantic Yards Report

Daily News Nets beat reporter Stefan Bondy takes a dip into politics, with High-stakes one-on-one Nets owner has game to dunk on Vladmir Putin: Prokhorov is shrewd, tough, a good athlete and very rich.

His sources, in total:

• Chris Charlier, deputy CEO of Prokhorov’s holding company Onexim Group
• Nets coach Avery Johnson
• Onexim Sports & Entertainment President Irina Pavlova

What, Nets p.r. couldn't arrange an interview with opposition politician Boris Nemstov, who calls Prokhorov a Kremlin stooge?

link

Posted by steve at 8:02 PM

Marty Markowitz on THE PEREZ NOTES Part 2.

The Perez Notes

I had the opportunity to interview, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Here are some of his views, on the issues of the day. Below the quotes, is the audio of the interview.

...

Atlantic Yards

"If the folks that opposed this, hadn't tied the project up for 7 years in litigation Atlantic Yards a good piece of it would've built. The affordable housing would've been on it's way. The Nets would be playing in the arena and defeating the Manhattan Knicks."

"The folks that were impacted by eminent domain, overwhelmingly most of them did very well. The folks that are the loudest complainers, folks could argue are the gentrifiers."

"I have significant reservations about permit parking, about resident parking only, I don't think it could work."

link

NoLandGrab: Marty can believe what he wants, but even developer Bruce Ratner doesn't see how affordable housing can be part of the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by steve at 5:43 PM

December 16, 2011

Did Bloomberg's Olympic legacy really pay off? Some dissent to the new narrative, and an odd attempt to shoehorn in Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

A new report, How New York City Won the Olympics (also embedded below), argues that most of the benefits of the city's 2012 Olympics bid have been achieved, and without the crushing costs of the event.

It has drawn supportive coverage from the New York Times (though see this cautionary comment) and an enthusiastic New York Daily News editorial, plus coverage in The Bond Buyer.

But it should be taken with significant skepticism. The report is authored by the much-quoted Mitchell L. Moss, Director, Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University.

Moss, an advisor to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's 2001 mayoral campaign, has often defended Bloomberg and the Olympic Plan's chief architect, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, so--despite failure to mention that connection in press coverage--that connection must be layered on his academic credentials.

Also, the report includes some strained attempts to attach the Atlantic Yards arena and plan to the Olympics legacy, though that's not backed up by evidence.

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Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

December 15, 2011

Prokhorov announces plans to buy major media group, pardon Khodorkovsky; is not likely to gain much support

Atlantic Yards Report

Despite doubts about his candidacy, Russian presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov is saying the right things, announcing plans to pardon jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose conviction is seen as Kremlin-directed.

Meanwhile, Is Prokhorov learning from Silvio Berlusconi and Mike Bloomberg, not to mention Mort Zuckerman and Rupert Murdoch? Apparently. The AP reports:

The billionaire owner of the New Jersey Nets running for the Russian presidency against Vladimir Putin is expected to make a formal offer to buy a leading media holding Wednesday, his representative said.

[Mikhail] Prokhorov will be making a formal offer to buy the Kommersant publishing house from Alisher Usmanov, Prokhorov’s spokeswoman Olga Stukalova told The Associated Press. Usmanov, however, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying he doesn’t have any plans to sell it.

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NoLandGrab: It might be easier to start his own "newspaper" instead.

Posted by eric at 11:30 AM

December 14, 2011

Is Prokhorov's candidacy for real? Amid the coverage, some opposition figures say he's a Kremlin stooge

Atlantic Yards Report

Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov's phony candidacy for Russia's presidency is drawing praise from phony-ish tabloids and skepticism from those more in the know.

Is Russian billionaire (and Nets majority owner) Mikhail Prokhorov's (NBA-sanctioned) foray into politics a Kremlin-sanctioned play? Amid all the coverage, that's a minority view, but it's one taken by some respected opposition figure and backed by some circumstantial evidence.

The New York Daily News, in an editorial yesterday, saluted Prokhorov:

The unthinkable appears to be happening to Vladimir Putin: A formidable figure will challenge the Russian strongman in that country’s 2012 presidential election.

Raise a glass of Stoli to adopted New York billionaire and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov for having the guts even to say that he’ll try to dethrone the ruthless would-be leader-for-life.

What if he's a fake?

But Newsweek/Daily Beast correspondent Anna Nemtsova asked on 12/12/11, Is Russia’s Mikhail Prokhorov a Fake Challenger for Vladimir Putin?:

On Monday they finally clashed. Prokhorov, who owns the New Jersey Nets, announced that he would run for president against Putin, an act that means he recognizes the current prime minister as a legitimate candidate. [Boris] Nemtsov and other opposition leaders, meanwhile, are calling for Russians to take to the streets next week and demand Putin’s resignation.

Flirting with a crowd of journalists this afternoon, a playful smile on his lips, Prokhorov said he had made “the most serious decision” of his life. The oligarch—chosen by the Kremlin in June to lead the newly created pseudoliberal Right Cause party before being ousted in September—would become a candidate in the presidential election in March.

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NoLandGrab: Prokhorov's candidacy is as real as Bruce Ratner's promise of 10,000 permanent jobs and Proky's guarantee that the Nets would make the playoffs last year.

Related coverage...

NY Post, Nets owner's Russian presidency run has Brooklyn talking

Some folks are less sanguine than the Daily News about Prokhorov's candidacy.

Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, which opposes the Nets plans to build an NBA arena in Brooklyn as part of the Atlantic Yards project, didn’t hold back his feeling about Prokhorov.

“It is extremely troubling that the potential next president of Russia is the beneficiary of eminent domain in America and one of the most corrupt land grabs we've ever seen in New York City,” he said. “I really feel for the Russians having to choose between a kleptocrat and a tyrant."

Developer Bruce Ratner, who is partnering with Prokhorov in building the Barclays Center for the Nets, declined comment on Prokhorov running for president of Russia, and Nets brass also remained tight lipped about their owner's political aspirations.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

December 13, 2011

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership names Tucker Reed new president, formerly headed DUMBO Improvement District

Atlantic Yards Report

Crain's Insider reports today that the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has finally found a successor to Joe Chan, who left for Empire State Development (though he doesn't oversee Atlantic Yards):

Downtown Brooklyn's Next President
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership has named 31-year-old Tucker Reed the next president of the local development corporation. A former head of the DUMBO Improvement District and policy adviser at the Department of Small Business Services, Reed begins Jan. 9. He succeeds Joe Chan, who left in September.
...

As I've written, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, presumably influenced by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and member Forest City Ratner, has been a reliable cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, and once was (and perhaps still is) under investigation by the state Attorney General's office for improper lobbying.

link

Posted by eric at 11:43 PM

Mayor assigns Director of Special Projects to address Atlantic Yards quality-of-life issues (she's already doing that regarding the Second Avenue Subway construction zone)

Atlantic Yards Report

Though Atlantic Yards is a state project, not a city one, the Mayor's Office is apparently stepping up and assigning a top staffer to ensure a better response to quality-of-life complaints and to ensure interagency cooperation.

(Have they been reading Atlantic Yards Watch and/or tracking 311 calls?)

Council Member Letitia James, at a meeting at Borough Hall last night on AY-related transportation issues, announced that she had recently met with a a representative from the Mayor's Office, "who is now an ombudsman for Atlantic Yards."

I think James was using the term loosely, but the staffer she named, Lolita Jackson, indeed has Atlantic Yards in her portfolio. Jackson, until June 2011, was Mayor Mike Bloomberg's chief liaison for all Manhattan related community issues.

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Posted by eric at 1:29 PM

December 9, 2011

Senators show enthusiasm for EB-5 regional center program; questions raised about level of investment, length of term; a skeptic vs. Sen. Leahy

Atlantic Yards Report

The EB-5 program of investment immigration--at least via its most popular incarnation, the regional center program--has been booming, with the number of regional centers, privately owned (mostly) investment pools set up to recruit immigrants seeking green cards, growing from some 35 to 200 in three years.

However, the regional center program is a pilot program, extended five times for 19 years, and set to expire at the end of September 2012. So Congress has begun considering making the program permanent, and the Senate Judiciary Committee 12/7/11 held a hearing on a bill (Creating American Jobs Through Foreign Capital Investment Act) sponsored by Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to do just that.

The only cosponsor so far is Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), but, as at previous Congressional hearings, most legislators seemed positive about a program Leahy called “as much of a win-win program as one could think of.”

Two of the three witnesses program boosters, and the few Senators skeptical seemed more exercised by the rare intersection between EB-5 and illegal immigration than questions of fraud and enforcement.

Still, one Senator put it plainly, that the program is selling green cards.

And the program’s one prominent critic, David North of the (right-wing) Center for Immigration Studies got his due, suggesting that the U.S. scrap the regional center program, that it delivers results that have been poorly documented, and that Senators should not be seduced by positive anecdotes. At the least, he said, the minimum investment--which hasn’t been raised since 1993--should be increased.
...

Some skepticism

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) offered some skepticism, suggesting that “we need to enact reforms to make the EB-5 regional center program worthy of its goals.”

“At the end of the day, one fact remains,” Grassley declared. “The program is simply a way for wealthy investors to buy a green card, not only for themselves but for their families. No skills or management experience is needed. One only needs to write a check... While taking a financial risk... is admirable, evidence suggests that it’s not doing enough to spur job creation.”

But he didn’t drill down very far.

As usual, however, Norman Oder drills down much farther. Click through for more.

article

Posted by eric at 11:47 AM

Schumer endorses EB-5 bill making regional centers permanent, cites projects in New York (City Point?!), avoids Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, didn’t attend a hearing 12/7/11 on making permanent a provision that allows regional centers--federally authorized private (mostly) investment pools--recruit immigrant investors under the EB-5 program.

But Schumer is the first co-sponsor on a bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to renew the program, and he did offer an enthusiastic statement for the record, applauding “a program that has done so much good in New York State, and which needs to be made permanent.”



“In New York State, we have 9 USCIS-approved regional center projects that are doing a world of good to create good-paying American jobs,” Schumer said, glossing over the fact that, at least with the Atlantic Yards investment, the job-creation calculation is extremely dubious.

The list, including City Point

Schumer proceeded to list five projects, conspicuously omitting the largest, Atlantic Yards, but mentioning--news to me--that the City Point project in Downtown Brooklyn by Acadia Realty Trust has raised $200 million in EB-5 funding.

(Graphic from NYCRC Chinese web site promoting the project.)

link

Posted by eric at 11:39 AM

November 28, 2011

Feds drop case against Kruger ‘crony’

Brooklyn Daily
by Dan MacLeod

Federal prosecutors have dropped charges against a developer they claimed funneled nearly $500,000in bribes to state Sen. Carl Kruger — the second suspect to beat the rap in the government’s pronged attack against the embattle Brighton Beach legislature.

Feds say they will dismiss the charges against Aaron Malinsky, who was arrested on March 10 alongside Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) — as long as he keeps his nose clean for six months, according to the developer’s lawyer, Scott Mollen.
...

Prosecutors claim that, in return for the money Malinsky paid to Olympian Strategic Development, Kruger greased the wheels so the developer could build a $65-million shopping center on city-owned land at the corner of Avenue D and Remsen Avenue in Canarsie. The site is home to a BJ’s.

The feds also accused Kruger of:

• Trying to get Forest City Ratner Companies, the lead developer on the proposed Four Sparrows Retail Center on the southern tip of Flatbush Avenue, to give a portion of the project to Malinsky so he could build a department store on the city-owned site.

• Promoted Malinsky’s plans to put a small-scale clothing store at Four Sparrows Retail Center during a scoping session on the project.

Malinsky and Rosen were among five men prosecutors say Kruger accepted bribes from between 2006 and 2011. The remaining three suspects, which include union lobbyist Richard Lipsky, have yet to go to trial.

article

Posted by eric at 11:26 AM

November 23, 2011

National Notice Article on Orwellian Reversal As Bloomberg Biographer Proclaims OWS-Evicting Billionaire Mayor "Firm Supporter of the First Amendment"

Noticing New York

There is a new National Notice article up for your delectation of things Orwellian. It involves the reversal Bloomberg biographer, Joyce Purnick, made when she declared just weeks ago on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show that New York City’s billionaire mayor is “a firm supporter of the First Amendment” when in her 2009 biography of Mr. Bloomberg she describes him as anything but. Ms. Purnick’s new point of view arrived coincidentally with the Bloomberg administration’s efforts to depict Bloomberg as a civil libertarian as he orchestrated eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park. (All the details are al available here: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, Orwellian Purnick Purge: Bloomberg Biographer Rewrites Billionaire Mayor’s Record On First Amendment Free Speech Rights.)

Noticing New York readers may recall that we once considered Ms. Purnick’s Bloomberg biography “Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics” in the context of how it expunged from his portrait depiction of “significantly errant Bloombergian megadevelopment” and particularly Atlantic Yards, notwithstanding Ms. Purnick’s having been thoroughly briefed on that megadevelopment’s outrages. See: Saturday, October 3, 2009, What Purnick Has Purged: The Bloomberg Bio Mysteriously Missing Atlantic Yards.

link

Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

November 22, 2011

Op-Ed: Civic Leader Blasts Community Board Secrecy

Sheepshead Bites
by Ed Jaworski

Shhh. There apparently are secret agents, or maybe participants in a witness protection program, among the members of Brooklyn’s Community Board 15.

Three times I have tried to learn the clandestine backgrounds of all Community Board 15 board members, who supposedly represent all residents of the community.

Neighborhoods they are from, which specific civic groups they represent, and who appointed them: that’s the requested, highly classified information.
...

The reluctance to publicly provide fundamental facts about Community Board 15’s members presents the impression that lack of good faith, or secret deals, permeates this basic level of government. This in spite of the fact that board members are considered public officials under state law; and Governor Andrew Cuomo has vowed to restore the previously little-known quality of honest government.

While Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer proposed that the community board appointment processes be de-politicized and involve more outreach, diversity and transparency, that’s not the modus-operandi here. Indeed, examples of non-reappointments of opponents to hot-button projects as the Atlantic Yards, among others, show that politics control Brooklyn’s community board seats.

article

Posted by eric at 12:11 PM

November 21, 2011

NYC Regional Economic Development Council's draft strategic plan: priority projects involve the food industry, clean tech, incubators for artists and small biz (but there may be wiggle room for Atlantic Yards)

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the New York City Regional Economic Development Council has issued its Draft Strategic Plan (also embedded below) and, contrary to my speculation last month, there's virtually nothing about Atlantic Yards in the competition (with other regions) for packages of state economic development subsidies.

Rather, the priority projects involve the food industry, clean tech, an incubator for artists and others, and a small business incubator. Here's the 11/15/11 press release. The strategic plan review, in which regions compete, will be next week.

Then again, as described below, if Atlantic Yards--despite being excluded from the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning--is considered part of the Downtown Brooklyn "Opportunity Zone," then some state assistance could be steered there.

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Posted by eric at 12:07 PM

State government moves toward accountability... on highway construction cost overruns

Atlantic Yards Report

An 11/16/11 press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicates a new effort to protect taxpayer dollars from cost overruns on state highway construction projects.

It's not a direct parallel to Atlantic Yards, but it points to several principles that could apply to construction/development projects like Atlantic Yards, including inadequate planning, lack of oversight, and limited accountability.

article

NoLandGrab: Don't hold your breath.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, State government moves toward transparency... on health insurance

An 11/15/11 press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicates a new requirement that the data behind health insurance rate requests be made public.

It's not quite a direct parallel but it would be interesting to see if background material behind economic development subsidy requests be made public.

NLG: See comment above.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

November 20, 2011

Money cleanses: a Bloomberg anecdote

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a very interesting passage in City Hall's profile of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance:

Vance succeeded at mending the once-fractured relationship his office had with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Unlike Morgenthau, who was insulated from political pressure by dint of age and a half-century’s worth of political clout, Vance needs Bloomberg’s help. A key part of his platform, a family justice center, is still unfunded. A bill increasing domestic violence penalties that Vance hoped would pass the state Legislature fell prey to partisan infighting in the State Senate.
His office’s $91 million budget depends on a variety of sources, including the city’s budget, controlled by Bloomberg, and discretionary funds from both the City Council and the borough president.
But Vance also seemed to make a key decision deferential to the mayor. The office prosecuted John Haggerty, a consultant to Bloomberg’s 2009 reelection campaign, who was convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the mayor’s campaign. Vance’s prosecutors took the unusual step of granting Bloomberg immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Experts wondered why Haggerty was the only person tried in a case where it seemed Bloomberg’s campaign had skirted campaign-finance laws—though Vance did score a much-needed victory when the jury convicted Haggerty of felonies.
Asked whether he’d deliberately courted the mayor’s favor to mend their relationship, Vance said, “It always is better to have people on your side than opposite you when you’re trying to achieve an objective.”

It's not clear whether that's an admission in response to a question about selective prosecution or a more general question.

But it does suggest how power works in New York City.

link

Posted by steve at 9:52 PM

Occupy Brooklyn General Assembly (10 Meeting)

Occupy Brooklyn General Assembly

Date/Time
Date(s) - 20 Nov 2011
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Location
Atlantic Terminal Plaza

...

We are coming to the end of an intense week for the Occupy movement in New York and across the country. After the eviction in Manhattan, thousands of people demonstrated yesterday that the movement is stronger than ever and unwilling to fade away as some politicians have been hoping.

Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered at subway stops in Brooklyn and shared stories before joining the march at Foley Square. Later in the evening, hundreds more participated in a spontaneous general assembly in Cadman Plaza.

Join us this Sunday to harness this momentum and build our community.

link

Posted by steve at 12:42 AM

November 14, 2011

FUREE, elected officials ask Downtown Brooklyn Partnership to allow community input on search for new president

Atlantic Yards Report

FUREE (Families United for Racial & Economic Equality), along with State Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Joe Lentol, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council Member Letitia James (but not Steve Levin), has sent a cordial letter requesting community input in the search for the new president of the private-public Downtown Brooklyn Partnership (DBP)...

article

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

November 13, 2011

Occupy Brooklyn Pictures

Brit in Brooklyn

The Occupy Brooklyn march took place this afternoon with stops along the way at Metro Tech, Atlantic Yards and Fulton Mall. During these breaks the marchers were given information on how the developments came into being.

Daniel Goldstein spoke about Atlantic Yards, outside the Ratner shopping center.

An Occupy Wall Street surprise for Brooklyn was the launch of the awesome poster edition of the Wall Street Journal. One of Zuccotti Park’s very own had journeyed across the east river to distribute the new edition.

More pictures in my Occupy Wall Street archive.

link

Posted by steve at 11:45 PM

Occupy Brooklyn - Featuring Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report, "Occupy Brooklyn" march against corporate greed features denunciation of Atlantic Yards

There was a distinct Atlantic Yards flavor to Occupy Brooklyn yesterday, which drew perhaps 110 people--and a plethora of watchful police--to the Cadman Plaza teach-in and the ensuing "March to Evict Corporate Greed."

Atlantic Yards was denounced as an example of such greed, and a half-dozen Atlantic Yards activists were present, repurposing protest signs, as well as some groups--Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Brooklyn Green Party, Sierra Club--who had participated in Atlantic Yards-related events.

But the overall group included more young people, and the message was much broader.

Given the huge buzz about Occupy Wall Street, the crowd was relatively small. There was a minority of people of color. Still, the diverse crowds that the march encountered--both on foot and in cars--seemed receptive to the "We are the 99%" message and to the handouts warning about public support for corporate deals.

Occupy Brooklyn events continue today, in specific neighborhoods and at Brooklyn College, so the leaderless movement has opportunity to grow. Alternatively, it could establish a permanent presence--you can bet those managing MetroTech are wary--and make its presence known more firmly.

Related coverage...

Prospect Heights Patch, Occupy Brooklyn Marches on Atlantic Yards
By Amy Sara Clark

The Occupy Brooklyn movement marched on the Atlantic Yards Project Saturday as part of a “March to Evict Corporate Greed.”

About 100 people participated, including Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

"There is no greater monument to crony capitalism in all of Brooklyn than the Atlantic Yards Project," he said as the group paused in front of the Atlantic Center Mall in the shadow of the rising Barclays Center.

mcbrooklyn, Occupy Brooklyn Marches to Atlantic Yards and Other Sites of Corporate Greed

A multi-generational crowd showed up at Korean War Veterans Plaza in Downtown Brooklyn yesterday for the Occupy Brooklyn community event. The Green Party, FUREE and Common Cause joined the Occupy Brooklyn group.

The day included teach-ins about community organizing and the impact of big money on our politics, a hot lunch, performances and a march to sites of corporate greed in Brooklyn, including Atlantic Yards. Speakers said the 1 percent spend their political money to game the system against the 99 percent.

DIY Business Assoction, Occupy Brooklyn occupies Brooklyn blocks on November 12–13

From where we were standing, Occupy Brooklyn’s small collective of activists were some of the most positive, friendly protesters we’ve ever seen.

Here are some photos from Occupy Brooklyn’s Speak-out and Teach-ins at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall in Cadman Plaza West on Saturday, November 12. The pow-wow was followed by a March to Evict Corporate Greed! at 2:30 p.m.

On Sunday, November 13, Occupy Brooklyn is hosting a meeting for Community Actions from 11–3 p.m. and a General Assembly at 3 p.m.

Posted by steve at 11:05 PM

November 11, 2011

Assemblyman Boyland found not guilty in corruption case, despite lies and no-show job

Atlantic Yards Report

...But believe it or not, we hold our elected officials to an even lower standard than we hold Bruce Ratner.

Assemblyman Carl Kruger, and (by extension) Forest City Ratner must be breathing a little easier after learning that Assemblyman William Boyland, charged in the same overall federal corruption case which snared Kruger and mentioned FCR (in relation to Kruger), was acquitted yesterday.

In Jury Acquits Assemblyman of Conspiring to Take Bribes, the New York Times reported that the jury found Boyland's actions questionable but not criminal:

Most jurors felt that Mr. Boyland “clearly did things wrong,” the juror said, citing evidence that he lied on disclosure forms about his work for MediSys, and that he had a no-show job.

...“We could not connect the dots,” the juror said. “We could not say that because he got the money, he advocated for MediSys... We couldn’t do that beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Other party guilty

Here's what's confusing: the former MediSys CEO, David Rosen, was already convicted of conspiring to bribe Boyland in return for him helping MediSys. Maybe the difference was that Boyland, who did not testify, chose a jury trial, and Rosen chose a bench trial before a judge.

Kruger's trial is in January.

link

Related content...

The New York Times, Jury Acquits Assemblyman of Conspiring to Take Bribes

After the verdict was delivered, Mr. Boyland said, “I’m looking forward to getting back to serving as assemblyman for the 55th District.”

NoLandGrab: We bet he is. Dispensing his patented brand of compassion.

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

November 10, 2011

Potential Roadblock for Permit Parking Plan

State Sen. Marty Golden and other southern Brooklyn pols are against the idea of permit parking for residents.

Park Slope Patch
by Jamie Schuh

The plan for residential permit parking, lauded by some residents who live near the Barclays Center arena, may not have a chance in Albany, if state Sen. Marty Golden, R–Bay Ridge, has his way.

The Brooklyn Paper reports that though City Council approved the proposal, Golden has called the idea of a voluntary permit parking system “another tax on our communities.”

article

NoLandGrab: Marty Golden, however, was more than happy to spend a billion dollars of taxpayer money on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

November 7, 2011

State Senator Kevin Parker makes it blatant: “I help you. You help me." (Yes, he once got Ratner-related funds.)

Atlantic Yards Report

Sure, he has a criminal record and a history of violent outbursts, but at least he's honest.

The Daily News today reports, in State Sen. Kevin Parker panned after invite to benefit asks for ‘help’:

ALBANY -- Controversial state Sen. Kevin Parker has raised eyebrows yet again with a fund-raising invitation that boasts: "I help you. You help me.”
"It would be simpler if he just said ‘quid pro quo’ on the invitation,” cracked Citizens Union executive director Richard Dadey.
...The front of the invitation bears the slogan: “I help you. You help me. Together we build.”
...But state Board of Elections spokesman Tom Connolly said that while it’s not necessarily the wording he would have chosen, the statement is “vague.”

It is, at the least, an example of candor: a campaign contribution does not necessarily guarantee reciprocal help, but it is often a precursor.

The Ratner connection

Has Forest City Ratner been connected to Parker? Of course. Karen Ranucci, sister in law of developer Bruce Ratner and spouse of leftist lawyer Michael Ratner, gave Parker a $3500 campaign contribution in 2006.

Click thru to see the identities of some of the other "statesmen" who've benefitted from the largesse of the extended Ratner family.

article

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Big Politically-Connected Real Estate Projects: Ignoring The Public Majority With Futile “Participatory Democracy” Hearing Process

Noticing New York

When I heard Bill Maher on his Real Time show a week ago offer his thesis about the futility of the forms of participatory democracy into which we are routinely channeled by those with the political upper hand I couldn’t help but think of the public hearing process in New York City with respect to big real estate projects. . . I am not thinking about all real estate projects, but the “done deals,” the wired deals involving those you know are the politically connected heavyweights.

Maher was speaking about the complacent assurance of plutocrats that they’ve cornered the political market and therefore can expect to have the Occupy Wall Street 99% boxed in, just so long as the opposition movement can be channeled into the regular and routine forms of civic contest. Then plutocrats know that the 99% “will lose” if they can be channeled into the normal ways of doing political battle, says Maher, because “the other side [the plutocratic side] has all the lobbyists and all the suits.” Or, as Rachel Maddow observed in the same conversation, when the 99% does it the way the plutocrats would like, an out-gunned 99% can be ignored.

That’s why, says Maher, the plutocrats are intent on having the opposition do it THEIR way.
...

While Atlantic Yards is not the best example of the public being channeled into conventional participatory processes so they can then be ignored, it is a good example of the tinkering around the edges that occurs as things are engineered when the powers-that-be want a preordained result. Had those in power not had some appreciation of how massively objectionable to the public the Forest City Ratner project was likely to be they might not have decided to override standard public review process to deliver the deal to Ratner.

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NoLandGrab: Here's one recent example of how to not play by the rules.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

Bramson’s Scheme to Over-Ride Cuomo’s Tax-Cap Will Saddle New Rochelle With Large Post-Election Tax Increase

Talk of the Sound
by Anthony Galletta

Guess whose campaign donations are being cited as an issue in New Rochelle's mayoral race?

Bramson would like you to forget that he accepted campaign contributions from New Rochelle’s INDEPENDENT AUDITORS and IDA Tax-Abated wealthy developers like Cappelli & Forest City Ratner.

article

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

November 3, 2011

Council challenger: Williamson dislikes developer donations to councillors

Cambridge Day
by Marc Levy

Yonkers isn't the only place in which Forest City is at the root of electoral controversy.

James Williamson, self-desribed as an event organizer, publicist, neighborhood activist has been a frequent presence during public comment periods at city meetings, often speaking out on matters of affordable housing, public transportation and safety and representation for the city’s less wealthy residents. He first ran for City Council two years ago, saying “we need citizens on the City Council who will really pay attention to what’s going on in our city and will not be afraid to speak up and do something about it.” He sounded the same themes for this year’s campaign.

Why are you running? What is it in you or the community that compels you to do this now?

I want to actually do something on the City Council, rather than just sit back and do nothing and collect a check from the taxpayers for $70,000 a year along with campaign contributions from the likes of multiple members of the Ratner family (of Forest City, MIT’s “developer”) from places like Shaker Heights, a wealthy suburb of Cleveland— not Cambridge. Don’t we already have enough wealthy contributors and interests right here in good ol’ Cambridge?

Several councillor-candidates seemed to respond to concerns raised at the Area IV candidate forum last Thursday night with policy orders at Monday’s City Council meeting about rats, since residents are worried about rats displaced by major development across Main Street from Newtowne Court — but what about Ratners? The family’ behind much of this so-called development, the excavation generating the “rat problem,” and they’re major contributors to some of these very same councilor-candidates, to wit: Ken Reeves, Denise Simmons, Marjorie Decker, and, of course, Tim Toomey and David Maher.

Voters should be sure to examine the searchable database at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to see to who the various members of the extended Ratner family have been contributing to in recent months and years. They are certainly not the only corporate real estate company “investing” in Cambridge candidates (see Alexandria, for example, among others), but they are perhaps the most visible. And they are evidently equal opportunity contributors, as they have given to the cash-starved Republican, Mitt Romney, and the ethically challenged former speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, as well. Generous of them, don’t you think?
...

What is the No. 1 issue facing Cambridge you see now or coming up in the next two years, and what is your approach or solution to that issue? Be as concrete as possible in explaining what you will do.

The No. 1 issue is the tsunami of “development” heading toward Central Square and Kendall Square via proposals from the MIT Investment Management Co. and the Novartis and Forest City/Ratner plans for Massachusetts Avenue. And quo vadis Central Square? As noted, Ken Reeves is taking money from the “multiple Ratners,” as are Decker, Toomey, Maher and Simmons.

article

NoLandGrab: Sound familiar?

Posted by eric at 11:53 AM

October 31, 2011

DOES ED TOWNS EVEN HAVE A POSITION ON CHARTER SCHOOLS (OR ANYTHING ELSE)?

Room Eight: Gatemouth's Blog

Politics maven Howard Graubard (aka Gatemouth) follows up on last week's accusation that State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's thought to be prepping a primary challenge to longtime 10th District Congressman Ed Towns, is a flip-flopper on charter schools (among other things).

To return to the subject, on this issue and others, like Atlantic Yards, Hakeem Jeffries tends to nuance himself to death, but on this issue, as with Atlantic Yards, he often gets to a place near my own thinking. Further, I‘ll take this moment to remind BPA that he surely prefers Hakeem’s Atlantic yards nuance to ET’s full-throated support of Ratnerville.

But the real question here is “Does Ed Towns even have a stand on Charter Schools?

As I’ve documented before, on so many issues, ET’s thought processes, if one can even call them that, are quite embarrassing.

article

NoLandGrab: The man does have a point.

Posted by eric at 11:43 AM

October 29, 2011

The Markowitz defense/explanation: I did it for Brooklyn (plus a letter the Times didn't print)

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has a letter in today's New York Times, responding to the newspaper's lengthy investigation of his private fundraising:

I wasn’t elected Brooklyn borough president to do nothing, and I certainly wasn’t chosen for my good looks. My office doesn’t set its own budgets, and gets only $300,000 in discretionary money for programming in a borough of 2.6 million people — less than 12 cents per person! I refuse to accept these limitations, and Brooklynites deserve better.

To make a difference for Brooklyn, I’m an aggressive supporter of economic development and proud of every project that has helped our borough reach new heights.

The nonprofits affiliated with my office have helped countless Brooklynites, sending thousands of kids to summer camp, entertaining millions at free summer concerts, playing host to the largest book festival in the Northeast and providing residents in need with toys and food during the holidays.

And to the businesses that have helped these efforts, I say, Bravo! And more companies should do the same.

If when I’m finished, I have made you prouder to be a Brooklynite, improved your life even a little bit and put a smile on your face, then I achieved what I set out to do.

MARTY MARKOWITZ Brooklyn, Oct. 25, 2011

What's missing

Yes, Markowitz has used the money to serve the public--and to burnish his reputation, thus ensuring cakewalks in his two races for re-election. And Markowitz, of course, evades the question of whether those firms that donate get special favors.

link

Posted by steve at 3:36 PM

October 28, 2011

Brooklyn Borough Prez Marty Markowitz: Arm Twister or Force of Nature for Nonprofits?

The Nonprofit Quarterly
by Rick Cohen

Marty Markowitz seems to be New York City’s happy political power broker. According to the New York Times, Markowitz has worked with real estate interests such as Forest City Ratner, the developer of the massive Atlantic Yards complex in downtown Brooklyn, to move their projects through the often-stalled pipeline. As a gesture of political gratitude, Forest City Ratner has contributed $1.7 million since 2003 toward charities favored by the borough president—part of more than $20 million the Times says Markowitz has raised from developers and special interests for four charities that Markowitz has created.
...

He doesn’t think that there’s any problem with donors who “might feel compelled to give because of his political influence,” because, as Markowitz told the Times, “I know the difference between right and wrong, and ethical and nonethical.”
...

Markowitz may see no problem, but the ethical issues are sort of obvious—even though Markowitz’s charities are a sort of Brooklyn boosterism-oriented kinds of groups. It doesn’t matter: if they are seen as the charities of the borough prez, the donations from corporations with borough business, particularly if subject to Markowitz’s arm-twisting, look bad.

article

Posted by eric at 2:05 PM

Hey Bloomberg, Buy Your Own 7 Train to New Jersey!

Forbes
by Stephen Smith

An article about Mayoral support for extending the #7 subway to Secaucus contains this appraisal of the Bloombergian legacy.

Bloomberg has, overall, been a good mayor for New York, but his success in governing has not lived up to his reputation as a businessman. New York has improved its position over the past decade, but so have all American cities – it’s hard to attribute it to his leadership, specifically. The Hudson and Atlantic Yards redevelopment projects are his two greatest accomplishments, and both have been dogged by accusations of cronyism.

article

NoLandGrab: Referring to two development projects whose only "development" is a half-built arena as the Mayor's greatest accomplishments is wildly off-base. Atlantic Yards may be the greatest misstep of his tenure, while things like 311, PlaNYC2030 and the remaking of the city's streetscape actually are noteworthy achievements.

Posted by eric at 1:46 PM

Hakeem Jeffries Sells Out Our Children’s Education & Future for DFER

New York City Parents Union

In July 2011, Jeffries did a flip flop on charters & charter co-locations betraying parents and attacking the NAACP & UFT for standing up for all children. He did this for DFER money. We responded to his selling out with our press release at: http://www.nycparentsunion.org/?p=195.

Now, Jeffries, the only elected to attend this charter town hall meeting yesterday is ramping up his sellout campaign to the privatizing, union busting charter lobby. Apparently, this is nothing new for Jeffries, he flip-flopped/sold out on Atlantic Yards too.

article

NoLandGrab: It really shouldn't be this hard to upgrade from Ed Towns.

Posted by eric at 1:35 PM

October 26, 2011

What's the real Marty Markowitz like? Lawsuit depositions point to a calculating, volatile politician (and some questionable management by Markowitz's then-deputy)

Atlantic Yards Report

Oy vey.

What's the real Marty Markowitz like? "The people in Brooklyn know me," the Brooklyn Borough President yesterday told the New York Times, waving off criticisms about private fundraising from companies doing business in Brooklyn. (Common Cause was not convinced.)

But do they? Those who know only showman Markowitz may smile, but the real Marty is far more calculating and volatile, as detailed in documents in a sex discrimination suit filed in December 2007 by a former staffer against both him and his office.

Some of the headlines--prompted by the plaintiff's effort to lend momentum to her case by sharing depositions--have been lurid, magnifying relatively small incidents: Suit: Marty ran the Beep’s office like a frat-house and Marty Markowitz blasts 'Tinkerbell' ex-staffer.

By my reading of the extant depositions--surely not the whole record--ex-staffer Regina Weiss has a case, though it's not a slam dunk. No, Markowitz's office doesn't resemble the testosterone-fueled atmosphere of, say, a trading floor. Still, there may be evidence of disparate treatment toward male and female staffers.

The real Marty

More than anything else, the lawsuit pulls back the curtain on Markowitz, showing he recognizes the division between policy and his "shtick," can be a "screamer" beneath his jovial exterior, practices retail politics by pumping out proclamations, blurs the already-fuzzy line between governing and campaigning, and obsesses about his Brooklyn!! promotional publication, which aims to mention or honor as many people as possible.

article

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

October 25, 2011

Following up on the Times's Markowitz story: why the timing? who was left out (Bloomberg)? will Common Cause call for investigation be heeded?

Atlantic Yards Report

Will anything come of the New York Times's coverage of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's curious end-around of campaign finance laws via campaign contributions? Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY issued a statement today:

"This is sheer pay to play and it's dishonest to pretend otherwise. The Borough President has leveraged his position for personal aggrandizement at great expense to the public cause. Democracy demands accountability from our elected officials, anything less undermines us all. We believe that there should be a full investigation by both the Brooklyn District Attorney and the conflict of interest board."

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NoLandGrab: Given Markowitz's 25-year history or ethics violations, perhaps the Feds would like to have a look?

Posted by eric at 11:22 PM

Times takes belated but critical look at Markowitz's charity strategy; Forest City largest donor; BP claims criticism irrelevant, but what about his shilling for Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times today offers a tough--but not tough enough--front-page (in the New York edition) story about Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's remarkable method of fundraising outside the campaign system.

It's headlined From Brooklyn Office, Mixing Clout and Charity. And yes, the largest amount--$2.4 million--comes from developer Forest City Ratner and Atlantic Yards-related firms.
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A lame take on the Ratner connection

The anecdotes in the article all concern companies other than Forest City Ratner, so Markowitz's favorite project--and biggest source of donations--gets mentioned only at the end:

Forest City Ratner Companies, which is building the Atlantic Yards complex, has long relied on Mr. Markowitz’s backing for the huge project in the face of neighborhood opposition. Forest City is one of the biggest contributors to Mr. Markowitz’s charities, having given approximately $1.7 million.

“Sometimes, the borough president in his advocacy has blurred the lines between the role of private industry and government,” Councilwoman Letitia James of Brooklyn, an opponent of the project, said. “He is taking advantage of a loophole in the law.”

Mr. Markowitz, who has not yet decided whether to retire from politics or to run for mayor in 2013, called such criticism absurd.

“I have everything that I could have,” he said during an interview. “I don’t need anything. I don’t need any of you! I have done this. I loved it. You could raise all the issues you want — the people in Brooklyn know me, they love me.”

That's a nonsensical, evasive response, ultimately, and the Times shouldn't have let him get away with it.

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NoLandGrab: Somehow "love" doesn't quite seem like the right word.

Posted by eric at 12:32 PM

From Brooklyn Office, Mixing Clout and Charity

The New York Times
by Liz Robbins and Alison Leigh Cowan

What's front-page news to The Times is something that most of us have known for a long time — something is rotten in Brooklyn (Borough Hall).

When one of the biggest real estate developments in Brooklyn was stalled two years ago, its owner turned to the city government for help, seeking $20 million in financing. Nearly 50 projects were applying for a small number of aid packages at the time, but this one, City Point, had a prominent supporter.

“The future of Downtown Brooklyn depends on it,” Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, declared.

City Point received the financing, and around the same time, the lead developer on the project, Acadia Realty, gave $50,000 to a charity run by Mr. Markowitz. The donation was one of a series that Acadia has made to Mr. Markowitz’s charities since 2005, totaling more than $300,000, city records and interviews show.

New York City has adopted some of the strictest rules in the nation to curb the influence of money in politics. Donors with business before it are all but barred from contributing to officials in the city’s campaign finance system.

Yet in recent years, Mr. Markowitz has found another way to tap into those donors. He has established a network of four charities that has reaped at least $20 million since 2003, and probably more, according to interviews and an analysis of city records.
...

The donors to the nonprofit groups range from huge corporations like Wal-Mart and TD Bank to local entrepreneurs, but they usually have one thing in common: They have a stake in city legislation, real estate projects, zoning disputes and other Brooklyn issues.

But everything's kosher, according to Marty.

“I know the difference between right and wrong, and ethical and nonethical,” Mr. Markowitz said. “I am not pitching them to give me money, and me in turn give them anything.”

Uh-huh.

Here's how the game works.

Mr. Markowitz was once an outspoken critic of Wal-Mart’s effort to open in the city, contending that the company treated its workers poorly and would harm local businesses.

In 2008, Mr. Markowitz recommended approval of the zoning resolution for a retailer in East New York, Brooklyn, preferably a supermarket, but only on the condition that Wal-Mart could not be the retailer unless it changed its employment practices. He even demanded that the developer promise in writing to prohibit Wal-Mart.

Last spring, Wal-Mart executives donated $150,000 to the Martin Luther King Jr. concerts, a Markowitz group, and met with Mr. Markowitz.

Soon after, Mr. Markowitz softened his criticism of Wal-Mart, saying its executives convinced him that the company had improved its labor practices. He added that shoppers were now going to Wal-Mart on Long Island. “It doesn’t make sense to me how we keep Wal-Mart out of Brooklyn,” he said.

Both Wal-Mart and Mr. Markowitz said the donations were unrelated to Mr. Markowitz’s views on Wal-Mart’s expansion to Brooklyn.

Union leaders, who have long opposed Wal-Mart in New York and elsewhere, disagreed.

“When somebody changes their mind after a corporation has come in and given a large donation, it is seen as an example of everything that people are disgusted with in politics,” said Patrick Purcell, the assistant to the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500.

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NoLandGrab: Disgusted, indeed.

Posted by eric at 12:16 PM

October 22, 2011

Does Warren Buffett really back Schumer's plan to trade visas for home purchases? It was more an offhand remark amid support for the market's workings

Atlantic Yards Report

Did billionaire Warren Buffett really back the proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), to stimulate housing demand by offering visas to immigrants who spend $5000,000 in cash for housing?

Despite widespread coverage saying just that, the evidence is far more murky. Actually, Buffett made an offhand, somewhat fanciful comment--not a policy proposal--while urging that the free market work its course, as the video below indicates.

...

NPR reported:

The concept appears to have broad support. Billionaire Warren Buffett endorsed it as an effective way of getting rid of excess housing inventory in an August interview with Charlie Rose.

"If you wanted to change [the] immigration policy so that you let 500,000 families in, but they'd have to have significant net worth and everything, you'd solve things very quickly," Buffett said.

...

Here's an excerpt from the transcript.

BUFFETT: I mean this -- this is a huge correction of a bubble that popped.

ROSE: And -- and what is necessary to take place over the next two years in order to increase household formation and decrease the amount of construction?

BUFFETT: Well, we’re doing pretty well on the decrease in construction.

...ROSE: Demand is a factor in that.

BUFFETT: Demand is a factor and we artificially gave it a little boost when we went with the credit a year or two ago on -- on -- on purchase of homes. I think it’s a mistake to try and -- to try and front end it. I mean it just delays the eventual recovery. If you’ve gone in excess of something -- if I’ve got too many purple dresses and I run a dress shop, I get rid of those purple dresses and -- and then I can start all over again with the dresses that the people want.

ROSE: Yes.

BUFFETT: And I -- I mark them down to whatever it takes. You could -- you could -- you could have -- you could have a bunch of rich immigrants come in and they’d all need houses, for example. I mean if you wanted to change your immigration policy so that you let 500,000 families in but they have to have a significant net worth and everything, you’d -- you’d solve things very quickly. But naturally it’s being solved. Capitalism is solving this. But we’re fortunate in doing this, Japan has a declining population. I mean, if they get in excess of something it isn’t going to get worked off. We have households being formed every day. I’ve got a grandson getting married this weekend so we’re -- we’re forming them all the time. And -- and we’re forming it a lot faster than we’re building homes.

(Emphasis added)

Note that all the news coverage omitted the next sentence Buffett uttered: But naturally it’s being solved.

Sure, there's room to disagree on whether, in the housing market, more should be done to support homeowners and avoid community dislocation. But an offhand remark, amid a larger call for the free market, should not be seen as a policy prescription.

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Posted by steve at 3:39 PM

October 19, 2011

Catching up on Bruce Ratner's campaign contributions: to de Blasio and New York Uprising (and would past gift to Schneiderman stave off Downtown Brooklyn Partnership investigation?)

Atlantic Yards Report

Money can buy you friends, and even better, the obeisance of people who shouldn't be looking the other way.

After late 2010 campaign contributions to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and to Senate Republicans, Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner has made two other notable contributions.

On 12/23/10, he gave $4,950, the maximum, to Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a likely 2013 mayoral candidate and a reliable, if not always credible, Atlantic Yards supporter. Ratner in June was the co-chair of a de Blasio fundraiser.

Ratner on 4/1/11 gave $25,000 to New York Uprising, the clean-up Albany effort founded by his old mentor Henry Stern of New York Civic, with support from several noted former elected officials, including former Mayor Ed Koch.

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NoLandGrab: As we've said before, there's something Orwellian, almost about Bruce Ratner giving money to a clean-up Albany effort.

Posted by eric at 1:30 PM

"Status Cuomo": unmet Atlantic Yards oversight means savings to Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Governor Andrew Cuomo, dubbed "Status Cuomo" by his political rivals, seems to have earned that appellation regarding Atlantic Yards.

After all, his administration has merely continued the policy of its predecessors, for example defending the failure to conduct a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, even though contracts signed by the state allow a 25-year buildout, rather than the decade predicted.

Job left open, lagging of oversight

Think about it. For four months, the state has left open the community relations position once occupied by Forrest Taylor, then dubbed ombudsman (though he didn't have such power).

Meanwhile, construction noise, dust, and traffic can make life in areas adjacent to the Atlantic Yards construction very trying.

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Posted by eric at 1:16 PM

October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Hits Grand Army Plaza

Prospect Heights Patch
by Amy Sara Clark

We're guessing Marty didn't see the irony.

Occupy Wall Street came to Brooklyn today with dozens gathering at Grand Army Plaza to bring the movement to their own borough.

And the most unlikely occupier — if logic counts for anything — was the one in the middle:

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz stopped by to show support, both for the right of free speech and assembly and for the mission of the movement.

“I share a lot of those sentiments,” he said, citing the disparity of wealth, the struggles of the middle class and the migration of jobs overseas as some of his top concerns.

As one commenter on the Brooklyn Paper's story wrote:

"He's been the biggest booster of Atlantic Yards, the poster project for 1% abuse, and has stood with the 1% who have sued to undo traffic calming on Prospect Park West. What a hypocritical opportunist."

Couldn't have said it better ourselves.

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Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Movement and Atlantic Yards

Occupy Wall Street seeks to expand to Brooklyn. As the thrust of the movement is against corporate welfare, the recipient of such largesse, Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards soon come into the picture.

Corrente, Whose Park? Our Park.

This blog post reveals the contents of a letter from Occupy Wall Street's legal advisors to Brookfield Properties that ostensibly stopped New York City from ousting Occupy Wall Street from Zucotti Park. Analysis finds that one of the signatories of the letter was none other than Michael Ratner, Bruce's brother.

But it is the name of Michael Ratner that caught my eye last night. For Ratner is not just the number one human rights legal activist in New York City, arguably the US. He is also the scion of a multi billion property development firm run by his brother, Bruce Ratner, who happens to be a crony/buddy of Michael Bloomberg. So much so that he got more than 100 million dollars of tax and price breaks from NYC to build--against community opposition--a boondoggle basketball stadium in Brooklyn.

(Oh, and besides being a crony of Bloomberg, guess what! Bruce Ratner was the real estate developer for the New York Times' shiny new skyscraper. Do you think the Atlantic Yards stadium boondoggle got much coverage in Izvestia?)

So while Michael Ratner's credentials as a legal rights activist are solid, his family/monetary connections (he was conspicuously silent in the community legal battle against his brother Bruce, and he owns shares in the Nets, Ratner's team) place him well inside the cozy embrace of New York's power elite.

About.com, Occupy Brooklyn Arrives Saturday, Oct. 15 at Grand Army Plaza
By Ellen Freudenheim

It was just a matter of time, really, before Brooklyn became the umpteenth site for the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon. So tomorrow, Saturday, along with your Farmers Market pumpkins and squash, you can get (and give) a good dose of politics at 11 AM at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope. What's their message? It's still being honed and harvested.

Where Will Occupy Wall Street in Brooklyn Hang Its Hat?

Outgrowing Zuccotti Park, the protesters need a place to hang their hats.

Personally, I'd like to see a Speakers Corner in Brooklyn, like the famous one in Hyde Park, London.

But hmm...a big empty space that's privately owned? Too bad there's not a safe public space near that so called "blighted" area, Atlantic Yards. Now wouldn't that be the irony of all ironies, if Occupy Brooklyn were to occupy Atlantic Yards? A bloggling thought...

Atlantic Yards Report, At Occupy Brooklyn rally Saturday, will Markowitz show up? From Grand Army Plaza, why not head past arena site and measure corner pedestrian congestion?

The gathering at Grand Army Plaza is not planned as an occupation, just a rally. Peter Rothberg wrote on Patch that organizers were exploring whether to try to "take up indefinite residence in the borough."

What could be the Brooklyn equivalent of Zuccotti Park, site of Occupy Wall Street? The most obvious example to some would be MetroTech Commons, also a privately-owned public space and home to not only Brooklyn's most powerful developer, Forest City Ratner, but also the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership as well as several city agencies.

Posted by steve at 8:53 PM

October 10, 2011

Bloomberg: "you promise users everything, then you build what you can and what you think they need"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder ties the cross-examination of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the trial of a disgraced political consultant to his defense of developer Bruce Ratner.

In a 10/4/11 article headlined Mayor, Not Recalling Much, Testifies in Consultant’s Trial, the New York Times captured a sequence which cast doubt on Mayor Mike Bloomberg's credibility--and suggested that he and developer Bruce Ratner share a penchant for making promises they can't keep.

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Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

October 9, 2011

Taibbi on why Wall Street isn't in jail: "financial crimes don't feel real"

Atlantic Yards Report

Matt Taibbi, he of the famous "Goldman Sachs as vampire squid" formulation, was on the Leonard Lopate Show Monday.

And that pointed me to his 2/16/11 Rolling Stone article headlined Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail? Financial crooks brought down the world's economy — but the feds are doing more to protect them than to prosecute them.

Here's the close:

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy. They're attacking the very definition of property — which, after all, depends in part on a legal system that defends everyone's claims of ownership equally. When that definition becomes tenuous or conditional — when the state simply gives up on the notion of justice — this whole American Dream thing recedes even further from reality.

That's not exactly the Atlantic Yards story, but it's also not out of the ballpark. For example, what should we make of the lies presented to potential immigrant investors?

...

Remember how Forest City Ratner, having pledged $100 million cash in 2005 for the rights to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, in 2009 convinced the agency (via its political patrons) to restructure the deal, putting down $20 million for the initial parcel needed for the arena block and agreeing to pay the rest over 22 years at a gentle interest rate?

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Posted by steve at 11:02 PM

October 4, 2011

Brooklyn Nets Have Perfect Job for Post-Presidency Marty Markowitz

The L Magazine
by Benjamin Sutton

Last we heard it sounded pretty likely—though not completely certain—that current Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz will be retiring from politics when his current term ends in 2013. But just because he's (probably) leaving public office doesn't mean he has to cease being Brooklyn's most boisterous spokesman: the Brooklyn Nets need an announcer, and we think Marty'd be perfect for the job.

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Posted by eric at 11:00 AM

September 30, 2011

Top Markowitz aide Scissura positioning himself for Borough President; does he agree with his boss that "Brooklyn is 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"?

Atlantic Yards Report

Four more years of Marty? Shouldn't term limits apply to clones, too?

City Hall News reported 9/28/11:

Carlo Scissura is taking another step toward running to replace his boss Marty Markowitz as Brooklyn borough president. The beep’s chief of staff is stepping down from that job to become a special advisor instead, taking a $15,000 pay cut to $124,000, with some of his responsibilities transferred to other staff members. The move frees him from the restrictions that bar top city officials from raising campaign money or doing other overtly political acts. Scissura, who declined to comment, received Conflicts of Interest Board clearance for the move. Markowitz will not replace him as chief of staff.

In other words, Scissura likely will function in several ways as chief of staff, but without the title--for more than two years.

Fundraiser tomorrow

He's holding a fundraiser tomorrow, with one of hosts Andrew Steininger, capital budget/economic development specialist at Borough Hall, and another Sharon Davidson of the North Flatbush Business Improvement District.

(Note how Scissura, in the picture, is wearing a "Brooklyn" pin the way Markowitz does.)
...

Some baggage

City Hall News noted that Scissura's political baggage includes his willingness to represent Markowitz when his bought a house--a conflict of interest that led both to be fined this year.

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NoLandGrab: Now there's change we can believe in — a pro-land grab, anti-bike lane, ethically challenged Borough President.

Posted by eric at 11:56 AM

September 29, 2011

Getting Near to Holly Near: Performing This Saturday at First Acoustics (with John Bucchino and special guest Linda Tillery)- Plus Notes on Empire

Noticing New York

This blog post begins with musical matters and then moves to thoughts about a contemporary musician, Jay-Z.

But if you want your bad guys pure and straight up bad in their “empire”-building we suggest you direct your attention where gangsta-rap music star Jay-Z directed his attention this week: Atlantic Yards, the Bruce Ratner mega-monopoly. Jay-Z has been given a small piece of the action in Ratner's mega-monopoly to act as a front man dutifully providing ripped-off-the-Teleprompter PR statements centered around unbelievable stories about job creation and similar fictions. Talk about “contrived.”

The problem is that the bad empire-building behavior Jay-Z is supporting is not happening at a safe remove in a by-gone historical era. The damage he is contributing to is going on now in real time. The only good thing good about the fact that it's happening in real time is that this means a conscious and objecting public has options to do something about. Insisting that Ratner's monopoly be broken up and bid out to competing developers would be a good first step in the things to be accomplished. Ensuring that subsidies are fair and minimal with diminished density would be some other good things to accomplish.

...

Jay-Z showed up at the press event this week to announce that the Ratner/Prokhorov basketball team, the New Jersey Nets now in New Jersey are being renamed the “Brooklyn Nets.” The team, of course, along with jay-Z, have are being used to justify Ratner’s land grab, receipt of huge public subsidies and override of laws and the community.

But the only elected representative at the event was Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. All other politicians stayed away, although Ratner is still very much reliant on the Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo backing he gets in the background.

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Posted by steve at 2:05 PM

September 18, 2011

Quote of the week, from Marty Markowitz: "I would bring the heart back to this city" (if he decided to run for mayor)

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Post reported in a 9/14/11 article headlined Fuhgeddaboutit! B’klyn Beep Marty retiring from politics:

Marty Markowitz -- the powerful, popular Brooklyn borough president who had seriously considered a bid to replace Mayor Bloomberg in 2013 -- is no longer interested in the gig, sources told The Post yesterday.

NLG's Eric McClure suggested Markowitz would be "your next Forest City Ratner Companies Vice President of Governmental Affairs!"

Backing off

Then Markowitz backed off--sort of.

In a NY1 piece later that day headlined Markowitz Denies Report He's Ready To Leave Public Office, Markowitz in some ways seemed to confirm the earlier report, acknowledging that, unlike the announced candidates, he hasn't made any steps to campaign.

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Posted by steve at 10:47 PM

September 14, 2011

Fuhgeddaboutit! B’klyn Beep Marty retiring from politics

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Ladies and gentleman — your next Forest City Ratner Companies Vice President of Governmental Affairs!

Marty Markowitz -- the powerful, popular Brooklyn borough president who had seriously considered a bid to replace Mayor Bloomberg in 2013 -- is no longer interested in the gig, sources told The Post yesterday.

Jeez, and he had such a good chance of winning.

In fact, the 66-year-old Markowitz, who can’t run for re-election again as borough president because of term limits, has been telling close confidants he’s grown tired of the strains of political life altogether and is not planning to run for any other elected post.

He's not the only one who's grown tired.

...
As borough president, he played a major role in the opening of the Red Hook cruise-ship terminal, attracting new development to Downtown Brooklyn and Coney Island and convincing the owners of the NBA New Jersey Nets to move into a new Prospect Heights arena next year.

But Markowitz has also infuriated his share of constituents, including bicycle activists, over his opposition to a bike lane along Prospect Park West.

Opponents of the controversial Atlantic Yards project, including the new Nets arena, regularly ridicule him for being its biggest booster.

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Related coverage...

Runnin' Scared, Marty Markowitz Is Retiring

This comes after Markowitz's ethics issue in July, in which the city Conflicts of Interest Board fined him $20,000 for accepting free travel for his wife who accompanied him on business trips to Turkey and the Netherlands, though representatives of Markowitz said this was unrelated to the decision not to run.

No formal announcements have been made yet. The big question, along with who will replace Marty Markowitz? is does Fuhgeddaboutit retire too?

Posted by eric at 1:03 PM

August 20, 2011

From the Village Voice's Siegel: Sharpton as mayoral king killer (and, I'd add, the knife in Ferrer's back over AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

This week's Village Voice features on article about the influence of Atlantic Yards supporter Al Sharpton on New York politics. Norman Oder takes a look back at how Sharpton's AY support took precedence in his support of Fernando Ferrer for mayor.

Unmentioned is a key episode in the Ferrer campaign, whereupon the candidate belatedly came out against Atlantic Yards, only to have Sharpton--his supporter--immediately issue a statement criticizing him.

Most in the press played Sharpton's knife in the back over Ferrer's policy switch. The New York Times, for example, published a 10/29/05 article headlined Ferrer Is Chided Over Atlantic Yards:

In a statement sent by e-mail to reporters, Mr. Sharpton said that he and Mr. Ferrer "strongly disagree" on the project, which would place a ridge of skyscrapers and a basketball arena at a major Brooklyn intersection and straddle several low-scale neighborhoods where opposition to the project has recently intensified. Mr. Ferrer, he said, "needs to realize that failure to get projects like this done would be a terrible loss for communities of color throughout this city."

"We cannot play politics with something as important as the Atlantic Yards," Mr. Sharpton said.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Sharpton played down the notion of a rift between the two camps, saying that the statement had been issued in response to calls from reporters and was intended "to make it clear that I wasn't playing politics."

That, people, is Orwellian. What was Sharpton doing other than playing politics?

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Posted by steve at 3:53 PM

August 15, 2011

From Borough Hall: banning photography and video at the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meetings is "to prevent disruptions." What are disruptions?

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet meeting, held the morning of 7/14/11 at Borough Hall, some of us in the audience picked up cameras to take a few photos.

I did, as did Amy Clark of Prospect Heights Patch, Michael D. D. White of Noticing New York, and a couple of academics working on a project related to Atlantic Yards.

A Borough Hall staffer told us to stop taking photos.

Getting an explanation

Later, I asked, as I had done in February, for an explanation of why cameras were banned at the meetings, held bi-monthly.

Markowitz spokesman Mark Zustovich sent me a statement:

“Our office, along with Empire State Development (ESD) and Council Member Letitia James, are preparing a statement about the openness of these meetings and our expectations regarding public attendee behavior, and that statement will be included with each meeting’s agenda so there’s no confusion going forward. However, you will recall that an announcement was made at the second AYDSC earlier this year by Arana Hankin of ESD that since these meetings are non-deliberative, they are not subject to open public meetings law. [see coverage] Therefore, while we’ve allowed the public to attend and view the meetings, we have prohibited the use of film and photography in order to prevent disruptions. The public is encouraged to view, record audio, take notes and report on the proceedings of the cabinet. They are not permitted to film or photograph the meetings.”

Follow the link for Norman Oder's conjecture about the reason for the ban — which might have something to do with vanity.

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Posted by eric at 10:25 AM

August 7, 2011

Markowitz's concert program: ads from the Barclays Center/Nets (the Dodgers connection!), Forest City Ratner, Turkish restaurants, and many more

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards ur-opponent Patti Hagan passed along the program from Borough President Marty Markowitz's August 4 Seaside Summer Concert Series, held in Coney Island.

It's a hefty publication, with actual (promo-ish) articles about such things as Brooklyn movies and Brooklyn writers, and lots of ads, including from the many patrons (listed in graphic below), sponsors, and contributors.

The pages at bottom show the cover, and the ads from the Barclays Center/Nets and Forest City Ratner.

Hagan noted that, at the August 4 concert featuring Aretha Franklin, Markowitz saluted the Nets and Barclays but managed not to mention Forest City Ratner.

...

Inside the program, as shown at right, Barclays Center and the Nets are going straight for the Brooklyn Dodgers-Brooklyn Nets connection, positioning an image of seats from a baseball stadium on the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, the gateway to all things Brooklyn.

It would be a little more difficult to juxtapose photos of the modest, retro Ebbets Field with the modern Atlantic Yards arena, with its "Barclays Center" signage. Such signage turns a publicly-owned (at least nominally) sports facility into a billboard for a sponsor that bought naming rights that the state simply gave away.

...

Note that some but not all are patrons of Markowitz's other concert series, the Martin Luther King, Jr. concert series, but Barclays/Nets and Forest City are patrons of both.

The Seaside series, held in Coney Island, is aimed at a significantly white audience, though it appeals to a broader crowd. The MLK series, held in Crown Heights, is aimed at a significantly black audience, though it appeals to a broader crowd.

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Posted by steve at 10:43 PM

August 6, 2011

Post: Markowitz gave capital funds to hospital that paid for trip; BP says every hospital gets money; records suggest this hospital did well

Atlantic Yards Report

Now that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has pushed back against a ruling that cost him $20,000 in fines from the city Conflict of Interests Board, the New York Post is looking a little more closely at potential quid pro quo activity.

In today's article, headlined Carib junketeer Marty 'repays' favor to hosp, the newspaper reported:

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz delivered more than $2.5 million in capital funds last year to the Brooklyn Hospital Center in Fort Greene -- which paid his way on a Caribbean junket in 2007, The Post has learned.

...One of those trips in 2007 was to the island of Grenada, where the Brooklyn Hospital Center covered airfare and lodging bills estimated at $1,000 to $5,000.

Markowitz listed the purpose of the visit on financial-disclosure forms as: "Promoted intercourse in health-care innovations and Brooklyn as a tourist destination."

He also met with officials of St. George's University medical school, which sends students to the Fort Greene hospital for training.

Every hospital that asks?

The BP's office told the Post pointed out that, since 2007, every hospital in Brooklyn that applied for capital money received an award.

Perhaps, but it looks like the Brooklyn Hospital Center did well. In 2009, the one year for which I have details, two hospitals were funded, at much lower numbers: Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center got $700,000, while Long Island College Hospital got $295,000.

Reasons for concern

However, the Post found a watchdog to say the obvious:

But Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, called the combination of the freebie trip and the government handout worrisome.

"The capital item for the Brooklyn Hospital may be entirely needed. But in the context of him having visited Grenada on their nickel, it raises questions," said Dadey.

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Posted by steve at 10:57 PM

August 2, 2011

Markowitz on wife Jamie: "I ask her if I've made right decisions."

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder still can't get over Marty Markowitz's hyperbolic boosterism, but in Oder's defense, is there really any Brooklynite more tedious than Markowitz?

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, defending his flouting of a directive not to let his wife Jamie take freebies, tells New York Post columnist Cindy Adams, in Markowitzes two peas in a pod: "It's foreign to me not to have her. I need her. She's got a great sense of what's important. I ask her if I've made right decisions. Yin to the yang, she's my life. My soul mate."

Um, did Jamie agree that, as Markowitz said on video, "Brooklyn is 1000 percent--1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards"?

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Posted by eric at 12:22 PM

July 27, 2011

Following up on the Markowitz campaign fine: two editorials criticize him; Brooklyn Paper suggests wife is First Lady; poll (taken before fine surfaced) shows BP high in 2013 Mayoral rice

Atlantic Yards Report

That $20,000 fine levied against Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz for letting his wife get her expenses paid on three international trips--despite explicit advice to the contrary (which he ignores)--is still provoking discussion.

The Daily News reports, in Irked Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: Change city travel law, that Markowitz is hoping for the City Council to allow spouses to travel for free. Council Members say that's unlikely.

Is Jamie "First Lady" of Brooklyn?

In an editorial, Marty Markowitz scores another Knucklehead Award for trying to pass off his wife as first lady of BK, the Daily News simply says Markowitz is wrong, without noting how the judge in the case contrasted Jamie Markowitz's duties with that of a real First Lady.

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NoLandGrab: First lady? Somehow, we don't see Michelle Obama grabbing up as many expensive place mats as she can carry, and telling people who didn't get one "you snooze, you lose."

Posted by eric at 10:33 AM

July 26, 2011

Markowitz fined $20,000 for accepting free airfare and other travel perks for his wife--despite having stated he knew he had to pay her way

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has been slammed with a $20,000 fine by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) for gaining free travel for his wife on three foreign trips, two to Turkey and one to the Netherlands.

And while Markowitz, in press statements, has produced some part-justifying and entertaining explanations--yes, there was a lot of official business, yes, it's hard to split hotel costs--he (and many in the press) ignore the fact that, before the first of the three trips, Markowitz told the COIB that he'd pay for his wife.

It's been a rough stretch for Markowitz at the COIB. In February, he was fined $2,000 by the COIB for using Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura as his lawyer for a home-buying transaction in 2009. Scissura was fined $1100.

And his wife Jamie has previously taken advantage of her position, taking home eight valuable placemats given to attendees at a Brooklyn Museum gala in April 2008.

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NoLandGrab: And to think the whole spurious legal case against Brooklyn's beautiful Prospect Park West bike path hangs on Markowitz's sworn statement.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

July 24, 2011

Stringer calls for abolition of member items in City Council; Daily News editorial points to importance of fairness in contracting

Atlantic Yards Report

The distribution of Member items is inequitable and have become a way of keeping Council members in line. This has led to a critical report from the Manhattan Borough President. Atlantic Yards helps provide an example of how member items are doled out.

The Daily News pointed to this:

Consider two councilmen - Domenic Recchia and Charles Barron - who were elected in Brooklyn districts located fairly close to each other.

Recchia is a Quinn lieutenant and chairman of the Finance Committee. He represents Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Brighton Beach and Gravesend. This year, he distributed $1,630,064 to groups such as the Brighton Ballet Theater Company, the Russian American Foundation and the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association. His total amounted to $10.30 per resident.

Barron is a self-styled civil rights firebrand who has attacked Quinn's leadership. He represents East New York, Brownsville and Canarsie and was permitted to deliver less than a quarter of Recchia's sum to groups in his neighborhood: $399,464, or $2.40 per person.

Not that it was germane to the distribution of funds, but guess which Council Member supported Atlantic Yards, and which one did not? Right.

...

In fiscal year 2012, Council Districts received an average of $638,479. City Council Member Letitia James, serving her second full term (plus part of the late Council Member James Davis's unfinished term), has seniority, but not an in with Quinn.

So in 2012, James's 35th District received $481,964.00, ranking 37th among 51 Council Districts.

link

Posted by steve at 9:42 PM

July 21, 2011

Querying Bill de Blasio on Atlantic Yards progress: "I still believe this is a project that can create a lot of jobs and a lot of affordable housing"

Atlantic Yards Report

After a panel on jobs, during which there was time for only a couple of questions, I approached de Blasio and introduced myself. He was friendly, recognizing me--after all, we'd spent a memorable couple of hours jousting about Atlantic Yards in in 2007, leading to my rather critical portrayal.

Below is the transcript of our exchange, unedited, but with some commentary.
...

NO: And now the numbers on jobs are pretty low, the numbers on housing are zero. Has that caused you to rethink either the concept of CBAs, or your support, or government's posture--any sort of cause to rethink?

BdB: I want to get the results we wanted originally, or as close to them as possible. So my framework here--I don't think this history's over yet.

NO: --Of course not.

BdB: And I know you feel differently. So let's just--

NO: It's not a question of whether I feel differently, it's whether I analyzed it.

BdB: I appreciate you. I've always appreciated analysis. I remember when we sat in the Tea Lounge long ago--we disagreed, but I admire how much work you put into it, I think you do some good thinking. But my bottom line is, I still believe this is a project that can create a lot of jobs and a lot of affordable housing, and what I want to do is see that come to fruition.

NO: Right--but, fair enough, but how do you do that, to go from the rhetoric to the actual performance?

BdB: Y'know, I don't have the chapter and verse, I didn't see this morning's article--

NO: Understood.

BdB: But my point to you--I'm trying to be honest about the question. I still believe the project can be very effective, and my job is to try and help make it effective, that's the bottom line.

Arguably his job is to protect the public interest, so "effective" means gaining the public benefits without too many public costs. And his reliance on developer Bruce Ratner to help raise funds certainly raises some question of his loyalties.
...

In February 2011, I queried two of his spokesmen to ask whether the Public Advocate had a position on Forest City Ratner's failure to hire an Independent Compliance Monitor. I never got a response.

NO: This CBA was supposed to have something called an Independent Compliance Monitor. It never happened. And because the only people who can enforce the CBA are the signatories, government can't intervene. In L.A., where the CBA is also signed by the government, government can actually try to enforce it. So your thoughts about CBAs, to the extent that you do think about them, because I know you've got a lot on your plate--have you thought about whether government should be a part of CBAs?

BdB: I think it depends on the context. But again, where I'm trying to focus, I think it's kindred to your point, is clearer definitions, better enforcement. And that's something I'm working on.

What next?

How exactly de Blasio's working on it remains unclear because, at that point, one of his aides intervened and he moved on to another interlocutor.

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Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

July 20, 2011

In the Village Voice, a tough portrait of Mayor Bloomberg, but a missed opportunity to mention Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has a short review of a recent Village Voice piece headlined Citizen Bloomberg: How our mayor has given us the business.

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Posted by eric at 9:36 PM

July 14, 2011

Hakeem Jeffries breaks it down: court decision means ESDC has done the developer's bidding, illustrates need for Atlantic Yards governance

Atlantic Yards Report

I asked Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, sponsor of governance legislation that has passed the Assembly but still waiting in the Senate, if he had any comment on the court decision yesterday ordering the Empire State Development Corporation to conduct an additional environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project.

"The court decision further illustrates the need for the Atlantic Yards governance legislation, given the mounting evidence that ESDC has repeatedly failed to protect the public interest in this project in order to do the developer's bidding," he stated.

link

NoLandGrab: That's all well and good, but other than sponsoring this not terribly toothy legislation, has Hakeem ever really done anything to fight Atlantic Yards? Better governance of a total disaster doesn't really solve the basic problem.

Posted by eric at 3:25 PM

New Mayoral candidate Tom Allon, of Manhattan Media, and his ill-fated work for Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn Standard "publication"

Atlantic Yards Report

The newest 2013 mayoral candidate is another rich media mogul — this one a man infamous for publishing a fake Atlantic Yards newspaper.

Tom Allon, President/CEO of Manhattan Media is a (mini)mogul running for Mayor in a self-professed Bloombergian mode, and his campaign so far has drawn skepticism mainly because of his longshot status.

But if Allon gets serious attention, he should be questioned about his company's ill-fated, un-journalistic alliance with Forest City Ratner on the promotional Brooklyn Standard "publication."

The "publication" lasted all of two issues in 2005, folding after ridicule in the Times (headline: O.K., the Whole Paper Is Basically an Ad) and a mini-scandal over putting a contributor's byline on articles he didn't write. (Allon promised a retraction in the next issue, but no issue ever emerged.)

"I encourage our journalists to cover the Mayoral race, as well as politics in general, with neither fear nor favor," Allon said in a letter this month to staffers, according to the Observer. "I am a journalist first, and would have it no other way."

He sure wasn't a journalist first back in 2005, appearing on the Brooklyn Standard masthead below two Forest City Ratner "editors in chief."

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Posted by eric at 10:36 AM

Mayor Bloomberg’s New York: A Model or Cautionary Tale?

BeyondChron
by Randy Shaw

Bloomberg’s approach to governance offers a complex case that requires a particularly nuanced and fact-driven analysis. Julian Brash’s new book, Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City, addresses some components of the mayor’s leadership strategy, particularly emphasizing his effort to run the city like a private corporation.
...

The use of Hudson Yards as the chief case study is also questionable because it involved a unique political obstacle, needing and ultimately failing to gain the support of state Assemblymember Sheldon Silver.

Brash had many better examples available to prove his thesis about Bloomberg’s autocratic and often elite-driven approach to governance, including Bloomberg’s support for the outrageous Atlantic Yards land grab in Brooklyn. That project had all of the features Brash found compelling in the Hudson yards struggle, including a new stadium as a “front” for a massive new office development scheme. The difference is that Silver or any other single state official lacked the power to kill Atlantic Yards, whose construction reflects how Bloomberg has almost always gotten his way.

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NoLandGrab: Actually, Silver (or former State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, or any number of Governors), could have killed Atlantic Yards — had they wanted to.

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

July 9, 2011

Status Cuomo? Governor names Lawrence Schwartz, top Paterson aide (including on AY) to be his top aide

Atlantic Yards Report

Status Cuomo?

The New York Times, in Cuomo Picks Schwartz to Be New Top Aide, today reported:

In a shakeup of his senior staff, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday appointed Lawrence S. Schwartz, a senior adviser in his administration, to be his top aide.

As secretary to the governor, Mr. Schwartz will return to a position he held under Gov. David A. Paterson. The move establishes him as arguably the most influential unelected official in state government over the past several years, and marks a rare instance of one man serving as the top staffer to two consecutive governors.

Schwartz played a quiet but not insignificant goal gatekeeping Atlantic Yards for Paterson, for example meeting in December 2009 with Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries on the issue.

That month, Paterson himself met with Atlantic Yards opponents, promising "an objective and fair hearing," but nothing came of it.

In fact, at the March 2010 groundbreaking, Paterson repeated some myths about Atlantic Yards job projections.

link

Posted by steve at 5:01 PM

July 7, 2011

Jim Brennan Wants to Force Ratner to Build More Atlantic Yards Parking

Streetsblog
by Noah Kazis

More on Jim Brennan's really bad Atlantic Yards parking idea.

According to Tonice Sgrignoli, a legislative aide for Brennan, the legislation is still being researched and no details are available at this point. According to Sgrignoli, ESDC eliminated a requirement to build underground off-street parking that had been in an earlier agreement with Forest City Ratner and this legislation would likely undo that change.

When Streetsblog asked why Brennan thought that Atlantic Yards should have more parking in the first place, Sgrignoli replied that “Anyone who’s ever tried to drive a car and park it in that area will understand why it’s important to provide parking.”

Hopefully, Brennan himself has a more sophisticated understanding of parking policy. As former Boerum Hill Association president Jo Ann Simon said, no conceivable amount of off-street parking is going to free up on-street spaces so long as they are cheaper than going to a garage and available to anybody. “If people drive there, they will always try and find something free on the street,” she said. What happens on-street — many in the area, including Simon, have long pushed for residential parking permits — Simon said, “is entirely irrelevant to whether there should be more off-street parking to serve the arena.”

Simon’s argument is borne out by the reality at Yankee Stadium. There, despite a whopping 9,000 off-street spaces, area residents still complain that on-street parking is impossible on game day, according to a Crain’s report.

Moreover, building extra parking will simply mean that more people are able to drive to the area instead. “Brennan’s proposal to compel more off-street parking in one of New York City’s most transit-accessible locations betrays a terrible lack of understanding regarding transportation and mobility,” said University of Pennsylvania parking expert Rachel Weinberger. “His idea will invite more traffic through his district, more traffic in adjoining districts, and by requiring all of that parking, other development is preempted.”

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Posted by eric at 11:55 AM

Bloomberg's Principles

The Future of Capitali$m
by Ira Stoll

Mayor Bloomberg has been doing a fine job of defending Walmart's right to open a store in New York City, but a New York Times news article overstates it some when it refers to Mr. Bloomberg as "a longtime defender of free-market principles." Was he defending free-market principles when he backed the use of eminent domain to seize private property for subsidized housing and a basketball arena at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn?

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Posted by eric at 11:16 AM

June 29, 2011

Atlantic Yards Watch gets $4000 in discretionary funding from Council Member James

Atlantic Yards Report

Among the many member items in the City Council's just-passed 2012 discretionary budget [PDF] is $4000 from City Council Member Letitia James to Atlantic Yards Watch:

The Atlantic Yards Watch is an initiative currently co-sponsored by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, the Boerum Hill Association and the Park Slope Civic Council to collect important data about the impacts from the construction and operation of the Atlantic Yards Project. The goal is to ensure the health and sustainability of the neighborhoods the project impacts.

link

NoLandGrab: Tish, where's the love? We're going to hike our IPO price based on that valuation.

Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

June 27, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court Threatens Campaign Finance Reform in NYC

Untapped New York
by Janos Marton

New York City’s campaign finance system, often lauded as the best in the nation, has a secret. It’s under attack.

On the heels of last year’s devastating Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates for more corporate spending in elections, the United States Supreme Court may be about to severely curtail the role of public financing in elections. The case, McComish v. Bennett, involves a challenge to Arizona’s public financing system, specifically a provision granting “trigger funding” to participating candidates facing well-funded opponents. Following oral arguments in late March of this year, it appears the Supreme Court is likely to declare “trigger funds” unconstitutional, a determination that could have wide-ranging implications and affect the way we run elections here in New York.
...

In the case of a massive, multi-hundred-million-dollar project like Atlantic Yards or the planned Vornado Tower, where the developers stand to make far more than their colossal investment, it becomes clear why a real estate mogul might want to drop a mere million dollars to win a Council seat, if that outlay virtually assured approval of a controversial building or complex.

Trigger funds are a key safeguard against this type of brazen manipulation of the system, because they prevent all but those with Bloomberg bucks from overwhelming the political process with money. Though certainly a robust campaign finance system is not without its cost — the CFB distributed $27 million in taxpayer dollars in 2009 — the expense is relatively small in relation to its effectiveness in limiting the power of special interests in shaping government policy and public works. If the Supreme Court rules trigger funds unconstitutional, it is likely that local candidates will find themselves trapped in a financial arms race, where the temptation of selling out to special interests for campaign cash will be increasing difficult to resist.

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Posted by eric at 10:52 AM

June 25, 2011

Atlantic Yards down the memory hole: no, the City Council never held sway (and thus campaign finance reform had no impact)

Atlantic Yards Report

In Huffington Post, New York Civic's Morgan Pehme explains how the city's campaign finance system, which guarantees candidates matching funds (unlike candidates for state offices), is in jeopardy.

The headline is Pulling the Trigger: U.S. Supreme Court Threatens Campaign Finance Reform in NYC.

I commented:

Please note that the situation regarding Atlantic Yards was even less democratic than described: "In the case of a massive, multi-hund­red-millio­n-dollar project like Atlantic Yards... it becomes clear why a real estate mogul might want to drop a mere million dollars to win a Council seat, if that outlay virtually assured approval of a controvers­ial building or complex."

With Atlantic Yards, the local City Council member, Letitia James, never got to vote, because the mayoral administra­tion agreed to have the approval process bypass the city's typical Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and instead be shepherded by the unelected Empire State Developmen­t Corporatio­n, controlled by gubernator­ial appointees­.

Even former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff has said, in hindsight, that Atlantic Yards should have gone through ULURP.

That said, ULURP has its problems and the local City Council member does not always hold sway. For example, the administra­tion, along with Council leadership­, outmaneuve­red Council Member Stephen Levin on the New Domino project in Williamsbu­rg.

link

Posted by steve at 8:55 PM

June 24, 2011

Letitia James: A Strong Voice during Tough Times

Our Time Press
by Mary Alice Miller

What next for Letitia James? Voters from all walks of life are asking that she run for the 10th Congressional seat when current Congressman Ed Towns eventually retires. And, why not?
...

James took exception to the Atlantic Yards project being taken out of the City Council’s land review process. Her vocal opposition to the displacement of her constituents via eminent domain was heard across the state. She remains firmly in support of the Unity Plan’s alternative principle that the community needs affordable housing more than it needs a sports arena.
...

Letitia James is an unwavering voice who speaks truth to power.

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Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

June 20, 2011

Some of the Markowitz back story: if he runs for mayor, his record, and personality, will get more scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, we learned that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who avoided a potential 2009 mayoral run thanks to the extension of term limits, is considering a 2013 mayoral race, after the implosion of Anthony Weiner's political career.

I pointed out that Markowitz would face not merely ridicule but scorn for his Atlantic Yards support, given his blatant lie to potential immigrant investors: "Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

The Post's criticism

Markowitz surely has a record to run on--he will credit his leadership for the "renaissance" of Brooklyn (debatable), but can claim innovations (some with dubiously gained private funds) like the Brooklyn Book Festival, Dine In Brooklyn, as well as a capital budget geared to big projects like his (now-stalled) Asser Levy Park bandshell.

The New York Post, in a 6/18/11 editorial headlined When beeps fly, slammed the aspirations of not only Markowitz but Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio:

Truth is, beeps haven't had much on their plates since 1990, when their powers were sapped and they became figureheads with expense accounts.

Likewise the public advocate, who is nominally the No. 2 official in New York, but whose role is mostly limited to smiling and collecting a paycheck while offending no one and waiting patiently for the mayor to depart.

Well, the offices have relatively light duties, but they are what the officeholder makes of them. Stringer and other Borough Presidents have paid more attention to policy than has Markowitz.

And another Public Advocate, say Norman Siegel, might have prioritized policy more than de Blasio.

So it's the people, not the job.

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Posted by eric at 9:55 AM

June 18, 2011

On Battle for Brooklyn day, Markowitz, Nets, allies plant tree in Fort Greene Park to promote donations

Atlantic Yards Report

Yesterday, as the film Battle for Brooklyn opened commercially to widespread positive reviews, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and the city of New York were doing their best to promote the Nets, the Barclays Center, and the salubrious effect of the team's move in 2012.

The event: a tree donation, and a photo op, with associated advertising for the team, the arena, and a lawn care company. (There was no mention of how Forest City Ratner tried to evade paying for street trees it demolished.)

The media event drew coverage from the New York Post's Brooklyn blog and NY 1.

link

Posted by steve at 2:11 PM

June 13, 2011

Legislators: one week left to get the state Legislature to pass a bill establishing a subsdiary to oversee Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

It seems like an obvious argument: Atlantic Yards, as a massive development project, deserves a subsidiary or authority overseeing it long-term, just as other major projects, from Battery Park City to Brooklyn Bridge Park, have their own governance entities, helping evaluate the terms of the project and revising the schedule and plans as necessary.

And the bill, in its current form, is hardly prescriptive, giving community members a fractional voice but not definitive power, as the subsidiary would be appointed by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC).

That argument, however, has gained relatively little traction in Albany over the last few years, as Forest City Ratner lobbying, which includes a close relationship with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and consistent Atlantic Yards support from governors, has managed to stymie any progress.

With barely a week left in the legislative session, this year the governance bill has a greater chance than before, elected officials said at a forum Saturday sponsored by BrooklynSpeaks. (Photos of the event, which drew some 60 people, by Tracy Collins.) That doesn't mean it's likely, but the bill has passed two Assembly committees, one more than previously, which gives it a fighting chance in the Assembly.

Beyond that, the dynamic surrounding the project--recognition that promised benefits are far off, and Forest City Ratner's entanglement (though not indictment) in a prominent corruption case--has changed somewhat.

BrooklynSpeaks leaders, who handed out letters to be filled out at the meeting to be sent to Albany, urged further phone calls and lobbying.

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Related coverage...

Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch, June 13: All Eyes On Albany

Procrastinators everywhere will recognize the flurry of activity in the halls of the State Capitol in the coming days as our elected representatives struggle to resolve tough issues before they join schoolchildren across the state on summer break.

For months, they have debated, revised and negotiated details of bills with big-time implications for many Brooklyn residents, including whether to extend rent regulations, to create a panel to oversee Atlantic Yards redevelopment or to legalize same-sex unions.

Now it's crunch time.

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

Markowitz running for Mayor? He'll have to explain why he lied blatantly about Atlantic Yards (on video) to help Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

Markowitz deserves more than merely ridicule.
...

He deserves scorn.

His performance in a video presented to potential immigrant investors in Atlantic Yards--a dubious program offering huge savings to Forest City Ratner--as I wrote in February, is spectacular.

Markowitz claims, incredibly, "Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards."

He knows that's false. But it could help save Forest City Ratner some $191 million under the dubious exploitation of a federal program in which immigrant investors get green cards for themselves and their families in exchange for purportedly job-creating investments.

link

Posted by eric at 10:03 AM

Marty eyes mayor run

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Run, Marty, run!

The king of Kings now has his eye on all five boroughs.

Marty Markowitz is “strongly considering” a run for mayor in 2013, sources close to the Brooklyn borough president told The Post.

“He’s very serious about it but will take the summer to think it over,” one source said.

With Rep. Anthony Weiner sexting himself out of New York’s mayoral race, political experts say the door is wide open for Markowitz to mount a successful campaign.
...

However, Markowitz has also infuriated his share of constituents, including bike activists over his opposition of a bike lane at Prospect Park West. And opponents of the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which includes the arena, regularly ridicule him for being its biggest booster.

Doug Muzzio, a political-science professor at Baruch College, said Markowitz’s "great sense of humor" and being a "cheerleader" might only go so far with voters.

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Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

June 12, 2011

Lawmakers Demand Public Oversight For Atlantic Yards Project

NY 1

Brooklyn lawmakers want the public to have more of a say in the Atlantic Yards project.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery are asking community advocates to round up support for the Atlantic Yards Governance Act.

The bill would allow a corporation to be set up to oversee the project and give the public a forum for feedback.

"This is a multi-billion-dollar development that is going to impact the Prospect Heights and Fort Greene and Park Slope and Boerum Hill communities," said Jeffries. "It's important to create a structure, legislatively, where we can have public involvement, transparency, and participation."

"It's the exact opposite of what was promised, and we want to ensure that the local community and local elected have a say," said Fifth Avenue Committee Executive Director Michelle de la Uz.

Leaders are trying to get Albany lawmakers and Governor Andrew Cuomo to support the bill, which is currently in a legislative committee.

link

Related coverage...

Carroll Gardens Patch, In the Fight Against Atlantic Yards, Community Enters a New Phase

The bill to create an oversight panel for the Atlantic Yards construction site is currently in the Assembly's powerful Rules Committee, which is chaired by Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Speaking in an empty space, the steel girders of the rising Barclays Center visible through a window in the background, Jeffries seemed optimistic about the bill's chances of getting a full Assembly vote before the Legislature convened for its summer recess on June 20.

However, Montgomery — who saw a similar effort fail to pass through a Democrat-controlled state Senate last year — left on a more pragmatic note.

"We are dealing with an environment where money trumps almost everything," she said. "It's been our problem since the beginning."

Posted by steve at 5:36 PM

June 9, 2011

Pro-bike CB10 member not reappointed by lane foe Gentile

The Brooklyn Paper
by Kimberly Lightbody

Long-time community activist and bike lane advocate Bob Cassara has been booted from Community Board 10 after nearly 10 years, the only member of the panel who sought re-appointment but did not get it.

Insiders believe that Cassara was tossed by Councilman Vince Gentile because the two disagreed over new bike lanes — though the veteran board member wouldn’t go that far.

“Community boards are all about politics, so what can I say?” Cassara mused.
...

The specifics of the Cassara non-appointment remain unclear, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a prominent community board member was silenced for taking a strong position against the will of his political patron.

In 2007, Borough President Markowitz declined to reappoint 10 members of community boards near the Atlantic Yards mega-project after those board members opposed Markowitz’s beloved project.

At the time, Markowitz denied that he had purged anti-Yards members, saying also that he was seeking new blood.

article

NoLandGrab: Marowitz would've been more believable if he'd just claimed that his Community Board appointments had been hacked.

Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

June 1, 2011

Bruce Ratner among the co-chairs of planned de Blasio fundraiser

Atlantic Yards Report

Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin reports that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, widely seen as a mayoral candidate in 2013, is holding a 50th birthday fundraiser on June 23.

Check out the list of co-chairs (below) and see the name Bruce Ratner.

That suggests that de Blasio's essential backing of Atlantic Yards--he belatedly criticized the process, not the project--hasn't deterred Ratner. (Here's my analysis of de Blasio's due diligence.)

Is Ratner backing just one horse in 2013? Too soon to tell.

link

Posted by eric at 4:00 PM

May 24, 2011

On NY1, Markowitz practices Atlantic Yards revisionism, FCR cheerleading: "they have every intention of keeping their word"

Atlantic Yards Report

For a preview of Atlantic Yards revisionism, take a look at Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's appearance last week on NY1's Inside City Hall.

The high points:

  • Half of the housing will be affordable (no, just the half the rentals)
  • "Seven years of lawsuits" delayed the project (the first lawsuit began in 2006)
  • "Atlantic Yards" is the railyard (no, the Vanderbilt Yard is less than 40% of the 22-acre site)
  • the railyard was "totally empty" (no, it was a working railyard that only in recent years became attractive to developers, as with Hudson Yards)
  • "they [developer Forest City Ratner] have every intention of keeping their word" (shouldn't Markowitz have gotten a little skeptical after promises, for example, that architect Frank Gehry would remain on the job?)

(Note: To reach the Atlantic Yards segment, you must cycle through the first loop of the interview, which lasts 8:26.)

article

Related content...

NY1 Online, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz On "Inside City Hall"

"Inside City Hall" talked with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz on Thursday about the proposed closing of eight fire companies, his concerns about bike lanes and development of Coney Island.

NoLandGrab: Markowitz also has the audacity to claim — in talking about recent Community Board 6 votes on the Prospect Park West bike path — that "I reappoint members on community boards that don't agree with me." That must be a change in policy, since Markowitz infamously purged nine CB6 members in 2007 because they didn't agree with him on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 12:01 PM

May 23, 2011

The Tappan Zee Is Falling Down

Why is New York taking so long to replace a vital bridge?

City Limits
by Nicole Gelinas

Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn mega-project makes a cameo appearance in this in-depth look at the Tappan Zee Bridge's interesting past and perilous future.

The deeper problem behind all the delays, however, is not regulatory but political. When New York officials want to do something quickly, they don’t worry overmuch about legal niceties, public input, or possible court challenges. It took politicians little more than a year to comply with NEPA’s (National Environmental Protection Act) requirements for the Fulton Street transit center in lower Manhattan, for example—a project favored by Sheldon Silver, the powerful Speaker of the state assembly. It also took little more than a year to secure NEPA approval of extending the Number 7 subway line to the Far West Side of Manhattan, a project that Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw his political weight—and the city’s money—behind. The Atlantic Yards basketball stadium and housing project in Brooklyn doesn’t involve federal money, so officials didn’t need to deal with NEPA in that case, but they did steamroll over a similarly rigid state-environmental review process, inviting the state court cases that arose.

No politicians, though, have championed the Tappan Zee. That’s not surprising, since they wouldn’t get much out of it politically. It doesn’t offer affordable housing, as Atlantic Yards supposedly does. Nor does it open up vast new tracts of land to development and tax revenues, as the West Side extension is supposed to. And it isn’t a project funded by a pot of 9/11 money, as the Fulton Street project was (at least until costs exceeded those funds). All the pols will get for building a new Tappan Zee is complaints for years on end about construction and money—so that some future politician won’t have to watch a bridge collapse.

article

NoLandGrab: Unmentioned by Gelinas is the fact that we might have more dollars for bridges if we didn't squander boatloads of them on unnecessary arena boondoggles.

Posted by eric at 10:15 AM

May 21, 2011

Marty Golden's silence on Carl Kruger; Richard Lipsky's campaign money for Golden, and a wide variety of politicians

Atlantic Yards Report

In March, I pointed to a couple of posts Room 8 blogger Gatemouth, aka Howard Graubard, had written about the charges against state Senator Carl Carl Kruger (who, by the way, says he's running for re-election!), Assemblyman William Boyland, and lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

Now Gatemouth points out that state Senator Marty Golden, who in 2008 took three days to introduce a resolution concerning arrested state Senator Hiram Monserrate, has been conspicuously silent regarding Carl Kruger, who helped to elect Golden.

And, Gatemouth points to another curious connection between Kruger and Golden: a $3000 campaign contribution by Dorothy Lipsky (lobbyist Lipsky's wife) to Golden.

Spreading the wealth

I took a look at campaign contributions that Richard Lipsky and Dorothy Lipsky gave from their three addresses (all listed in the city's lobbying database; search on Richard Lipsky) and found a varied set of recipients.

See below for the full list, but it includes significant contributions--$9000 from 2008-10--from Dorothy Lipsky to "Friends of Carl," which is Kruger's campaign committee.

(If Richard Lipsky was funneling cash to Carl Kruger, as charged, this would be considered the legal element of a larger scheme. Lipsky himself gave $3500 to Kruger from 2003-07.)

Dorothy Lipsky made a $3800 contribution in 2009 to the untouchable Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. She gave $2500 to Monserrate in 2006 and again in 2009. Her husband gave $4500 from 2005-08.

Richard Lipsky gave $4800 from 2008-10 to Assembly powerhouse and Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez and $5000 in 2009 to Senator Pedro Espada, who was later indicted for embezzlement (and goes to trial in September).

He also gave $3000 in 2010 to former City Council Member Tony Avella in his successful campaign for state Senate. (City Hall News reported 1/27/10 on Avella's new conciliatory strategy.)

Most of Lipsky's contributions have been to Democrats, though, as the contribution to Golden suggests, he and his family are not doctrinaire. Indeed, in 2002 and again in 2010, he gave $2000nto the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee.

The AY angle

Lipsky, a longtime lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, made one set of contributions that might be seen as furthering the developer's interests.

In 2006, he gave three contributions totaling $2500 to Tracy Boyland's stealth campaign against incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, an Atlantic Yards opponent.

Was Boyland, in fact, the "Ratner candidate," as some charged? Not exactly, but there were some signficant intersections. As predicted by a source in the Crain's Insider, Boyland indeed used the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR has used for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers.

(As noted, former Council Member Boyland told the Brooklyn Papers that she's friends with FCR's Bruce Bender, a former top City Council aide.)

link

Posted by steve at 11:47 PM

May 19, 2011

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries Forms Congressional Exporatory Committee

The L Magazine
by Mark Asch

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, of the 57th District (Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights) has formed a congressional exploratory committee, Politicker reports. Jeffries, a personal, well-educated, well-dressed 40-year-old, is seen as something of a comer in Brooklyn Democratic politics; he's been touted as an Obama-like crossover figure. As the districts are currently drawn, he'd be challenging the 10th district's incumbent-for-life, Ed Towns, should he run.
...

District and neighborhood boundaries are something of a pet issue for Jeffries—he successfully cosponsored a bill to end prison-based gerrymandering in New York State, and he recently got Corcoran to stop using their real estate listings to expand Prospect Heights into Crown Heights.

This could be seen as something of a sandbag levee constructed against the creep of gentrification; Jeffries's other recent pet project, Project Reclaim, aims to fill unfinished and under-occupied boom-era condo developments with low- and middle-income tenants. (Which is not to say that he's gone full populist: he was a noted fence-sitter on Atlantic Yards.)
...

Also on the list of Young African-American Brooklyn Pols Who Are Not Going to Wait Forever, by all accounts, is the second-term City Councilwoman Letitia "Tish" James, who would, if elected to congress, bear a rather uncanny resemblance to the House member played by Queen Latifah on 30 Rock that time.

article

NoLandGrab: Tish, of course, has been anything but a fence-sitter on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

May 13, 2011

'Living wage' backers storm City Hall

Advocates rally before a hearing on a bill to hike wages at city-subsidized projects. But mayoral aides and business leaders say the measure would kill jobs.

Crain's NY Business
by Daniel Massey

Proponents of a bill to mandate higher wages at city-subsidized projects took to the streets Thursday morning to call for its passage and to protest a city-funded study that found the measure would stifle development and job growth.

The City Hall Park rally, attended by several hundred people, including dozens of pastors, preceded a City Council hearing on the bill that was expected to last late into the afternoon. Protestors carried signs pressing for a “living wage” and accusing its opponents of “putting New Yorkers to work for less.” The latter sign mocked Putting New Yorkers to Work, a nonprofit group established by the Real Estate Board of New York that has led opposition to the bill.

“When companies and developers benefit from government support, they should provide something in return—jobs that allow people to live in dignity, not jobs that keep people in poverty,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the crowd.
...

The bill, Intro 251-A, which would compel employers at projects that receive $100,000 or more in city subsidies to pay workers $10 an hour plus benefits or $11.50 without benefits, was expected to draw passionate testimony from supporters and opponents.

Tokumbo Shobowale, chief of staff in the office of the deputy mayor for economic development, planned to testify on the findings of the city-funded study, details of which were released earlier this week. His prepared testimony called for him to say that wage mandates would hinder development and result in tens of thousands of jobs lost and billions of dollars of lost private investment over the next 20 years.

The job loss and disinvestment would occur disproportionately in neighborhoods outside Manhattan and could potentially prevent some two dozen projects—including the World Trade Center, Coney Island and Atlantic Yards—from going forward, his prepared testimony said.

article

NoLandGrab: OK, how is compelling Bruce Ratner to pay workers $10 an hour going to prevent Atlantic Yards from going forward? We thought the project was supposed to deliver thousands of good-paying, family-supporting jobs, and in New York City, a "good-paying" job doesn't have an hourly wage that's in the single digits.

It's time to stop blaming the project's failings on everything but Forest City Ratner and its long list of phony promises.

Posted by eric at 11:45 AM

May 12, 2011

Tea’d Off: Lone N.Y.C. GOPer Michael Grimm Feels the Pinch

PolitickerNY
by David Freedlander

"Do-gooder, liberal" Bruce Ratner makes a cameo in the Observer's profile of conservative local Congressman Michael Grimm.

A few days before the New Yorker piece, and before Mr. Grimm met the voters of Brooklyn, and before Republicans pulled the rug from under the backers of the Ryan budget, Mr. Grimm toured Beekman Tower, a still-under construction residential tower in Lower Manhattan, which, when completed, will be the tallest such structure in the city’s history. Mr. Grimm wore a hard hat and blue jeans and chewed gum and was led on the tour by a bunch of similarly outfitted union reps and the project’s developer, Bruce Ratner. The group took a rickety cage of a construction elevator up the side of the building. The whole city seemed to breeze through the bars. “It’s the working people of America that drive this country, Mr. Grimm told the group. “Always has been.”

His presence there illustrated the awkwardness of life as a Republican these days. It is hard to talk about the need to reduce government spending and simultaneously call for more government investment in construction projects.

article

NoLandGrab: Nobody can reach across the aisle (and into the public pocketbook) like Bruce can! Wonder if Grimm noticed that the building's flat side faces Staten Island?

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

New York Campaign Contributions from Big Banks & Real Estate Developers Hit New Highs in 2010

$3.9 Million in Contributions to New York State and City Candidates

New York Stimulus Alliance via readMedia

As the On May 12 coalition prepares to challenge the logic behind Mayor Bloomberg's proposed budget with a teach-in and rally tomorrow, one of the questions that Common Cause/NY members asks is why are New York State and City leaders refusing to balance spending cuts with reductions in generous subsidies for big banks and real estate developers? Part of the reason may be because New York politicians are increasingly dependent on them for campaign contributions.
...

Twelve major residential real estate developers -- The Donald Zucker Company, Durst Fetner Residential, Extell Development Company, Forest City Ratner, Jack Resnick & Sons, Milstein Properties, Rose Associates, Rudin Management Company, The Brodsky Organization, The Related Companies, Tishman Speyer Properties, and Two Trees Management – and the Real Estate Board of New York made over $3 million in New York campaign contributions in 2010. This figure is triple the amount of contributions made in 2009 and almost double the amount of contributions made in 2008. Crucial policies up for renewal in Albany this year, such as rent control and the extension of the 421a subsidy, are likely fueling the record spending.

link

Posted by eric at 10:40 AM

May 11, 2011

Even in 1997, some in the press were questioning Ratner's use of political donations and influence

Atlantic Yards Report

On May 3, I pointed to a 11/1/2000 City Limits article that cast a critical perspective on Forest City Ratner--evidence that, despite claims in the Real Deal that developer Bruce Ratner "enjoyed largely favorable PR" before Atlantic Yards, less favorable PR was hardly insignificant.

Consider this 12/28/97 article from the New York Post, headlined King of the Retail Deals:

Ask megadeveloper Bruce Ratner why questions of political donations and connections dog virtually every development his hugely successful Forest City Ratner Companies builds - or even vies for - and he snaps, "It's just silly."

The 52-year-old developer, lawyer and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs angrily dismisses the persistent notion that his heavy contributions at the city, state and federal level get Forest City favored treatment - and even allow him to make special deals.

article

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

May 10, 2011

Jeffries gets Corcoran to revise listings from Prospect Heights to Crown Heights; why not challenge FCR's claim AY would be in "downtown Brooklyn"?

Atlantic Yards Report

What was that we were saying earlier about a whole heap of nothing?

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who's drawn attention, praise, and skepticism (I Love Franklin Ave., Brownstoner) for his announced plan to "punish real estate agents for inventing neighborhood names and for falsely stretching their boundaries," can report some success with the latter part of his effort.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Jeffries just opened an exploratory committee for a possible race for the Congressional seat now occupied by longtime Rep. Ed Towns, who may retire.)

He announced yesterday (full press release below) that, in response to his request, the Corcoran Group, a major real estate company, agreed to move "the eastern boundary of the Prospect Heights community back to its proper border, and correct[ed] several listings that had improperly marketed Crown Heights properties as located in Prospect Heights."
...

What about AY?

Given that Jeffries is apparently a stickler for Prospect Heights' boundaries, citing Flatbush Avenue as its western border, it's notable that the Assemblyman has not taken on a bigger target, challenging Forest City Ratner's ongoing claim, since 2003, that Atlantic Yards would be in "downtown Brooklyn."

But Jeffries has often been on the fence regarding Atlantic Yards. And his constituents likely are more divided on Atlantic Yards than on real estate brokers claiming that Franklin Avenue = Prospect Heights, or even the emerging ProCro coinage to describe the zone just east of the recognized Prospect Heights border.

article

Posted by eric at 12:35 PM

In profile of ESDC head Adams, Jeffries expresses optimism about stability and accountability; did Adams's AY testimony merit that?

Atlantic Yard Report

From a profile in The Capitol headlined Empire Building: Andrew Cuomo, Kenneth Adams and the struggle to restore New York’s economy:

The governor’s desire to grow the private sector will be tested, though, by the internal complexities at ESDC, a sprawling agency with 10 regional offices, 430 state employees, hundreds of subsidiaries and oversight over thousands of public-private partnerships, from mega-projects like the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn to much smaller grant programs for equipment procurement and facility upgrades.

Optimism about Adams

The article notes:

But even critics of the agency’s work express optimism that change is on the way.

“Ken Adams should provide a greater measure of stability and accountability at the agency, which has suffered over the years as a result of the constant musical chairs at the top,” said Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, an outspoken critic of the agency’s handling of the Atlantic Yards project.

Jeffries is more of a selective critic than an "outspoken critic," making the legitimate case that a subsidiary is needed to oversee Atlantic Yards but, unlike some fellow elected officials, steering clear of any lawsuits challenging or criticizing the project.

Accountability coming?

Beyond that, during testimony last month at a confirmation hearing, Adams expressed optimism that the delayed project would proceed, spoke vaguely about ensuring community voices would be heard, and, when asked about eminent domain, changed the subject to explain how, with incentives for projects smaller than Atlantic Yards, the state does better to ensure that promised results be delivered before benefits are paid out.

Adams's entrance may suggest stability, but his testimony didn't promise accountability.

link

NoLandGrab: Jeffries is more like a CINO — a "critic in name only," since his "criticism" has accomplished a whole heap of nothing.

Related content...

The Capitol, Empire Building

Posted by eric at 11:40 AM

May 6, 2011

Good Grief! More Stories (Involving Computers and Schools) Deflating The Bloomberg Management Expertise Myth

Noticing New York

When you are questioning the reliability Bloomberg’s management expertise and the extent to which his statistics reflect a real world versus Bloomberg’s desire for an exulting edifice-complex oriented headline, the statement the in the Times about Bloomberg’s “big push” for an applied sciences school (“envisioned as one of the largest development projects in the city’s history” - What? Bigger than the Atlantic Yards mega-monoploy handed to Bruce Ratner?) has more ominous resonance:

William A. Zajc, chairman of Columbia’s* physics department, said the idea for an applied sciences school was a “field of dreams venture.”

(* Is this gripe just because Columbia doesn’t want competition for its takeover of West Harlem?)

(See: Bloomberg’s Big Push for an Applied Sciences School, by Javier C. Hernnandez, April 26, 2011.)
...

The Times story also includes criticism that the mayor should, instead, be thinking in terms of deploying the city capital (“the city has pledged to offer capital [$100 million or more] and public land”) to build upon and expand existing resources and programs rather than these grandiose plans to “start from scratch” which NYU’s proposal to the mayor dares to criticize:

“A ‘start from scratch’ approach that parachutes a new player into New York without the requisite ingredients that lead to success has the potential to be a waste of resources.”

Willlets Point, Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, even the Columbia expansion into West Harlem (potentially competing with the mayor's applied sciences school vision): Where else have we been hearing about the mayor’s intoxication with wiping the slate clean in order to “start from scratch” before building anything?

article

Posted by eric at 10:32 AM

May 3, 2011

Markowitz, de Blasio outraged by potential conflicts in taxi selection, but they didn't mind conflicts with Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Public Advocate (and Brooklyn resident) Bill de Blasio, and Assemblyman Micah Kellner have written a letter (below) to New York City Comptroller John C. Liu asking him to investigate the process by which the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has selected the new "Taxi of Tomorrow."

They believe that the Turkish manufacturer Karsan, the only one of the three RFP respondents that promised to build parts for the taxis in Brooklyn, was eliminated due to several potential conflicts of interest, including a leak of a consultant's report to the New York Times, and that consultant's work for the other two finalists.

(Here's coverage in the Brooklyn Paper and Patch. The winner was Nissan.)

Selective outrage

They make a reasonable case--I haven't studied it enough to be sure--but I'm struck by the (ahem) selective outrage.

Other potential and real conflicts related to Atlantic Yards did not draw the ire of Markowitz and de Blasio, notably 1) the essential decision by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to give the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City Ratner without an RFP (which was belatedly issued), and 2) the role of environmental consultant AKRF, which worked consecutively for FCR and the Empire State Development Corporation.

link

NoLandGrab: Surely Markowitz and de Blasio only care about the merits, and not the politics, right? Right? 'Cause we know, when we go car shopping, Karsan is always at the top of our list.

Posted by eric at 9:03 PM

April 28, 2011

Avella to donate campaign funds to offset Lipsky cash

Queens Campaigner
by Connor Adams Sheets

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said Tuesday he has planned since shortly after Richard Lipsky turned himself in to authorities March 10 on corruption charges to donate to charity an amount equal to the $3,000 in campaign contributions the lobbyist made to his 2010 campaign. Avella said he has also cut off all contact with Lipsky and suggests others do the same.

For the two years before his federal indictment, Lipsky was one of the most prominent voices in defending Willets Point United, a coalition of small business and property owners in Willets Point who have sought to fight the city’s plans to replace the 62-acre district of auto repair shops and factories with a $3 billion development project.
...

“I told people that may have Lipsky on their payroll that he may under no circumstances contact my office or come to my office,” Avella said. “We will have no contact with the individual. And my recommendation is for any group that had hired him as a lobbyist to let him go.”

article

Posted by eric at 9:54 AM

April 21, 2011

Fighting His Third Term Curse Bloomberg Now Uses His Own Money To Promote Mega-Projects That Aren’t Happening

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White has noticed that Mike Bloomberg is running self-financed campaign-style TV spots, absent a campaign.

I caught one of these personally financed Bloomberg “campaign-style advertisements” the other day (it ended with the legend: “Paid for by Michael R. Bloomberg”). Whether it was nominally or otherwise intended “to bolster his battle with the teachers’ union” or “an effort to lift his sagging approval ratings” it, surprisingly, prominently devoted precious moments of its 30 seconds to promoting Bloomberg’s big, city-assisted real estate developments.
...

It is a surprise that Bloomberg should be promoting his city-assisted real estate developments given that Bloomberg, now into his third four-year term, has made so little headway with any of his mega-development dreams. Truth to tell, most of the 'jobs' they have so far created have been only for those in the demolition trades.
...

The projects initiated under Bloomberg have all so far involved mostly just destruction: Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, the Columbia University’s takeover of West Harlem, Coney Island.
...

It is also surprising that Bloomberg is advertising his languishing city real estate projects as “job creation projects” given that, for instance the Atlantic Yards arena is now mainly famous for the jobs it isn’t creating while the housing to be constructed is now conspicuously in the news for the cutback in jobs associated with the developer’s announced intention to shift to modular construction, building the tallest modular building in the world (if this pushing-the-limits of technology is permitted), and perhaps making the densest area of North America a forest of such units.

article

Posted by eric at 10:51 AM

April 20, 2011

Paying the price to be heard in Albany

LoHud.com

Consider the saga of Patricia Lynch Associates LLC, as discussed in the Sunday article. The robust lobbying firm paid a $500,000 fine last year as part of a settlement with then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office. Investigators asserted that the firm arranged campaign contributions, gifts and other favors to gain access for clients to the state Comptroller's Office under the disgraced Alan Hevesi. The firm also agreed to a five-year ban on lobbying the comptroller's office.

In 2010, Patricia Lynch Associates clients included the City of Yonkers, which paid it a total of $78,486. Another Lynch client is Forest City Ratner, the developer building the massive, mixed-use Ridge Hill complex in Yonkers. It figures prominently in a federal corruption case against former Yonkers Councilmember Sandy Annabi, a Democrat accused of accepting a bribe to drop her longstanding opposition to Ridge Hill.

article

Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

April 17, 2011

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership aims to take over MetroTech BID funding; yes, Forest City Ratner's involved

Atlantic Yards Report

Opponents of Atlantic Yards would be glad to see Atlantic Yards cheerleader, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, just go away. The Partnership is essentially a representative of developers, including Bruce Ratner, and has lost much of it's funding after accomplishing very little. Now it's trying to stay in existence by taking over the Metrotech BID and its more substantial funding.

The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a reliable cheerleader for Atlantic Yards, and once (and perhaps still) under investigation for improper lobbying, is in a tussle over funding with one of its components--and, yes, Forest City Ratner is entangled in it.

In an article April 14 headlined Brooklyn BID takeover moves forward, Crain's Insider reported:

Allies of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership have managed, for now, to beat back a proposal aimed at blocking its ability to usurp funding from the MetroTech BID, which it oversees.

The BID held an emergency meeting yesterday that was attended by board members, Bloomberg administration staff, and lawyers for some of downtown's largest developers. The sole item on the agenda: revising the BID's conflict-of-interest policy.

...“This is not just about MetroTech,” said BID President Victoria Aviles. “This is about all the BIDs in New York City and how umbrella organizations can take them over.”

Despite her efforts, opponents managed to stall the vote after lawyers for Forest City Ratner and Muss Development criticized the proposed conflict-of-interest proposal for being vague. Following an onslaught of hoots and hollers, members voted to form a committee that will review the policy.

The DBP has seen its city funding decline, while BIDs are funded by extra tax assessments. The DBP manages three BIDs: the MetroTech BID, Fulton Mall Improvement Association, and the Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID.

The MetroTech BID board next meets May 5.

The back story

In a 7/11/10 article headlined A partnership slows in Downtown B'klyn: Stalled merger exposes political divisions, Crain's reported:

The seed money it was getting from the city, a robust $2 million only two years ago, has plunged to a mere $250,000, forcing it to shed personnel and accelerate a long-envisioned takeover of three local business-improvement districts and their reliable revenue streams. But the longtime head of one BID has balked, and local politicians have put the merger on hold.

The partnership must pull off the ambitious reorganization if it is to survive as anything but a shell. The BIDs would account for $5 million of the organization's proposed $7.5 million budget for the fiscal year that began this month. Member contributions would total just $340,000.

Meanwhile, some Brooklyn City Council members—who view the organization as an arm of the Bloomberg administration, characterized by big salaries and nebulous accomplishments—want it disbanded.

The leader of the MetroTech BID, Michael Weiss, seeing the potential loss of his job in the reorganization, has "rounded up political support to stall it," Crain's said.

Crain's reported:

[DBP President] Mr. [Joe] Chan declined to comment, but his spokesman, Lee Silberstein, paints a bright picture of the partnership's accomplishments and future. “On balance, this is playing out as it was supposed to,” he says, noting that the partnership enjoys strong support from the downtown Brooklyn business community, including titans like developer Bruce Ratner, banker Alan Fishman and former KeySpan chief Robert Catell.

Ratner to the rescue?

Crain's reported:

But Councilwoman Letitia James says Mr. Chan miscalculated in his handling of Mr. Weiss's BID. “Joe's usurpation of MetroTech was not wise, was not smart politically. He did not do his homework and is now suffering the consequences,” she says.

Mr. Ratner tried to broker a compromise by offering Mr. Weiss a job paying more than the $165,000 he is making, but Mr. Weiss declined.

“Right now, we're at a standstill,” says Ms. James. “We're trying to work something out.”

link

Posted by steve at 10:59 PM

April 13, 2011

Here comes the bribe: Kruger hit with more charges

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

More crimes have been added to the morass of charges filed against state Sen. Carl Kruger — leaving the embattled legislator in even hotter water than he was before.

An indictment released last week adds bribery to the fraud and money laundering charges filed against Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) last month.

If convicted on all counts, Kruger, 61, would face 90 years in prison. He would also have to pay more than $10 million in fines.

During an arraignment hearing on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Harrington told U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff that he has 100,000 documents and 30,000 recorded phone conversations that establish his case.

Kruger is accused of taking close to $1 million in bribes from lobbyist Richard Lipsky, Brooklyn developer Aaron Malinsky, David Rosen, the former CEO of Brookdale Hospital, and a handful of other hospital officials between 2006 and 2010.
...

During the brief hearing, attorneys for four of the legislator’s would-be co-conspirators, including Turano, announced that they were planning to sever their cases from the senator, apparently believing they’ll have a better chance with a jury without Kruger’s alleged crimes dragging them down. Severing the cases would also improve a defendant’s chances of a plea deal as they approach trial.

Defense attorneys say severing their cases from Kruger’s is logical since the FBI’s case involves several different conspiracies that do not involve all of the defendants.

“It’s a confusing indictment,” attorney Jeff Lefcourt, who is defending Lipsky, said. “It alleges six different conspiracies, but my client isn’t in all of them.”

article

Posted by eric at 2:45 PM

April 12, 2011

State Sen. Kruger pleads not guilty to bribery

Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he took $1 million in bribes for helping a developer, a lobbyist and two hospital executives.

AP via Crain's NY Business

A New York state senator has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he took $1 million in bribes in a federal influence-peddling case.

Democratic Sen. Carl Kruger of Brooklyn entered the plea Tuesday. The hearing came days after prosecutors boosted charges against him, adding bribery.

Outside court in Manhattan, Mr. Kruger's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said his client "never accepted bribes from anyone for any matter, and he never abused his office in any way whatsoever."

In court, Mr. Brafman said a substantial number of 30,000 calls intercepted by the FBI during the investigation involved his client either directly or indirectly.

link

NoLandGrab: 30,000 calls intercepted by the FBI. Wonder who might be sweating that?

Posted by eric at 10:03 PM

April 10, 2011

Add To Bloomberg’s Other Mistakes: Mistakes In NOT Acknowledging Mistakes, Including A Certain Ratner Mega-Monopoly

Noticing New York

Everyone knows that the first step in correcting a mistake is recognizing when you've made one. Mayor Mike Bloomberg should take a step back, recognize his error in supporting Atlantic Yards and do what he can to fix his mistake.

Atlantic Yards is probably Bloomberg’s supreme mistake. . . . Atlantic Yards is a spectacular example of a decision that was rushed through with improperly forced haste and it is a spectacular example of just how bad the consequences of such thoughtless haste can be.

The Bloomberg administration has implicitly acknowledged the ignominy of its failure with respect to Atlantic Yards. It did so in the way it handled the departure of Deputy Mayor for Development Daniel Doctoroff (see: Atlantic Yards As Political Hot Potato.)

However disgraceful all its lapses, the Bloomberg administration has done nothing to correct the misreckoned Atlantic Yards course it is on. Correction could be made with less difficulty than continuing through the bog in which the city is now steeped. It would be relatively easy to do what is needed which is to take the project back to the drawing board and bid it out to multiple developers. (Yes, this time the megaproject, currently 17 separate building sites, should actually be bid out.) The project is adrift, amorphously ill-defined and the developer repeatedly transgresses with unacceptable behavior that should long ago have disqualified the developer from Bloomberg’s ongoing accommodation and indulgence.

...

Bloomberg still has the opportunity to walk away from the Atlantic Yards mega-project and declare it a recognized mistake. Bloomberg’s recently departed housing commissioner Rafael Cestero said that Atlantic Yards is not deserving of additional housing subsidies (it, "was not a good public investment"). Such subsidies would be disproportionate and greater than the subsidies that other more deserving projects would be eligible for elsewhere in the city. Nevertheless, given Bloomberg's very recent defense of the megadevelopment (immediately after talking with Bruce Ratner), Atlantic Yards Report is predicting that we should all gird for the awfulness of yet more subsidies for Atlantic Yards courtesy of Mr. Bloomberg. Atlantic Yards Report has an excellent record in making such calls.

link

Posted by steve at 8:42 PM

April 8, 2011

Council Member James: departure of Cathie Black, along with Atlantic Yards, a sign of Bloomberg's "third-term curse"

Atlantic Yards Report

In response to Mayor Mike Bloomberg's dissmissal of the much-criticized, little-qualified Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, City Council Member Letitia James, a leading critic of the publishing executive, said, "The Blizzard of 2011, CityTime, the Atlantic Yards project, and now this; many would consider this the third term curse.”

(Gothamist noted that the blizzard actually happened at the end of last year.)

James was a leading critic of Bloomberg's effort to overturn term limits and engineer a third term.

Atlantic Yards a third-term curse?

James is not exactly shy in her rhetoric, and there's a good deal of media fatigue regarding Atlantic Yards, but there's reason to consider Atlantic Yards a third-term curse:

  • the impact of delays and changes (like modular construction) on expected revenues
  • Bloomberg's willingness to go to bat for Forest City Ratner's dubious effort to raise cheap money from immigrant investors seeking green cards

Actually, Atlantic Yards might be better considered a first-term (and ongoing) curse, since Bloomberg backed the project unquestioningly from the start.

link

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Malinsky indicted on more charges in Kruger bribery scandal case

The Real Deal
by David Jones

A federal grand jury handed down a new 11-count indictment in the state Sen. Carl Kruger ongoing bribery scandal charging the defendants, including real estate developer Aaron Malinsky and lobbyist Richard Lipsky, with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Malinsky was previously indicted for allegedly making $500,000 in bribes to Kruger, a Democrat from Brooklyn, who later stepped in to help move forward several major real estate developments.

Lipsky, who represented various high-profile clients including Forest City Ratner, also allegedly paid off Kruger.

article

Posted by eric at 10:27 AM

April 6, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg scores four season tickets for New Jersey Nets before stadium is even finished

NY Daily News
by Adam Lisberg

Maybe it's us, but we're guessing they meant "Brooklyn Nets" in that headline.

Mayor Bloomberg is bullish on Brooklyn basketball - snapping up four season tickets at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

"The Nets are going to provide some great entertainment," he said. "It's going to be exciting basketball."

The steel skeleton of the arena, rising above Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., is 30% finished.

"We are thrilled that the mayor has decided to become a season-ticket holder," said Nets CEO Brett Yormark. "The mayor is one of the most astute investors in the city, and we are pleased that he sees the Nets in Brooklyn as a great investment."

link

NoLandGrab: The astute Mayor must indeed be viewing those tickets as an investment, because we surely don't expect to see him court-side beyond opening night. Of course, when your net worth is reportedly more than $20 billion, it's no big deal to piss away $176,000 (assuming a $1,000-per-ticket face value) on something as awful as Nets basketball. The equivalent purchase for someone with just a million dollars to his name would run less than nine bucks.

Posted by eric at 9:58 PM

April 5, 2011

As media pile on to Post's questionable scoop, Bloomberg defends Ratner; get ready for request for additional subsidies

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Post's questionable, conclusory article yesterday, based on SEC worst-case warnings, drew unskeptical follow-up in Gothamist, New York, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and others.

Even the Star-Ledger, in Nets' Brooklyn project reportedly could be scaled back, chose to trust the Post's framing of the story rather than the facts its reporters noted.
...

Bloomberg professes optimism

In Mike believes Atl. Yards hoopla, the Post followed up:

A confident Mayor Bloomberg insisted yesterday that the housing and commercial component of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards complex won't be scrapped, saying he was certain that developer Bruce Ratner is proceeding as planned.

"I talked to Bruce Ratner as late as 30 minutes ago, and let me tell you, he thinks his business is going very well out there and he's very optimistic about Atlantic Yards," Bloomberg said.

Except Ratner's business isn't going very well; that's why he sold 49% of 15 retail properties.

Nor is the project proceeding as planned; after all, Bloomberg's own administration--at least under the recently-departed HPD head--denied additional subsidies for the first tower.

article

Posted by eric at 4:32 PM

April 3, 2011

Brooklyn pastor scores prime seats at Nets' new venue

New York Post
By Gary Buiso

Rev. Daughtry was for jobs, hoops and housing for the Atlantic Yards project. Who knows when the jobs and housing might show up. He's got hoops!

Want Nets tickets? You'll have to make a higher calling.

Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of a Boerum Hill church, will have the final say over the distribution of 54 free tickets and a luxury box for every event at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

The deal is part of a "community benefits agreement" the clergyman -- who was a high-profile proponent of the arena's construction -- hammered out with developer Forest City Ratner on behalf of his nonprofit Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Association, which was formed with $50,000 in seed money from Forest City in 2005.

The deal includes four seats in the $1 billion Barclays Center's lower bowl, 50 ducats in the upper section, and a posh suite, according to Nets spokesman Barry Baum.

...

"This is [Daughtry's] little piece of the pie for having been a cheerleader to Ratner," said Candace Carponter, legal director of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, a group opposed to Atlantic Yards.

link

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Who Needs Housing When You Have Free Tix?

So just when it looked like all the promised benefits of the Atlantic Yards project--loads of construction jobs, lots of affordable housing--were empty promises, Bruce Ratner has finally come through with the big payoff for the community. Well, not exactly for the community, but for long-time Ratner cheerleader Rev. Herbert Daughtry, who will get to distribute 54 free tickets and a luxury box for every event at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

And those gratis ducats aren't chump change. Season tickets for the Nets went on sale last week, with an average price of $132 a seat, about double the prices that prevailed last season in New Jersey. Fans were not delighted, even with the lowest price point. According to one commenter on a Nets fan site:

In the end, I may actually be priced out of this place if I don’t want to be in the rafters. Think about the starting price of $99 for the All Access Pass ticket sections. That’s $99 per game, per seat so basically...you are signing a contract to pay $26,400 for 2 seats for the next 3 years without knowing what the product will be on the floor.

To me, that’s just too much at this point....

But displaced fans shouldn't look to Daughtry for his freebies. The Reverend told the New York Post that "he hopes to use some tickets as a carrot for kids to get better grades and perhaps offer the suite to sick patients at Fort Greene's Brooklyn Hospital Center."

Better yet: maybe that luxury box could be retrofited to be the affordable housing component of Atlantic Yards. Who says promises don't come true?

Atlantic Yards Report, Post focuses on the Rev. Daughtry's control of arena tickets; will he also control use of the arena ten times a year by community groups?

The New York Post discovers that the Reverend Herbert Daughtry and his created-for-the-Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance (DBNA) will be in charge of free tickets for the Barclays Center arena, as we've long known.

But the big news--if true--was slipped in as an aside: Daughtry's group also would control the ten-times-a-year use of the arena by community groups. That was never specified in the DCBA.

Daughtry's role

In Brooklyn pastor scores prime seats at Nets' new venue, the Post reports:

Want Nets tickets? You'll have to make a higher calling.

Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of a Boerum Hill church, will have the final say over the distribution of 54 free tickets and a luxury box for every event at the new Nets arena when it opens next year.

The deal is part of a "community benefits agreement" the clergyman -- who was a high-profile proponent of the arena's construction -- hammered out with developer Forest City Ratner on behalf of his nonprofit Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Association, which was formed with $50,000 in seed money from Forest City in 2005.

The deal includes four seats in the $1 billion Barclays Center's lower bowl, 50 ducats in the upper section, and a posh suite, according to Nets spokesman Barry Baum.

Note: I reported after the March 2010 groundbreaking that Daughtry had spoken of controlling access to 50 free tickets--valued at $33,000, a mere blip in the total of public subsidies and tax breaks the developer has received.

(I'm assuming such $15 tickets would all sell out. And while lower bowl seats and a a suite would have a higher face value, it shouldn't be assumed that any value should be assigned, since they wouldn't all sell out.)

Some background

The Post reports:

The 80-year-old activist, who was an adviser to the Rev. Jesse Jackson and slain rapper Tupac Shakur, found God after doing a four-year stint in state and federal prison in 1953 for attempted armed robbery.

Daughtry's group was among eight that signed the benefits agreement in 2005 and stand to gain as the project proceeds. One signatory, for example, the Mutual Housing Association of New York -- it replaced the defunct activist group ACORN and in 2008 received a $1.5 million loan from Forest City -- will be in charge of marketing the project's affordable-housing component.

It's worth mentioning that, while Daughtry claims to live in Brooklyn, he raised his kids in Teaneck, NJ.

As for ACORN, that was not a $1.5 million loan, but a $1.5 million grant/loan. The distinction isn't crucial; ACORN isn't paying Forest City Ratner, and the developer still got a good deal.

Posted by steve at 11:00 PM

April 1, 2011

Former hospital executive David Rosen indicted in Kruger corruption case

NY Daily News
by Robert Gearty

When you're bribing crooked politicians, it's apparently a really bad idea to cut out the middle man.

A former hospital executive on Thursday became the first defendant in the corruption case against Brooklyn Sen. Carl Kruger to be indicted.

David Rosen, the former head of Jamaica Hospital, is charged in a bribery scheme involving Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland, both Democrats.

A federal grand jury in Manhattan accused Rosen of bribing Kruger, Boyland Jr. and the late Queens Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio to get them to support the hospital's requests in Albany.

Rosen was ousted as CEO after being arrested last month.

article

Posted by eric at 11:28 AM

March 28, 2011

Take TWO (AYR’s) On Times Coverage- Revisiting Light Shed by CityTime Outsourcing Scandal When Reexamining Bloomberg Management Myth

Noticing New York

In beating the New York Times to the punch covering the Bloomberg administration’s admissions about the city’s failed outsourcing policy, an about-face in that came in response to the CityTime scandal, Noticing New York presented a very different and much bigger big picture story than did the Times Sunday. - - Missed in being so Johnny-on-the-spot was the opportunity to incorporate observations by Atlantic Yards Report today about how the Times story buttressing a key point of that Noticing New York coverage: That the ill-fated trust the administration placed in delegations of government duties to the private sector carries over into its failures with respect to the management of the city’s mega-development projects.

article

Posted by eric at 10:08 PM

So, the Prospect Park Alliance actually welcomed Bruce Bender's help to get state funding via Carl Kruger for a new skating rink

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder follows up on Emily Lloyd's letter to the New York Post.

I'd point out that there's a little wiggle room there. Alliance staff asked Amy Bender for help. They didn't necessarily ask her to ask her husband. But perhaps that was implied. And it certainly was welcomed, according to Lloyd's letter.

Also note that the article cited, “Kruger Crony Leaned on Me for Vote”, doesn't actually say anything about the Prospect Park Alliance. Rather, a March 16 Post article, headlined Prospect Park group rage at 'Kruger' exec, began:

A top Atlantic Yards executive who requested state funds for Prospect Park's skating rink from embattled state Sen. Carl Kruger was never asked to do so by the park's fund-raising group -- and now park advocates are furious at being linked to the corruption scandal, sources told The Post.

"He has dragged our name through the mud," fumed a Prospect Park Alliance source about Forest City Ratner Vice President Bruce Bender, whose conversation with Kruger was featured in a federal criminal complaint against the Brooklyn Democrat.

The claim that Bruce Bender wasn't asked is not inconsistent with Lloyd's statement. Prospect Park Alliance board members may not have agreed to have Bruce Bender raise funds for them, though some might have recognized that asking Amy Bender would involve her husband.
...

I'd add that the Alliance might not want to be involved in dialogues like these, as described in federal charges.

"The Vice President said he needed a 'combo of two projects... the park and Carlton Avenue Bridge." Kruger said "the bridge is out," and asked Bender to choose:

The Vice President said that he did not know and that "this" was "bad." KRUGER said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge." The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?"

link

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

Behind the Bloomberg administration's CityTime scandal: budget director Mark Page (who helped steer the revision of Forest City Ratner's MTA deal)

Atlantic Yard Report

Mark Page, the Bloomberg deputy most responsible for the CityTime scandal, has a bit of Atlantic Yards history.

Page, it should be remembered, was one of the two Bloomberg appointees on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who pushed hard against any skepticism toward Forest City Ratner's requested June 2009 revision of the September 2005 deal for Vanderbilt Yard development rights, allowing the developer to save on upfront cash and a smaller replacement railyard.

As I wrote 6/25/09, as for the last-minute character of the deal, which had been aired only two days earlier, Page claimed unrealistically that, because MTA staff had been busy working on the deal, “it’s not as though it’s something that’s been dropped in our laps suddenly to consider.”

“I think that realizing value from railyard property that we own is something that we have learned over the last number of years, much of which has been in a boom real estate cycle, is extraordinarily difficult,” Page said. “Because we require the railyard function... we’re selling the space above it. To have an opportunity to actually realize value for the space above our land requires a tremendous upfront investment by the buyer to actually build the platform, an upfront, major investment before the buyer can then move on.”

However, I pointed out, there's no obligation that Forest City Ratner build the platform on the majority of the Vanderbilt Yard site.

article

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

March 27, 2011

Daily News investigation of City Council Members points to (AY supporters) Dilan, Mealy as "the worst of the worst," also targets Sanders

Atlantic Yards

The New York Daily News has been publishing a dismaying series on the ethical shortcomings of one-third of the 51 City Council Members.

An editorial yesterday, The City Council is a sorry spectacle, the Daily News investigation showed in sordid detail, highlights a few, including these two:

Two Brooklynites won the award for the worst of the worst. Erik Dilan and Darlene Mealy represent districts with large low-income populations, where families with limited resources face the tough challenge of finding decent places to live.

And what has Dilan, of Bushwick, chairman of the Housing Committee, done to help? He helped himself, of course. He moved into a subsidized apartment that is supposed to be for families with incomes of less than $114,000. He and his wife reported incomes $40,000 over the limit.

Mealy, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is also squatting on housing that should be occupied by someone making a lot less than the $112,500 salary plus a $10,000 lulu she gets for her part-time Council job.

She and her sister bought a taxpayer-subsized three-bedroom co-op in Bed-Stuy in 1993, when Mealy worked for the Transit Authority. Their joint income was supposed to be less than $15,000. Two years later, they came up with a $14,000 down payment for a brownstone.

Mealy was one of the two members of the 16-member Brooklyn City Council delegation to show up at the March 2010 Atlantic Yards arena groundbreaking. Mealy's gotten campaign contributions from members of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), an Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory, and has supported BUILD with discretionary grants.

Dilan, as the graphic at left shows, was one of the earliest elected officials to support Atlantic Yards; the list is from the bid for the Vanderbilt Yard that Forest City Ratner delivered in July 2005 to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

What about Sanders?

Also note the presence on that list of Council Member James Sanders.

He presided over the notorious May 2004 City Council Committee hearing in which Forest City Ratner and its allies spoke all morning, before a full slate of committee members and the press, while project opponents faced empty chairs and a media blackout in the afternoon--a scene prominent in the upcoming Battle for Brooklyn documentary.

The Daily News pointed out that Sanders, while criticizing predatory lenders, had his own conflict:

He failed to mention that he had stopped paying his mortgage and his home was in foreclosure. He calls himself a "victim" and represents himself in court, trying to avoid eviction and damning predatory lenders.
...Sanders declined to discuss his case, but predicted his final settlement will allow "other victims to learn that they, too, have a way to fight back.

That reasoning prompted an editorial scoffing at his excuse:

Identified by the Daily News I-Team as delinquent on his payments, Sanders countered that he was a victim of predatory lending rather than a plain old deadbeat.
It was the bank that lured him into a $588,000 mortgage on a Far Rockaway home in 2006.
It was the bank that made him believe he could afford $3,000-a-month payments.
It was the bank that got annoyed when he stopped sending in checks.
It was the bank that has insisted on foreclosing.
It was the bank that doesn't understand why he should be allowed to stay in the house payment-free after two years.
As Sanders pleaded in court, "My family and I were likely the victims of dishonest, deceitful and ... corrupt lending practices."
So here we have an elected official who purports to be smart enough to write laws while pleading that he was bamboozled into borrowing half a million dollars he could not afford.
How dumb is that?
New York Knucklehead dumb.

link

Posted by steve at 10:37 PM

The Myth Of Bloomberg’s Management Expertise Reexamined: What Happens When Government Doesn’t Manage Its Programs

Noticing New York

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent considerable time and energy promoting himself as a great manager. Is this really the case? Not if you first consider the backpedaling that his administration has done after losing control of the outsourced CityTime project.

Word is that the Bloomberg administration is busy making acknowledgments that it screwed up (and consequently needs to make some serious readjustments) when it delegated to the private sector complex technical projects for which the administration should have retained responsible for itself. In its ill-fated relinquishment of these responsibilities to others, the administration much vaunted for its management expertise lost control of the management, cost, and scope of essential work and tens of millions of dollars of fraud ensued. All of this is surfacing with announcements Thursday night that the administration is now shifting (contritely?) to a policy of “insourcing” from what it had been a policy of “outsourcing.”

...

At the end of last year it came out that the city was the victim of a “$80 million information technology fraud scheme involving development of the CityTime project, “an automated system devised to streamline employee timekeeping.” The New York Times wrote that the ongoing federal investigation was:

casting a pall over an initiative that the mayor had championed as a hallmark of efficient, computerized management, the case does little to help the opinion of the administration’s outsourcing practices.

Similarly, Bloomberg has lost control over large development projects that are essentially outsourced to developers.

Do you want to know what was most on my Noticing New York mind the entire time I was considering all this information about the ill-advised course taken with the Bloomberg administration’s outsourcing of these sophisticated and technically complex projects? It’s the penchant of the Bloomberg administration to do essentially the same thing when, by policy, it hands over large swaths of the city like Atlantic Yards, Willets Point, Columbia's West Harlem takeover, and Hudson Yards, to private developers (or paves the way for the leveling of Coney Island), essentially subcontracting the public’s warfare to those developers and just hoping for the best. It is the same thing: Government walking away from the job that only government can really do well.

Surely, with these subcontracted handouts to the private sector, the public similarly loses money, but this time billions instead of hundreds of millions. Similarly, just as Deputy Mayor Goldsmith says: “the bigger problem is they become the City. Right? We lose control of the scope and we lose control of the price and we need to bring more of the management on our side of the table.” And if this loss of control doesn’t lead to what is technically “fraud” it leads to essentially the same kind of losses for the public as the unleashed developers ultimately deliver mega-messes that differ significantly in quality, scope, and nature from what they promised on day one.

link

Posted by steve at 10:15 PM

March 23, 2011

Kruger scandal costs developer another project

The Brooklyn Paper
by Thomas Tracy

A deep-pocketed developer entrenched in an ambitious, federally funded plan to build the borough’s tallest building at Albee Square has been quietly thrown off the project for his involvement in the FBI’s sweeping bribery probe into state Sen. Carl Kruger.

Acadia Realty Trust, the builders behind the $750-million City Point project, which received $20 million in tax-exempt federal stimulus money when it suffered financial troubles in 2009, confirmed that developer Aaron Malinsky’s PA Associates has been “removed from all operational involvement” behind the plan to bring a four-story shopping mall and as many as 700 units of housing to the Fulton Mall.
...

“Acadia would never have tolerated anything improper being done [to the City Point project],” project spokesman Rick Matthews said in a statement. “We have no knowledge of any improper or illegal activities related to Malinsky’s projects, but we have strong policies in place prohibiting illegal or unethical conduct by employees, associates or affiliates.”
...

The developer was arrested alongside Kruger (D–Mill Basin) and six others on March 10, and was charged with bribing Kruger and his lover Michael Turano with $472,500 over the years.

In return, Kruger:

• Tried to get Forest City Ratner Companies, the lead developer on the soon-to-be-built Four Sparrows Retail Center on the southern tip of Flatbush Avenue, to give a portion of the project to Malinsky so he could build a department store on the city-owned site.

article

Posted by eric at 10:50 AM

Who Made the New Brooklyn (and Who Controls the Old)

The L Magazine

Brooklyn is the fourth-largest city in the country—as such, it is a complex place. For some, it is a throwback to the greatness of immigrant America, for others, it is the frontline of international hipster monoculture... Whatever the case, the idea of "Brooklyness" has never been more out in the world, even if it's impossible to pin down. What follows is a look at the people who've created that idea, and in whose hands its future rests.
...

Marty Markowitz
Though powerless to undo new bicycle infrastructure (phew!), Marty remains a mighty political force, by far the likeliest borough president to make a bid for city hall if/when Bloomberg's reign ends. Brooklyn has changed dramatically since the third-term prez took office in 2001. He's notched noble efforts in education and affordable housing, but there's the far more substantial list of less laudatory causes Marty has championed: tearing down Admiral's Row; turning Brooklyn from a place where people live into a brand that people buy; and a little real estate project called Atlantic Yards—he harnessed the power of denial for a recent video message courting potential Chinese investors, proclaiming: "Brooklyn is one thousand percent behind Atlantic Yards!"
...

The Forever Yards: Bruce Ratner
However many of Atlantic Yards' planned infrastructure-toppling residential towers ever go up over "blighted" Prospect Heights, given the current housing market (and however many pol-placating low-income units they ever include), the man still brought major league sports back to the BK, and the shockwaves—like Park Slope's panic over a stadium-crowd-catering hip-hop club—have already begun.

link

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

March 22, 2011

Kruger crony thrown off B'klyn skyscraper plan

NY Post
by Rich Calder

A New York developer nabbed in the sweeping federal corruption probe that snared state Sen. Carl Kruger earlier this month has been quietly cut out of one of Brooklyn's biggest projects, which was slated to bring the borough its tallest building, The Post has learned.

Aaron Malinsky's PA Associates had been partnering in City Point, a mixed-use project slated to rise as high as 65 stories at the city-owned former Albee Square Mall site in Downtown Brooklyn.

But Acadia Realty Trust confirmed yesterday that it has used its powers as majority partner to remove Malinsky "from all operational involvement" in City Point.
...

The feds say Malinsky funneled $472,500 in bribe money to Kruger through a shell company set up by Kruger's lover and alleged accomplice, Michael Turano. In exchange, the feds say, Kruger assisted Malinsky in getting approvals to develop the $65 million Canarsie Plaza Shopping Center on city property and Kruger tried to get developer Forest City Ratner to give Malinsky a piece of a retail center Ratner is building on city land in Mill Basin.

Kruger even arranged a meeting with Forest City officials and Malinsky, the complaint says.

article

NoLandGrab: No word yet as to whether the ESDC has thrown Forest City Ratner off the Atlantic Yards project.

Posted by eric at 10:53 AM

March 21, 2011

Corrupt Brooklyn Politician's House Looks Exactly How You'd Expect

Curbed
by Joey Arak

State Senator Carl Kruger, accused of shady dealings in connection with a number of Brooklyn real estate projects—including Atlantic Yards and the Brooklyn Navy Yard—has had a long and complicated and possibly intimate relationship with members of the Turano family of Mill Basin. And seeing as how the Kruger case will one day make for a great Dateline special, the Times investigated these colorful characters in great detail. But the star of the show, by far, is the Turano's gaudy 7,000-square-foot waterfront mansion, which looks like it was built for a mobster, probably because it was.

link

Photo: Emily Berl for The New York Times

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

The Day: Modular Construction and Political Corruption

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Mitchell Trinka

Last week we watched a new clip from “Battle for Brooklyn”, a documentary (by Local contributor Michael Galinsky) coming out this spring chronicling the fight over the Atlantic Yards Project. The clip shows Bruce Bender, Forest City Ratner executive vice president, and politicians talking about the local jobs the project will create.

The claims of job creation came under scrutiny last week, after The New York Times reported that developers are constructing a 34-story modular high-rise at the site. The building, which would be the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, could cut construction costs in half by requiring fewer and cheaper workers.

That potential reduction in Atlantic Yards construction jobs has refueled the drive to closely examine the project and Forest City Ratner, which was recently mentioned in a corruption case against New York State Senator Carl Kruger. The New York Times also reported that the developer pressed Mr. Kruger for $9 million to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge at Atlantic Yards.

link

NoLandGrab: Forest City actually said they were considering prefab construction.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

March 20, 2011

Kruger's campaigns see big 'Net' gains

New York Post
By Gary Buiso and Aaron Short

Talk about team spirit.

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who, the feds charge, directed state money to the Atlantic Yards project, which includes a new Nets arena -- took thousands of dollars in campaign cash from deep-pocketed donors connected to its developer, the team and the arena.

Nets investor Michael Ratner -- a lawyer and brother of the developer, Bruce Ratner -- and Michael's wife, Karen Ranucci, each gave $2,000 to the Brooklyn Democrat's campaign weeks before Bruce bought the team in 2004. Bruce's company, Forest City Ratner, is also building the Brooklyn arena.

Richard Lipsky, a former Ratner lobbyist who, with Kruger, was charged by feds on March 9 in a $1 million bribery case, legally gave Kruger's coffers $3,500 between 2003 and 2007, and Lipsky's wife, Dorothy, gave $9,000 between 2008 and 2010, state data show.

Lipsky was caught on FBI wiretaps allegedly paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Kruger, who is charged with directing state cash to Forest City's $4 billion Atlantic Yards project and other Lipsky clients.

Other Nets investors in the Kruger campaign-money mix were Vincent Viola, a Wall Street mogul and former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange, who gave $5,000 in 2009, Ahron Hersh, a former CEO of a handbag company, who gave $5,000 in 2005, and Martin Rostowsky, president of a Sunset Park electric-supply company, who gave $250 in 2004.

...

Kruger, 61, has gone out of his way to cheer for the Atlantic Yards project in Prospect Heights, which sits well outside his South Brooklyn district.

At a public hearing in 2006, he gushed: "We're not talking about the Nets arena. We're not talking about Forest City Ratner . . . We're talking about Brooklyn first. What better way can we talk about Brooklyn than bringing an arena and a first-class team to the doorstep of what is truly the capital of our world, our borough, Brooklyn?"

Critics blasted Kruger's cozy relationships with Nets and arena backers.

"Contributors feel as if they have to make campaign gifts in order to have the support of crooked officials like Kruger," said Dick Dadey, head of the watchdog group Citizens Union.

Michael Ratner, Viola, Lipsky and Rostowsky did not return calls for comment. Ranucci hung up the phone when Kruger's name was mentioned. Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, declined to comment, as did Nets spokesman Barry Baum.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Post notices contributions from Michael Ratner and wife to Kruger, discovers other Nets investors who gave

When, in September 2006, I first wrote about lawyer Michael Ratner's campaign contribution in apparent furtherance of the goals of Forest City Ratner (run by his brother Bruce), nobody in the press seemed to care.

When news of corruption charges against state Senator Carl Kruger first surfaced this month, I mentioned that Kruger had received FCR-related campaign contributions, and on Friday I wrote again about Michael Ratner.

Exclusive?

Today, in an article labeled "Exclusive," the New York Post offers Kruger's campaigns see big 'Net' gains:

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who, the feds charge, directed state money to the Atlantic Yards project, which includes a new Nets arena -- took thousands of dollars in campaign cash from deep-pocketed donors connected to its developer, the team and the arena.

(Actually, he directed state money toward a Prospect Park project pushed by Forest City executive Bruce Bender.)

Nets investor Michael Ratner and his wife, Karen Ranucci, are cited first, with no reference to my coverage.

New findings

The others listed advance the story:

  • Richard Lipsky, a former Ratner lobbyist, and his wife, Dorothy (Lipsky's also been charged, for illegal gifts, as well)
  • Vincent Viola, a Wall Street mogul and former chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange
  • Ahron Hersh, a former CEO of a handbag company
  • Martin Rostowsky, president of a Sunset Park electric-supply company

Hersh said his gift thanked Kruger for helping Russian Jews, while no one else, including reps for the developer and the Nets, would comment.

The numbers are not so great as to suggest a massively organized plan; still, it's notable that so few would comment.

link

Posted by steve at 10:02 PM

At tense Council hearing, James, Lander cite AY delays, construction changes, press NYC EDC's Pinsky on need for updated cost-benefit analysis

Atlantic Yards

City Council Members Tish James and Brad Lander questioned Seth Pinsky about what the true benefits would be for Atlantic Yards. Pinsky continues to acknowledge the 25 year build-out that call into question any return for the City's subsidies for the project.

Two Brooklyn City Council Members yesterday grilled Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) about Atlantic Yards, but Pinsky both defended Forest City Ratner’s potential plan to build modular housing for the project, and argued that it, along with delays in tax revenues from a longer buildout, would not necessarily affect the city’s cost-benefit analysis of the project.

The latter statement, which Pinsky repeated in several ways, left Council Member Brad Lander dismayed and dumbfounded, calling Pinsky’s answers to Council Member Letitia James “deeply inadequate” and warning that the city has “misplaced confidence” in Forest City Ratner (FCR).

I'd also suggest that it requires an independent cost-benefit analysis, by the Independent Budget Office, rather than a self-serving one by the city.

...

“Let me go to may favorite project of all time, Atlantic Yards, they've been in the news,” James said. “They've been involved in two controversies, sort of unindicted co-conspirators.” She cited the Ridge Hill corruption case and the charges against state Senator Carl Kruger.

Does the $24 million “we so graciously have provided them” for the Carlton Avenue Bridge represent new money?

“No. That's money that's been in the budget now for some time,” Pinsky responded. “As you know, the original investment that the city was going to make in the Atlantic Yards project was about $200 million. Over the course of our negotiations, we finalized an agreement with Forest City last year which brought the total investment by the city to $179 million. the $24 million for work that were doing to help it go forward, $24 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, and $131 million for land acquisition.”

“What was original commitment to Forest City Ratner from the City of New York?” James asked.

“I believe the $200 million,” Pinsky responded.

That’s not true. The city initially committed $100 million, only to double that figure in 2007 after the project received initial approvals, and later to dial back slightly. (I think it’s still murky, given the likelihood that the city is also paying for some work on the FCR side of the ledger.)

...

“Have you done an updated cost-benefit analysis to determine how many jobs are being created by Atlantic Yards, because this project has changed?” James asked.

“The project actually has not changed significantly,” Pinsky maintained. The build program still calls for 16 towers. The arena size, though it’s decreased in square footage, continues to have the same number of seats. The MTA yard continues to meet the needs of the MTA.”

(That’s a bit of a euphemism, because, while a replacement railyard remains planned, it’s smaller than originally announced.)

“We haven't updated the cost-benefit analysis since we made the investment, but the analysis that we did showed that this would yield hundreds of millions of dollars in net incremental benefits to the city,” he stated.

James then referenced the recent news that Forest City Ratner is considering constructing the tallest-ever building made via modular construction, to meet its affordable housing obligations.

“Does that concern you?” she asked, noting that it would affect the number of jobs and the cost-benefit analysis.

“As I understand, this is an option that’s being explored,” Pinsky said carefully. ”I think, more importantly, that it's really not our place to stand in the way of innovations in technology relating to buildings.” He added that "it’s obviously incredibly important” that whatever is built complies with the project Design Guidelines and with safety requirements, but said that it’s tough to speculate on the impact until Forest City Ratner makes a decision.

He then went on to speculate a bit. “One thing I do know, in the articles, Forest City said they were looking at using a factory in New York City to do the construction, which is a benefit and job creator that we certainly didn't ever factor into our analysis,” he said. So, “if we were to go back,” that would have to be factored in.

“Well, clearly they're not going to complete this in ten years,” James noted, adding that the city committed funds based on that timetable.

Council Member Brad Lander continued the questioning:

“Everything you've said so far, in response to my questions, I think, has been a thoughtful answer. I have to say the answers you gave to Council Member James’s questions, I think, were deeply inadequate,” Lander began. “To begin with, let’s talk about the cost-benefit analysis. If I promise you a dollar today, and then instead I say, ‘I’ll give you a dollar in 15 years, is that dollar worth the same amount?’”

“Well, actually, that's not what the agreement was,” replied Pinsky with a touch of pique. A veteran of grilling by the bombastically prosecutorial legislator Richard Brodsky, Pinsky is no shrinking violet. “If we’re going to play an intellectual game it has to be fair.”

“I'm talking about the cost benefit analysis on the project revenues,” Lander continued, in a genially prosecutorial tone. “Your cost-benefit analysis evaluated a city investment of capital against projected tax revenues to the city, correct?”

“Among other things, correct,” Pinsky replied, a bit cagily.

“A pretty important one, though, the revenues, in terms of figuring out whether it’s a net positive to the city,” Lander asked.

“Absolutely,” confirmed Pinsky.

“So,” Lander continued, with increasing incredulity, “if the project is delayed from the timetable of ten years, and you earlier in your remarks said ‘over the course of the next several years,’ which I think is extremely generous, to a minimum of 25 years, with total uncertainty on whether the full buildout will happen at all, when and whether the office jobs will actually happen, the revenues that are going to come to city as a result of the construction and implementation and operation, are likely to be dramatically delayed from what you originally estimated in the cost benefit analysis that you did when you agreed to put all this capital into that project. I don’t see how you can say that’s not true.”

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Posted by steve at 9:27 PM

March 19, 2011

Press Release: Councilmember Lander Criticizes EDC for Refusal to Conduct New Cost-Benefit Analysis for Atlantic Yards, Calls for Suspension and Reduction of City Subsidies

Councilmember Brad Lander

New York, NY – On the heels of the revelation that Forest City Ratner may build the first residential tower at Atlantic Yards with modular construction, thus dramatically reducing total wages and tax revenues to the City, City Councilmember Brad Lander today criticized NYC Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky's refusal to reevaluate the City's capital contribution to the Atlantic Yards project and conduct an updated cost-benefit analysis in light of significant changes to the project. Lander called for the City’s subsidy to Atlantic Yards to be suspended, and subjected to the same 17% capital cut that EDC is taking overall.

At the City Council's preliminary budget hearing on EDC's budget, Lander argued that changes to the project since EDC committed $200 million to Forest City – a much-longer timeframe, uncertainty about full build-out and the contemplated office space, and now the potential of modular construction significantly reducing wages and tax revenues – are likely to dramatically reduce the project’s tax revenues to the City, and therefore require a fully updated cost-benefit analysis, before the City proceeds to distribute any remaining subsidy dollars.

“The City’s subsidy to Atlantic Yards should be suspended until we have a new cost-benefit analysis, and subjected to the same 17% capital cut that EDC is taking overall,” Lander said. “I was not initially a die-hard opponent of this project, but I had many questions and concerns about whether the benefits would be realized, the public costs would be contained, the developer would live up to its obligations, and the process would be transparent. Unfortunately, those concerns have grown enormously, and it has become clear that City is very likely to lose many millions of dollars on this project, even as many of the contemplated benefits have evaporated. We need a new cost-benefit analysis before we proceed to put City taxpayer money into this project, just as we need real public oversight and accountability.”

Lander, together with Councilmember Letitia James, also asked Pinsky a series of questions about several troubling developments related to the project, including allegations that Senator Carl Kruger took bribes for his efforts to secure New York State subsidies for the Atlantic Yards project, and that representatives of Forest City Ratner and its partners may have misled foreign investors as part of its efforts under the EB-5 program to secure investment through the procurement of US visas, despite the fact that these investments will create no new jobs beyond what had already been promised.

Mayor Bloomberg has imposed a 10% capital cut for parks and infrastructure, and EDC overall has taken a 17% capital cut. Yet the City’s contribution to Atlantic Yards has not been reduced – despite the City’s fiscal difficulties, despite the many concerns surrounding the project, and despite the likelihood that the project’s tax revenues to the City are likely to be significantly reduced.

Posted by steve at 11:49 PM

March 18, 2011

Bruce Ratner's late 2010 campaign contributions: $12,500 to AG candidate Schneiderman, $7500 to the Senate Republicans

Atlantic Yards Report

Michael Ratner, of course, is not the only Ratner doling out lavish campaign money.

To architect Frank Gehry, whose grasp of development politics appears (in retrospect) enormously shaky, Bruce Ratner is "politically like me" and a fellow "liberal, do-gooder."

But a look at Ratner's pattern of campaign contributions again suggests otherwise.

Would a "liberal, do-gooder" in New York State give $7500 to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee, as Ratner did on 11/1/10?

Or would that donor more likely be, as I wrote in February 2008, someone who "plays hardball when it counts?"

The Schneiderman contribution

Ratner on 10/28/10 also gave $12,500 to the campaign of Democratic Attorney General candidate Eric Schneiderman, who won his race with 55 percent of the vote.

(The contribution limit in statewide elections is $37,800.)

Could that be an effort to ensure that Schneiderman not pursue a lingering investigation from the Andrew Cuomo-led AG's office into the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership's lobbying on behalf of Atlantic Yards and other projects?

Or is it just to make sure that Schneiderman takes some calls ahead of others?

Previous coverage

Last year, I noted $12,500 in contributions to Cuomo's gubernatorial campaign, $2000 to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's campaign, and $10,000 to New York Uprising, the clean-up-Albany project spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Citizens Union Director Dick Dadey, and former New York City Parks Commissioner and New York Civic Director Henry Stern, Ratner's mentor.

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NoLandGrab: The idea of Bruce Ratner supporting an effort to clean up Albany always makes us chuckle — right before we puke.

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

The Ratner-Kruger campaign connection; one month after Atlantic Yards was announced, (brother) Michael Ratner and his wife gave $2000 each

Atlantic Yards Report

Follow the money.

Now that charges are swirling around state Senator Carl Kruger, it's worth a look back to see how Forest City Ratner (FCR) apparently steered campaign contributions to him less than a month after the Atlantic Yards plan was announced.

Kruger, along with some other undistinguished Brooklyn politicians, received campaign contributions via a most unusual source: FCR CEO Bruce Ratner's brother Michael Ratner, the eminent human rights lawyer, as well as his wife Karen Ranucci.

Kruger got $2000 from each on 1/6/04, as indicated in the graphic (click to enlarge; full list at bottom). Atlantic Yards was announced on 12/10/03.

Michael Ratner's curious pattern

Michael Ratner wouldn't comment when I first wrote about this in September 2006. I suggested that he was carrying water for his brother Bruce, who for a stretch was a "refusenik" from campaign contributions.

Michael Ratner's Brooklyn political contributions--in a pattern quite different from his other contributions to progressive politicians--seem to have been guided not by ideology but by corporate interests.

He was an investor in the Nets, as well as significant stock in the publicly traded corporation, Forest City Enterprises, controlled by the Ratners' extended family.

Indeed, the evidence is damning: Michael Ratner and his wife, Karen Ranucci, both Greenwich Village residents, both made campaign contributions using Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn building as a return address, as well as from their home address.

Click through to learn how many of Michael Ratner's favorite pols have ended up behind bars.

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Posted by eric at 11:57 AM

HOSPITAL BRIBERY CHARGES: Willets sticks with Lipsky

YourNabe.com
by Connor Adams Sheets

You have to hand it to the Willets Point United crew — they're far more loyal than Richard Lipsky has ever been. Or Forest City Ratner, for that matter.

Willets Point United was keeping Lipsky’s services as of Monday, bucking the trend of cutting ties with him set by many of his other clients and associates. The group paid Lipsky $57,500 in 2010, according to lobbying records.

“The allegations have nothing whatsoever to do with Willets Point, and we consider that Dr. Lipsky has done a most effective job on behalf of WPU to expose the severe negative impacts of the proposed Willets Point development,” the group said in a lengthy statement on its website. “WPU is motivated, indefatigable, and inspired by Dr. Lipsky’s contact with federal enforcement agencies.”

Forest City Ratner Cos., the developer of the controversial Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, a flashpoint in the national eminent domain debate, hired Lipsky, effectively barring him from being able to work on behalf of project opponents.

Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the developer, said Lipsky worked for Forest City Ratner as a consultant for about five years before he was terminated last week.

“He actually worked on issues related to youth and sports. His background is in sports. He has a doctorate in sports psychology or something like that,” DePlasco said. “He was a consultant, so he wasn’t directly employed.”

Hmm. We'll have to go back and re-read all of Lipsky's "Daniel Does Destroy" blog posts attacking Atlantic Yards critics to try to find the youth and sports angle.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), an outspoken opponent of the $3 billion plan to redevelop Willets Point, spoke at that same protest. He said Friday he was “very surprised” to hear that the lobbyist worked on both sides of the eminent domain issue.

“I wouldn’t have expected Lipsky to be involved, but it’s symptomatic of the system,” he said. “How the hell can you be involved in helping the Willets Point owners fight the misuse of eminent domain and yet you’re supporting the misuse of eminent domain by Ratner at Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn?”

Indeed.

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Posted by eric at 11:21 AM

March 17, 2011

Kruger crony leaned on me for vote: pol

NY Post
by Rich Calder and Dan Mangan

A Forest City Ratner executive whose cozy relationship with state Sen. Carl Kruger is featured in a new criminal complaint against the Brooklyn politician personally lobbied a Yonkers councilman hours before a controversial vote that later led to bribery charges against a councilwoman.

Yonkers Council Majority Leader John Murtagh Jr. said FCR Vice President Bruce Bender leaned on him in 2006 to change his expected vote opposing a controversial FCR development. The meeting was set up hours before a Yonkers council vote by then-Yonkers Republican Party chairman Zehy Jereis.

Bender, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was the point man for FCR’s efforts to win the Yonkers council’s approval for the $630 million 81-acre “Ridge Hill” retail, commercial and residential development there.

Murtagh told The Post that Jereis called him “hours before the vote” and asked him to meet at a Yonkers Starbucks.

When he arrived, Jereis, who was with Bender, warned Murtagh that Councilwoman Sandy Annabi “is going to vote ‘yes,’ so this is going to pass, and it would help me politically if I vote in favor of it also,” Murtagh recalled.

Murtagh said he refused, adding, “I don’t make decisions like that, to do so would be political suicide.“ Jereis in Oct. 2006 was given a one-year, $60,000 real estate consulting contract by FCR in what prosecutors claim was a payoff by the company for getting Annabi to drop her opposition to the development.

Jereis had no experience in the real estate business and never submitted monthly work reports to FCR until March 2007 when the feds began dropping subpoenas as part of the Yonkers investigation, prosecutors said.

Last year, Annabi was charged by federal authorities with accepting more than $166,000 in bribes to vote in favor of Ridge Hill and another Yonkers development.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Post: Yonkers Council Member says Bender pushed him to change vote in Ridge Hill case

In Kruger crony leaned on me for vote: pol, the New York Post continues chipping away at the relationship between developer Forest City Ratner and scandal-plagued state Senator Carl Kruger, again looking at the Ridge Hill case in Yonkers.
...

And this time, unlike in an article earlier this week, the Post completes the story, explaining that Jereis got a consulting job from Forest City in an apparent reward, even as the developer and its staff evaded any charges.

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

March 16, 2011

Post: Backlash from Prospect Park Alliance toward FCR's Bender over fundraising conversation with Kruger

Atlantic Yards Report

You'd think that the Prospect Park Alliance, a group of civic-minded folk raising money for a beloved resource, might be a little peeved at being caught up in some apparently sleazy politics, and at least a few are.
...

Did the group get the $4.5 million promised? Apparently not, according to the Post:

A Prospect Park Alliance spokesman said the group never got the money, and another official there said they doubt it ever will.

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Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

March 15, 2011

Krugerpalooza: Tuesday Edition

NY Post, Ratner's Kruger connection! Bruce had dealings with indicted senator

The biggest developer in the borough — whose Atlantic Yards project is the biggest in Brooklyn history — is now linked to the biggest pay-to-play story in years.

Federal wiretaps show that a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, which is building the Barclays Center arena as part of the 16-tower apartment and retail complex, paid hundreds of thousands in bribes to state Sen. Carl Kruger (D–Brighton Beach), the former Finance Committee powerhouse.

The lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, was indicted by federal prosecutors with Kruger and several others last week, for his role in the scandal, which included funneling $252,000 to Kruger, who in turn provided state funding to projects being developed by Forest City and other clients.

No one from Forest City was indicated or charged — and it is unclear if the company knew what Lipsky was allegedly doing.

But Forest City Vice President Bruce Bender was caught on the federal wiretap negotiating with Kruger, who has steered millions in state money to the $4-billion project.

The Brooklyn Paper, Arrested Kruger: I’m not going anywhere

State Sen. Carl Kruger says he’s going to continue serving the people of Southern Brooklyn despite federal charges that could earn him up to 120 years in the Big House — and land him in the poorhouse.

Five days after federal authorities announced that the Democrat sold his political clout and government connections for close to $1 million in payoffs to deep-pocketed lobbyists and developers, the embattled legislator said he’s going to keep on fighting for the residents who sent him to Albany.

“I am here to represent the people of my district,” Kruger, who’s facing more than $5 million in fines, repeated to reporters in Albany on Monday during his first public appearance since his arrest last week. “I am here to do my job and that’s what I’m doing.”

NoLandGrab: What a statesman — only thinking about his beloved constituents.

Cleveland Scene, A Brooklyn Bridge, Cute State Senator, Involve Forest City in New York Corruption Case

New York news is finding its way back to the Forest City.

Wire-taps, bribes, scathing snippets of conversation published in the newspaper; ring a bell? The scenario must be annoyingly familiar to Cleveland’s best-loved real estate developer, Forest City Enterprises. Although the company avoided the Cuyahoga County corruption fallout, it’s not faring so well in New York where it is being showcased as “Real Estate Developer No. 1” in a federal public corruption case there.

The criminal case was unsealed last week and is a little complicated. We will try to boil it down for you. There is a skating rink, a retail development, and a bridge in Brooklyn. To clarify—not the Brooklyn Bridge, but another one. All are part of a new complex that the company's Forest City Ratner division is developing to be the new home to the Nets.

Let's hope they're wrong about Prospect Park being part of the project.

The Times notes that this is the second time in less than two years that Forest City Ratner has been named in a federal corruption investigation involving New York. The company has escaped indictment both times.

NLG: So far.

Posted by eric at 11:40 PM

The Carl Kruger backstory, via Gatemouth's long memory

Atlantic Yard Report

Room 8 blogger Gatemouth, aka Howard Graubard, has a couple of very interesting posts on the charges against state Senator Carl Carl Kruger, Assemblyman William Boyland, and lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

First, in Restling With Our Rights, or Lincoln Suspends the Constitution (Due Process for Electeds, Part One), he criticizes District Leader Lincoln Restler, who became the first pol to call for the elected officials' resignations before a trial.

But he's no supporter of Kruger, not at all. He writes:

Carl Kruger and I go back a long way.

I’ve despised Carl ever since 1984.

Brooklyn Democrats were then in the midst of a leadership war between the forces of Borough President Howard Golden and the late Tony Genovesi, fighting a series of proxy wars across the County.

The anecdote continues for a while, leading to this:

I then looked at an angry looking bald man watching us warily. Having already been through a morgue of newspapers clippings looking for dirt on Maisel’s associates, I said the following, and nothing more:

“You must be Carl Kruger.”

The man turned blood red.

I guess I understand why. If someone called me “Carl Kruger,“ I’d be insulted too.

But this man was Carl Kruger.

The mad man now started screaming at the top of his lungs.

“FUCK YOU!!!!…AND FUCK YOU, KENNY, FOR BRINGING HIM OVER HERE.”

There's much more, including an account of Democrat Kruger's endorsement of Republican Rudy Giuliani for U.S. Senate and Republican Marty Golden against sitting Democratic State Senator Vincent Gentile, a trade that ensured Kruger's safe seat, and an explanation of how Kruger's alliance with Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno sabotaged the reform efforts of Gov. Eliot Spitzer:

Truthfully, no one writing on the blogs today has a longer and more distinguished record of hatred for Carl Kruger than I do.

Click through for Part II.

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Posted by eric at 12:14 PM

March 14, 2011

Lightning Keeps Striking: It Couldn’t Happen To Some More Deserving People . . Over and Over, Again- Ratner, Illegal Bribes and Jay-Z and Beyoncé

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White ponders how it can be that Forest City Ratner keeps popping up in the pages of federal corruption indictments.

It’s that OMG-lightning keeps striking in the same place phenomenon. It may startle you, but if you know your science then you know that not only can lightning keep striking the same place, if the conditions are there it is quite likely to.

Suspense and . . .

It may also be described as the couldn’t happen to a better person phenomenon. That is to say that sometimes when you have watched the operations of a firm like Forest City Ratner closely for a long time you have found yourself wondering for just how long they are going to escape the consequence of a certain style of heinously cynical conduct. Looks like the answer may be not much longer. . . or, at least, not forever.

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Posted by eric at 4:15 PM

More shocking than Kruger's $500,000 gift to Bruce Bender's pet project is the Senate leadership's willingness to let Bender allocate funds himself

Atlantic Yards Report

Though state Senator Carl Kruger has certainly helped developer Forest City Ratner over the years, and the charges described last week certainly put that help in a new light, the federal complaint does not show Kruger allocating funds to the developer.

Sure, he seemed willing, but he didn't have enough money, so what he did have went to a Prospect Park project requested by Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender.

That might be seen as much as helping an old crony as anything else.

Senate leaders bend to Bender?

Still, another look at the complaint suggests some shocking--at least to those who believe what they learned in civics class--behavior from a Senate staffer, apparently at the behest of "Senate Leader #1."

Who's that? Apparently Senator John Sampson (as identified in news coverage), who has had supporters use Forest City Ratner offices for a fundraiser.

That staffer was willing to essentially outsource government "pork" directly to Bender, letting the real estate executive allocate money "as he saw fit."

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Posted by eric at 4:06 PM

Is the Kruger/Lipsky case the end of the scandal investigations in Albany? Maybe not. What about the Aqueduct "racino"?

Atlantic Yards Report

In Piling On Carl Kruger, Convicted Already In Court Of Public Opinion, City Hall News explains that state Senator Carl Kruger, unlike many charged with corruption, is not even being given the doubt in the recently announced case involving payments from Richard Lipsky.

Why? City Hall News reports:

“Everyone who’s been paying attention to politics in Brooklyn, has long known that these two gentlemen play pay-to-play politics,” said one politician who asked not to be named, referring to Kruger and Assembly Member William Boyland, Jr., who was also accused of accepting bribes. “They are shady folks, period.”

Kruger’s personal life is already the source of much speculation and innuendo. But his political behavior did not win him any friends either.

Dan Feldman, a former Brooklyn Assembly member tried to explain why.

“A high percentage of the time, I’m amazed and shocked when these people get into trouble. Frankly, this is one of those cases where I’m not shocked—I just didn’t get good vibes,” Feldman said. “Most politicians are very gregarious. With Carl, you never got the feeling of any kind of personal connection. I don’t mean to be cruel—to some extent, it felt like you were talking to a computer.”

Also, Kruger's clear role in Senate shenanigans--one of the "Four Amigos" whose party allegiance was malleable--surely played a role.

Anyone else?

The newspaper reports:

Some wondered how much further the scandal would go. Would there be more arrests in addition to the eight already?

“The cynical analysis is this is the tip of something much larger and this could explode,” [Baruch College professor Doug] Muzzio said. “It’s not only waiting for the other shoe to drop. There seems to be a whole shoe closet here with shoes ready to fall out.”

If so, who could that be? Perhaps the investigation of the Aqueduct "racino" will yield further charges.

If so, those could involve state Senators Malcolm Smith of Queens and John Sampson of Brooklyn.

And if so, there might be a tangential connection to Forest City Ratner.

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Posted by eric at 2:43 PM

Time for an update? Markowitz, on video, praised Forest City to potential investors: "I can assure you that their reputation is unbelievably reliable"

Atlantic Yards Report

In December, I first wrote about Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's hyperbolic praise for Forest City Ratner, assisting the developer's effort to raise low-cost capital from Chinese (and Korean) investors seeking green cards.

Now that Forest City executive Bruce Bender has been caught on government wiretap trying to get government help to fulfill the obligation to rebuild the Carlton Avenue Bridge, and also saying, "I don't mind fucking the bridge," maybe Markowitz's claims of FCR reliability deserve a rethink.

"The largest company in Brooklyn is Forest City development, and I can assure you that their reputation is unbelievably reliable," he declared on the video produced to pitch the project to the investors. "They're a great company to work with; they've worked very closely with government. And the most important thing: they make a promise, they keep it."

Right.

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Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

March 13, 2011

Yes, Kruger apparently helped FCR, but not on Atlantic Yards; Post focuses on the Mill Basin connection, where pol tried to delay public review

Atlantic Yards Report

I've been so focused on the not-quite-favor on Atlantic Yards Forest City Ratner's Bruce Bender tried to negotiate with the indicted Carl Kruger that I didn't look closely at the other FCR deal, where Kruger apparently was helpful.

Rich Calder of the New York Post follows up today, in Kruger's political favor:

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who is facing federal corruption charges in an alleged pay-to-play scheme -- used his political muscle to hold up a Bloomberg administration project in Brooklyn at least three years to benefit a favored developer also highlighted in the embattled pol’s criminal complaint, the Post has learned.

Note that the details are outside the official complaint, which focuses on the role of another developer in the Mill Basin project.

The article continues:

At issue is a 15-acre city project that includes a new retail center in Mill Basin, built by developer Forest City Ratner. The project, along Flatbush Avenue, is also supposed to hold a Cadillac car dealership. The site currently houses a Toys-R-Us store.

Kruger (D-Brooklyn) sent former Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber a scathing letter in January 2008 threatening to sue the city because it wanted to begin the mandatory public review process on the dealership’s portion of the project, without FCR’s part.

At the time, the car dealership plan was in jeopardy if the city didn’t move quickly, but FCR wasn’t ready to begin a public review – and was concerned that segmenting the project could hurt its plans, sources said.

“It is our intent, and the shared intent of the community and other elected officials, to commence legal action if necessary,” Kruger said in the letter.

The city ultimately gave in to Kruger’s demands, but luckily was able to save the dealership deal. Last month, the entire project’s public review finally began.

FCR has not been charged, but the doubts about whether it's a good corporate citizen--as the Empire State Development Corporation asserted last year--increase.

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Posted by steve at 10:40 PM

Crain's: Lipsky's relationship with Kruger may have solidified after the lobbyist signed on with Forest City Ratner

Atlantic Yards Report

In Lobbyist Richard Lipsky's downfall: Lobbyist in bribery scandal touched nearly every biz cause, Crain's New York Business describes Richard Lipsky's ethical flexibility and, near the end of the article, suggests that a connection with developer Forest City Ratner led Lipsky to ally with state Senator Carl Kruger.

Crain's reports:

In the 1990s, lobbyist Richard Lipsky fought ferociously on behalf of small business owners against building a Pathmark supermarket in East Harlem, and, a decade later, against a Walmart store on Staten Island. But the underdog narrative that ran through his three-decade career became muddied more recently as signs emerged that Mr. Lipsky was following the money rather than his principles.

Forest City Ratner hired him in 2006 for its $5 billion Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn, and a related corporate entity snagged him to pave the way for an East Harlem shopping mall whose anchor is a Target superstore. Those moves were widely attributed to the developer's desire to prevent Mr. Lipsky from stirring up and advocating for the little guys, his traditional constituency.

He aligned himself with four rogue legislators who upended the Democrats' tenuous hold on the Senate in 2009. And he recently signed on with the Committee to Save New York, a big-business alliance backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's fiscally conservative agenda.

“He was serving far too many masters,” said a Democratic operative. “You could purchase his position on an issue.”

Um, I think Atlantic Yards critics and opponents were pointing that out well before charges surfaced last week.

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Posted by steve at 10:38 PM

Kruger's vote on gay marriage, protests by activists, and the need for scrutiny

Atlantic Yards Report

In Media Runs With Kruger Gay Stories: Activists' charge indicted anti-equality senator is closeted finally surface, Gay City News reports on the mainstream media's willingness--for the Times, tentative, for the Post, certain--to finally look closely at some evidence that seemed to have been staring at them in the face:

Shortly after Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger joined seven other Democrats in voting against New York’s marriage equality bill in December 2009 –– dooming it to a 38-24 loss –– a busload of LGBT activists descended on two homes blocks apart where Kruger either claimed to live or in fact resided, with some picketers loudly decrying him for being closeted.

In the wake of Kruger’s indictment March 10 on federal charges of taking more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for political favors, the story of Kruger’s homosexuality –– indeed accounts that he is lovers with the son of a woman who was often his companion in public –– have made it into the mainstream press.

A March 11 New York Times story recounts the gay rights protest at Kruger’s residences, noting that the senator has denied being gay. The newspaper also notes that while neighbors of 73-year-old Dorothy Turano's staggeringly gaudy house in Mill Basin described her and the senator as a couple, “it was the oldest son, Michael, to whom Mr. Kruger was closest, and they forged a relationship in which they ‘supported and relied on one another,’” according to the federal indictment.

Michael Turano, a 49-year-old gynecologist, was indicted for helping Kruger to launder his alleged illegal gains.

Both the Times and the New York Post make clear that Kruger was not living in his legal residence in Georgetown, where his sister lives, but with the two Turanos and “Dottie’s” other son, Gerard, who is 47.

The Post is more definitive in its characterization of the relationship between Kruger and Michael Turano, describing the senator as “closeted” and the younger man as his “beau” and “secret longtime companion.”

Kruger and Michael Turano were in near daily contact, according to the U.S. Attorney. Maybe if the protests in 2009 had been taken more seriously, and Kruger's living arrangements scrutinized--if not his companionship, at least the outlandish luxury in which he apparently lived--the press would have been ahead of the feds.

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Posted by steve at 10:35 PM

What kept Carl Kruger untouchable: member items, and the redistricting that carved up territory for him and Marty Golden

Atlantic Yards Report

In the wake of the charges against state Senator Carl Kruger and others, it's worth another look at my 10/30/06 review of former State Senator Seymour Lachman's timely book of analysis and advocacy, Three Men in a Room: The Inside Story of Power and Betrayal in an American Statehouse, coauthored by Robert Polner. Indeed, the entire legislative and governmental process is distorted by an absence of democracy.

As I wrote, few of our elected representatives come off well. Is it no surprise that several of the officials who back the Atlantic Yards plan are among those who benefit from and support the systematic dysfunction?

Member items

How do leaders keep people in line and maintain incumbency?

“Member items,” basically a discretionary fund that can be used for worthy civic purposes and also to build political capital. In the Republican-controlled Senate, a minority Democrat might get $100,000 to $200,000 to distribute to local community groups and local services, Republicans sometimes get ten times more. (In the Democrat-controlled Assembly, the flip side obtains.)

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Posted by steve at 10:30 PM

The Sunday Krugerpalooza

Insights into the relationship between State Senator Carl Kruger, lobbyist John Lipsky and developer Forest City Ratner continue.

New York Daily News, Crooked Carl Kruger wallowed in Albany's corrupt pork-barrel slush-fund ways

An FBI listening device showed just how much money an individual lawmaker can control - and just how routinely a legislator can dole it out, without accountability or sound judgment, to special friends.

This particular transaction unfolded in December, when Kruger fielded a call from Forest City Ratner honcho Bruce Bender - a client of lobbyist Richard Lipsky, who had allegedly bribed Kruger for help on other matters.

Bender was seeking an amazing $15 million: $9 million for a bridge related to his company's Atlantic Yards project, $2 million for a retail center in Mill Basin and $4 million to renovate a skating rink in Prospect Park.

As it happens, Bender's wife sits on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance.

Kruger laments that he has but $4 million to offer and asks, "What do you want done?" adding, "I guess the park. F--- the bridge."

But Bender prods Kruger for more. You're the Finance Committee chairman, he says. Can't you squeeze something additional out of Senate Democratic leader John Sampson?

Kruger replies that other community groups "would take $10,000 and kiss somebody's a--."

Crain's New York, Lobbyist Richard Lipsky's downfall

In the 1990s, lobbyist Richard Lipsky fought ferociously on behalf of small business owners against building a Pathmark supermarket in East Harlem, and, a decade later, against a Walmart store on Staten Island. But the underdog narrative that ran through his three-decade career became muddied more recently as signs emerged that Mr. Lipsky was following the money rather than his principles.

Forest City Ratner hired him in 2006 for its $5 billion Atlantic Yards megaproject in Brooklyn, and a related corporate entity snagged him to pave the way for an East Harlem shopping mall whose anchor is a Target superstore. Those moves were widely attributed to the developer's desire to prevent Mr. Lipsky from stirring up and advocating for the little guys, his traditional constituency.

He aligned himself with four rogue legislators who upended the Democrats' tenuous hold on the Senate in 2009. And he recently signed on with the Committee to Save New York, a big-business alliance backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's fiscally conservative agenda.

“He was serving far too many masters,” said a Democratic operative. “You could purchase his position on an issue.”

...

It isn't clear when his relationship with Mr. Kruger developed, but observers suspect their ties solidified around 2006, when Mr. Lipsky signed on with Forest City Ratner. Its executive vice president for government affairs, Bruce Bender, has known Mr. Kruger for decades.

New York Post, Kruger's political favor

State Sen. Carl Kruger -- who is facing federal corruption charges in an alleged pay-to-play scheme -- used his political muscle to hold up a Bloomberg administration project in Brooklyn at least three years to benefit a favored developer also highlighted in the embattled pol’s criminal complaint, the Post has learned.

At issue is a 15-acre city project that includes a new retail center in Mill Basin, built by developer Forest City Ratner. The project, along Flatbush Avenue, is also supposed to hold a Cadillac car dealership. The site currently houses a Toys-R-Us store. Tim Wiencis/Splash News

Kruger (D-Brooklyn) sent former Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber a scathing letter in January 2008 threatening to sue the city because it wanted to begin the mandatory public review process on the dealership’s portion of the project, without FCR’s part.

...

“He cost the city three years it can’t get back on a project that already faces a lot of opposition,“ said one city official.

Kruger and Bruce Bender, a vice president for government relations at FCR, are longtime allies who both got their starts in Southern Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club.

According to the complaint, Bender in December asked Kruger for $11 million in state funds for two FCR projects in Brooklyn – the Mill Basin project and Atlantic Yards – and another $4 million to renovate a Prospect Park skating rink near Bender’s Park Slope home.

Talk of the Sound, Lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, New Rochelle's Echo Bay Developer, Indicted for Bribing Elected Officials in Brooklyn

Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist employed by Forest City Ratner, has been indicted on allegations of paying bribes to New York State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn). Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Relations Bruce Bender is also identified in the complaint for his role in seek funds from Kruger last December for three projects -- $9 million for a bridge related to the Atlantic Yards project; $2 million for the Mill Basin retail development in Brooklyn; and $4 million for a skating rink in Prospect Park. Mr. Bender’s wife, Amy Bender, is on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance, the park’s fund-raising group.

Referred to in the charging document as "a significant real estate development firm ("Real Estate Developer #1")", Forest City employed Richard Lipsky up until Wednesday when the developer terminated the relationship.

Forest City Ratner is the developer behind the Echo Bay Development project in New Rochelle which recently received an extension of a Memorandum of Understanding. Mayor Noam Bramson aggressively pushed through the M.O.U. after a series of secret meetings with City officials and refusing to allow public comment on a revised development plan. Bramson has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the Ratner family. Bramson also receives tens of thousands of dollars a year in payments from Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) who has, in turn, also received funds from the Ratner family. Bramson has been the most vocal proponent for the Forest City Ratner plan to develop Echo Bay.

Posted by steve at 10:08 PM

March 11, 2011

KRUGERPALOOZA!

The headlines are awash today with the indictments of State Senator (and big Atlantic Yards booster) Carl Kruger and his not-so-trusty sidekick (and paid Atlantic Yards lobbyist) Richard Lipsky, and of course, "Real Estate Developer #1."

The New York Times, Developer Among Cast of Characters in Kruger Case

A corruption case unsealed on Thursday included a large cast of characters beyond State Senator Carl Kruger, Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. and six others who were charged.

Also highlighted in the criminal complaint was “a significant real estate development firm,” identified as “Real Estate Developer No. 1,” that was “spearheading an over $4 billion, multiyear, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.” The description left little doubt that the firm was Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project, a 22-acre residential and retail complex in Brooklyn that includes a new home for the Nets.

It was the second time in less than two years that the company played a role in a corruption case, though it was not charged either time.

The complaint accused Mr. Kruger, a Brooklyn Democrat, of taking at least $1 million in bribes in exchange for help on state matters, including bribes from Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner, and other clients.

The complaint said the company’s “vice president of governmental affairs and public relations” — Bruce R. Bender has that role at Forest City Ratner — had asked Mr. Kruger last December for state money for three projects: $9 million for the Carlton Avenue Bridge, which is to be replaced as part of the Atlantic Yards project; $2 million for a retail development in the Mill Basin neighborhood of Brooklyn; and $4 million for the renovation of the skating rink in Prospect Park, a public project.

Mr. Bender’s wife, Amy Bender, is on the board of the Prospect Park Alliance, the park’s fund-raising group.
...

[Forest City spokesman Joe] DePlasco said the company ended its relationship with Mr. Lipsky on Wednesday, when word of the case began to leak out, because of the “serious nature of the charges.” Forest City Ratner was the development partner of The New York Times Company on its Midtown headquarters.

Although the complaint contained no evidence that Mr. Bender believed Mr. Kruger was taking bribes, longtime opponents of Atlantic Yards were dismayed that no one from the company had been charged.

“I find it sad that politicians are expendable, but rich developers are not,” said Candace Carponter, the legal director of the group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

Atlantic Yards Report, Two unanswered questions in the Kruger case: Does the ESDC still trust FCR? Why did FCR try to get the state to pay for its bridge obligation?

The New York Times, to its partial credit, follows up on the charges against Carl Kruger and Richard Lipsky with an article headlined, at least online, Developer Among Cast of Characters in Kruger Case.

There's not much there that wasn't in this blog yesterday, but the Times did get a quote in the developer's defense:

Forest City Ratner did not deny that Mr. Bender was the person to whom Mr. Kruger was speaking. “I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that the person in charge of government relations at Forest City Ratner speaks to government officials,” said Joe DePlasco, a spokesman. The complaint, he said, “does not suggest that Forest City Ratner behaved in any way that’s inappropriate.”

Mr. Bender lives in Brooklyn, Mr. DePlasco said, “and I assume he likes Prospect Park.”

DePlasco's partly right--there's no evidence that Forest City Ratner instructed Lipsky to pass on lobbying fees to Kruger.

Weaseling out of bridge obligation?

But Forest City, arguably, did behave inappropriately, though not criminally. The developer, as of last June, was supposed to pay $16 million of the $40 million cost of the Carlton Avenue Bridge reconstruction.

The taped conversation shows that Forest City was trying to get $9 million in state funds to reduce its obligation. If the developer is still scrounging, what does it say about its commitment to rebuilding the bridge?

NoLandGrab: We're pretty sure it says "f*ck the bridge!"

Curbed, BROOKLYN BACKSCRATCHING

The Times takes a more detailed look at the involvement of developer Forest City Ratner in the corruption charges against Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger. There are no smoking guns for Atlantic Yards opponents, nor has FCR been charged with any wrongdoing, but wow, it just makes you feel dirty reading it. Ratner's VP of governmental affairs, Bruce Bender, tried to get Kruger to steer millions in state funds to three Brooklyn projects, and then Kruger made him choose one. Bender picked the skating rink renovation at Prospect Park, where his wife is a major fundraiser.

NLG: Like Carl said, "f*ck the bridge!"

The New York Times, Federal Corruption Case Ensnares a Self-Styled Fighter for the Underdog

...according to federal prosecutors, Mr. Lipsky had come to rely heavily on one well-placed politician to do his bidding, State Senator Carl Kruger, Democrat of Brooklyn, and was secretly paying him for his services.

Prosecutors said over $100,000 in cash was found in a safe in his home, and some $4,000 in crisp bills was in his suit pocket.

NLG: Wonder if they've dusted those bills for fingerprints yet.

LoHud.com, High-profile state senator charged in state's latest political scandal

Forest City Ratner and its affiliates have paid Lipsky more than $320,000 since 2005 for help with its projects in Yonkers, Brooklyn, Har-lem and Queens. Included in that was $256,000 that covered lobbying Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone and City Council members regarding the $600 million Ridge Hill project. Forest City Ratner terminated its contract with Lipsky on Thursday, as did some other clients. Yonkers officials did not respond to messages for comment.
...

The indictment relates to none of those projects, although prosecutors contend that Lipsky's efforts on behalf of Forest City's massive Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn did receive help from Kruger.

NY Daily News, State Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland surrender to feds to face bribe rap

key player was co-defendant Michael Turano, son of Kruger's longtime friend, Dorothy Turano. Michael Turano controlled a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development, that served as Kruger's indirect ATM.

The FBI described Turano as Kruger's "intimate associate." Prosecutors say Kruger was so deeply involved with Turano's family, that by giving money to Turano, the bribers effectively paid off Kruger.

Olympian got $472,500 from developer Aaron Malinsky over several years to back his Brooklyn projects.

Recently, Malinsky tried to get a piece of mega-developer Bruce Ratner's project to build a retail complex called the Four Sparrows on city property in Mill Basin.

Ratner was torn between bringing in small department stores - the plan Malinsky wanted - or going with a "big box" superstore."

NLG: Yeah, we bet he was losing a lot of sleep over that one.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, "I Don't Mind F-king The Bridge."

Forest City Ratner has shown a knack for appearing in corruption cases, but never seems to get a proper screen credit. In the Ridge Hill corruption scandal they were billed as "Developer #2" and now, in the state Senator Carl Kruger indictment they appear as "Developer #1".
...

The FBI reported that when told by Kruger, during a wire-tapped conversation, that there would be funds for a Prospect Park project but no public money to steer toward replacing the Carlton Avenue bridge, Bender was not happy:

The Vice President said that ..."this" was "bad." Kruger said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge." The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now, I've got to leverage that bridge, what's my value?"

It's hard to imagine that even a screenwriter could come up with an exchange that better encapsulates Forest City Ratner: a company whose only regard for the public is how much of our money can be siphoned off.

Atlantic Yards Report, If anyone else is snared in the federal investigation, who could it be? Maybe another legislator who's expressed excess Atlantic Yards enthusiasm

A reader asked if anyone, besides state Senator Carl Kruger, might be caught up in the federal investigation that snared Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky.

We don't know--and there's no evidence that any other legislator is under investigation.

But who else, the reader asked, resembles Kruger in performance--a Brooklyn legislator who represents a district far from the Atlantic Yards site, but has vocally and dramatically backed the project?

That would be state Senator Marty Golden, who led a rally for the developer (below) at the 7/29/09 public hearing on Atlantic Yards and entered late, rudely interrupting the proceedings, at a 5/29/09 oversight hearing held by state Senator Bill Perkins.

The Village Voice has reported on Golden's questionable ethics, directing much business to a catering hall he used to own, and family members still run.

Is there any evidence Golden took money from lobbyist Richard Lipsky, or anyone else, to help Forest City Ratner? No.

But, just as Kruger's enthusiasm for Atlantic Yards should now be seen in new light, Golden's outsize enthusiasm deserves some reconsideration.

Park Slope Patch, Ratner Exec Tied to Pol Arrested for Corruption

A top Atlantic Yards executive pressed a Brooklyn state senator for millions of dollars to fund the controversial development, as well as a new ice-skating for Prospect Park, court documents reveal.

The charges filed against state Sen. Carl Kruger by federal prosecutors on Thursday do not explicitly name Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner, but they do describe conversations with officials from a “real estate developer which is spearheading an over $4 billion, multi-year, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn.”
...

Like the entire Atlantic Yards development, the reopening of the Carlton Avenue bridge — which links Prospect Heights and Fort Greene — has been beset with delays.

Originally the bridge was slated to close from roughly early 2008 to early 2011. Now, as the watchdog blog Atlantic Yards Report noted, the bridge is set to reopen in the summer of 2012.

NLG: Wonder what Vegas is giving on the Summer 2012 bridge reopening? 60-1? 70-1? We'll bet the over/under is October 2015.

Posted by eric at 11:24 AM

Best Wiretap Dialogue from a Federal Corruption Indictment Ever

[Warning: this exchange is rated NC-17 for inappropriate language]

From page 22 of the 53-page federal corruption indictment of New York State Senator Carl Kruger, lobbyist Richard Lipsky et al...

Kruger asked "what do you want done?"

The Vice President [Forest City Ratner's Bruce Bender] said that he did not know and that "this" was "bad."

Kruger said, "I guess the park, fuck the bridge."

The Vice President said that "my dilemma is as you know, I don't mind fucking the bridge, I can't fuck it right now."

And that, friends, is how business gets done in Brooklyn, USA.

Posted by eric at 12:26 AM

March 10, 2011

Yes, Kruger corruption charges involve Atlantic Yards; unnamed "Developer #1" is FCR; Bender: "I don't mind fucking the Carlton Avenue Bridge"

Atlantic Yards Report

I had questioned whether the corruption charges regarding Carl Kruger's involvement with a "Brooklyn developer" meant Atlantic Yards, but apparently they do.

From the Daily News:

The complaint also points out Kruger's involvement in supporting mega-developer Bruce Ratner's planned $4 billion stadium project in downtown Brooklyn.

Kruger took elaborate steps to hide the payments, having checks funneled through a company called Adex Management Inc., then through a shell company, Olympian Strategic Development.

Olympian was controlled by Michael Turano, a son of Kruger's longtime friend and local community board director, Dorothy Turano. Michael Turano was also charged Thursday.

Kruger is accused of receiving at least $1 million in bribes, sharing lobbying fees paid to Richard Lipsky, another defendant, and then taking the official acts in favor of which Lipsky had been paid to lobby.

If Forest City Ratner, which is not named, is not a target, this might be a repeat of Ridge Hill, in which the developer benefits from apparent corruption but is not penalized.

Can the Empire State Development Corporation repeat its statement, in response to my queries about Ridge Hill, that they "remain confident in Forest City as a developer and as a good corporate citizen"?

From the complaint

The complaint (page 7) notes defendant Richard Lipksy's clients "include, among others, a significant real estate development firm ("Real Estate Developer #1") which is spearheading an over $4 billion, multi-year, mixed-use commercial and residential development project in Brooklyn, New York, as well as various unions and associations...."

On p. 14, it states that Kruger has taken a number of official actions to benefit Lipsky's clients, including "Developer #1."

More coming...

Click through to the complaint, and begin reading at the bottom of page 21 to find out why the reconstruction of the Carlton Avenue bridge is taking so long. Warning: rated NC-17 for adult language.

link

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

$leaze rap for top pol

Corruption case

NY Post
by Mitchel Maddux, Josh Margolin and Dan Mangan

Speaking of mom 'n' pop businesses, MomandPopNYC blogger, retail consultant and Atlantic Yards lobbyist Richard Lipsky has been swept up in a corruption investigation that netted Brooklyn State Senator — and big Atlantic Yards booster — Carl Kruger.

State Sen. Carl Kruger, a powerful Brooklyn Democrat, will surrender to federal authorities today to face corruption charges, along with an Upper West Side lobbyist linked to him, sources told The Post.

Kruger has been under investigation since 2007 by Brooklyn federal prosecutors for allegations he performed official acts in exchange for campaign donations.

But that ongoing probe is not related to charges Kruger, the ranking Democrat on the Senate's Finance Committee, will face today in Manhattan federal court, sources said.

Those charges relate to lobbying involving hospitals in the city, NBC said.

In addition, longtime Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. of the 55th District in Brooklyn is facing corruption charges today, the station reported.

Also surrendering is lobbyist Richard Lipsky -- well-known for helping small businesses oppose plans that would benefit larger business, including big-box retailers such as Walmart, The Post has learned.

He recently has been advising developers of Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards project.

article

Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Paper, Report: Kruger will surrender to feds in corruption case

State Sen. Carl Kruger is expected to surrender to federal authorities and be charged with trading his political clout for personal gain today — just one week after his attorney claimed the FBI was no longer investigating the Brooklyn legislator.
...

Federal prosecutors haven’t disclosed the criminal charges that Kruger is facing, nor have they named any of his would-be co-conspirators, although the Times claims that Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. (D–Brownsville) and Richard Lipsky, a longtime small business lobbyist and blogger whose client list includes Forest City Ratner Companies, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, will be charged alongside the senator.

Kruger isn’t talking either — he hung up on this reporter on Wednesday evening.

The New York Times, 2 State Legislators Surrender in Corruption Case

State Senator Karl Kruger, Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. and an influential lobbyist were among eight people who surrendered on Thursday to face charges in a federal corruption case accusing the lawmakers of taking bribes over the course of a decade in schemes large and small, from pushing hospital mergers to extending business hours for liquor stores.

In addition to the lawmakers and the lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, those charged in a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday morning included a real estate developer, two hospital executives, a hospital consultant and a Brooklyn doctor.

Photo: NY Post

Posted by eric at 11:18 AM

March 9, 2011

State Senator Kruger, lobbyist Lipsky said to surrender on corruption charges; details coming Thursday

Atlantic Yards Report

With the expected indictments of Brooklyn State Sen. Carl Kruger and lobbyist Richard Lipsky on corruption charges--not related to Atlantic Yards, at least so far (but see below)--the ranks of Atlantic Yards supporters/enablers with a taint keep growing.

Quick: former Assemblyman Roger Green had to resign (and run again) after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor; Darryl Greene, Forest City Ratner's consultant on minority hiring, had to withdraw from the Aqueduct "racino" project because of his record of mail fraud; Carpenters Union official Sal Zarzana was cited by a court-appointed monitor for inappropriate expenditures; Carpenters Union official John Holt was cited for obstructing an investigation and giving false answers to an investigator.
...

Note of course that charges are not convictions, so the "taint" described above could be removed should Kruger and Lipsky emerge vindicated.

Last summer, news broke about an investigation into Kruger,--an aggressively unabashed supporter of Atlantic Yards, and recipient of Forest City Ratner-related campaign contributions.

Lipsky, who's worked for developer Forest City Ratner and against eminent domain for projects such as the Columbia University expansion and Willets Point, had not been mentioned as part of the Kruger investigation.

Click thru for more, and links to more coverage — some of it titillating.

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Posted by eric at 11:50 PM

Brooklyn Senator to Turn Himself In

The New York Times

State Senator Carl Kruger, a powerful and at times controversial Brooklyn Democrat, is expected to turn himself in on Thursday to federal authorities in Manhattan on corruption charges, according to several people briefed on the matter. An influential lobbyist, Richard Lipsky, is expected to surrender alongside Mr. Kruger.

Mr. Kruger had been under investigation by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn who were looking into accusations that he had helped businessmen surmount bureaucratic hurdles in exchange for assistance raising campaign money, but the charges stemmed from an investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors and the F.B.I.

Others were also expected to be charged in the case, according to one person briefed on the matter, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the charges had not been made public.
...

Details of the Manhattan case against Mr. Kruger and Mr. Lipsky were not available on Wednesday night. The United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation were expected to hold a news conference on Thursday to announce the charges.

Mr. Kruger’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment on Wednesday. Mr. Lipsky’s lawyer, Gerald B. Lefcourt, also declined to comment.

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NoLandGrab: People who've followed the Atlantic Yards fight over the years are familiar with Mr. Kruger and Mr. Lipsky, both fervent supporters of the project.

Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

If Cuomo's seeking to expand fight against financial fraud, maybe he should look at Forest City Ratner's EB-5 effort

Atlantic Yards Report

A front-age New York Times article February 16 headlined online Cuomo’s Deep Reach Into Regulatory Territory Could Provoke Clash in Albany and, in print, "Cuomo Seeking to Expand Grip to Fight Fraud," stated:

Buried in the governor’s new budget are provisions that would grant the executive branch sweeping new powers to investigate Wall Street banks, hedge funds and insurance companies, alarming some industry officials and raising the prospect of a major clash with his successor as attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, and local prosecutors over high-profile securities and investment cases.

The provisions accompany Mr. Cuomo’s proposed merger of the state’s Insurance and Banking Departments, along with the Consumer Protection Board, into a new Department of Financial Regulation. Mr. Cuomo has argued that those changes are necessary to create a more efficient and modern regulatory framework for businesses and better protection for consumers.

But the budget language would also empower the new agency to issue subpoenas, compel testimony and seek damages and penalties from anyone committing “financial fraud,” a term defined broadly to encompass investments, securities and derivatives marketed and sold by Wall Street investment houses, as well as financial services, life insurance and more.

Wouldn't it be worth looking into the potential "financial fraud" involved in Forest City Ratner's quest for $249 million from immigrant investors under the federal government's EB-5 immigration program?

After all, potential investors are clearly being misled, and the spirit--if not the letter--of the federal program is being violated.

And the Empire State Development Corporation, Cuomo's economic development agency, is helping.

link

Posted by eric at 12:15 PM

March 5, 2011

Times slams Louisiana governor for dubious charity run by wife, ignores Markowitz's use of his own charity to draw corporate donations

Atlantic Yards Report

A front-page New York Times article March 3, headlined Wife’s Charity Offers Corporate Tie to a Governor, begins:

Louisiana’s biggest corporate players, many with long agendas before the state government, are restricted in making campaign contributions to Gov. Bobby Jindal. But they can give whatever they like to the foundation set up by his wife months after he took office.

Transpose the issue to Brooklyn, and change set up by his wife to he himself set up, and the Times might have reason to examine the work of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Missing the point

However, in a 7/16/10 article about Markowitz's concert series, headlined Bringing Fun to Brooklyn and appearing on the front page of the Weekend section, a Times music reporter barely touched on the issue:

Artists are paid for their appearances; each series has a budget of around $1.3 million, three-quarters of which comes from corporate sponsorships. But performing for a big, appreciative crowd deep in Brooklyn can be its own reward, said John Legend, who played the King series two years ago and will return to Seaside on Aug. 5.

As I wrote, that skates over that fact that corporate and foundation contributions, such as from Forest City Ratner and its foundation, mean Markowitz might be indebted to big developers like Forest City Ratner.

Those donations continue, as I pointed out this past January, with $50,000 to each of the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series and the Seaside Summer Concert Series.

Also, as the New York Post has pointed out, Markowitz's separate charity, Best of Brooklyn, has a record of issuing no-bid contracts.

link

Posted by steve at 6:31 PM

March 4, 2011

Is Brooklyn thriving and an economic engine? Markowitz cheerleads, but the evidence of unemployment is sobering

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz gets on his soapbox for an essay that's part of the March/April issue of City Limits, Defining Brooklyn.

The headline is Beep Says Brooklyn Is NYC's Economic Engine: "In spite of saying 'goodbye' to our treasures of yesterday, Brooklyn is thriving," writes Borough President Marty Markowitz.

(The essay is mostly adapted--self-plagiarized?--from his State of the Borough Address last month. More importantly, not that Markowitz is embarrassing himself by lying about Atlantic Yards in an attempt to help Forest City Ratner recruit Chinese investors, how much credibility does he have left?)

The evidence for his optimism?

In spite of saying "goodbye" to our treasures of yesterday–Brooklyn is thriving. The reason is simple: Brooklyn has embraced modernization without forgetting its past and become an economic engine for New York City.

Don't believe me? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And in this case the pudding is employment data. From June 2009 to June 2010 none of New York's boroughs were even close to Brooklyn. Brooklyn increased employment by 3.6 percent. Not only is that nearly double the next highest number in New York City, it's good enough for 2nd best of all large counties … IN THE COUNTRY. And Crain's New York Business proclaimed Brooklyn to be "at the forefront of the city's economic recovery" thanks to the 14,000 jobs Brooklyn added in 2010.

Do the math

The problem? A 3.6 percent increase in employment is a mere dent in an 11 percent unemployment rate. In other words, you don't subtract 3.6 from 11. (To reduce 11 percent to 7.4 percent would require a near 40 percent drop.)

But don't worry, Marty's prioritizing Borough Hall's spending to address our most pressing needs.

Is spending $1 million of his capital budget on a business incubator a significant allotment? After all, more than one third of his capital budget for 2009, some $24.6 million, was directed to the $64 million amphitheater planned for Asser Levy Park in Coney Island, home of his concert series.

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Posted by eric at 10:21 AM

March 2, 2011

Brooklyn Loves Atlantic Yards, Adorable Old Man Tells China

Curbed
by Joey Arak

Atlantic Yards critic/blogger Norman Oder has finally captured his white whale: The video message recorded by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz to pitch Chinese investors on that green-cards-for-cash Atlantic Yards scheme. The one in which Markowitz says Brooklyn is 1000% behind the controversial megaproject. It's even better than promised. Like the boss says, there's nothin' betta than China and Brooklyn tuhgedda! Anyone else feel like they need a shower after watching this?

link

Posted by eric at 10:43 PM

How Hakeem Jeffries Became the Barack of Brooklyn

NY Observer
by David Freedlander

The parishioners and many far beyond central Brooklyn have been expecting bigger and better things from Hakeem Jeffries since before he was even a candidate for the Assembly. His funky first name, his appeal to both black churchgoers and earnest reform types and his academic pedigree-graduate degree from Georgetown University, law degree from N.Y.U.-have earned him the label "Brooklyn's Barack."
...

Mr. Jeffries has been a shrewd political operator-his detractors see him as overly calculating-since he finally won the Assembly seat, in 2006. He is a favorite of Brooklyn political boss Vito Lopez, but he is also close to a group of reformers who want to oust Mr. Lopez. He has come down in the middle of the heated fight over Atlantic Yards. His district includes some of the most rapidly gentrifying parts of Brooklyn, including Fort Green, Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill, but he has made a name for himself racking up legislative victories on issues that may matter more to the desperately poor precincts that surround those neighborhoods, including the outlawing of the NYPD's stop-and-frisk database.

If he takes on Mr. Towns in '12, he could have a clear shot at the longtime congressman. If he waits, he could see a Congressional district redrawn to better suit his political base, but he could face the prospect of running in a crowded primary that would feature not only Ms. James, but also Councilman Charles Barron.

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NoLandGrab: And neither Tish James, nor Charles Barron, for that matter, have "come down in the middle" regarding Atlantic Yards — both have firmly opposed it.

Posted by eric at 12:10 PM

February 22, 2011

Jeffries, Barron, James seen as leading candidates for Congressional seat now held by Towns

Atlantic Yards Report

City Hall News reports on the expected departure of Rep. Ed Towns and his son Darryl Towns' recent appointment to a post in Albany, in Next Towns Over: The next expected Brooklyn Congressional vacancy:

Now, the field for the coveted north Brooklyn seat has likely narrowed to four frontrunners: Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, Council Member Charles Barron, Council Member Tish James and, depending on whether he runs for re-election, Ed Towns himself.

There are reasons to believe Towns may not. He not only lost his chairmanship but also was very publicly bounced as the ranking member of his committee by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over fears that Towns would not aggressively combat investigations launched by the new chair, California Rep. Darrell Issa.

Still, a Towns spokesman said last week that the Congressman would run again.
...

Tish for Public Advocate?

The newspaper reports:

Council Member Tish James is also seen as a potential candidate, though she and Jeffries both share the same Fort Greene base. James was noncommittal about her plans.

...According to two people who have spoken to James about her plans, James is strongly leaning towards running for public advocate if Bill de Blasio runs for mayor.

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Posted by eric at 11:19 PM

February 12, 2011

Cuomo Appoints Towns (the Younger One)

The Wonkster
By Gail Robinson

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Brooklyn Assemblymember Darryl Towns commissioner and CEO of the state’s Homes and Community Renewal, which includes the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the state mortgage agency and other housing agencies.

Towns, who has served in the legislature since 1992, is the son of U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns and has often been mentioned as a possible successor to him.

...

Towns currently chairs the Assembly’s Committee on Banks and the Black, Puerto Rican/Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. During his time in the legislature, Towns, whose district includes parts of Cypress Hills, Bushwick and East New York, helped win passage of the ANCHOR Program. He has backed the Atlantic Yards project and recently penned an op-ed for the Post, essentially supporting the idea of a Walmart in East New York. He was a sponsor of a bill that would have end the city police’s shoot to kill policy, instead requiring them to wound suspects if forced to fire.

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More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Cuomo's appointment of Assemblyman Towns may be good news for colleague Jeffries, with a clearer path to the House of Representatives

The ascension of Brooklyn Assemblyman Darryl Towns as commissioner and CEO of New York State's umbrella housing agency is good news for his colleague, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, according to City Hall News, in its 2/11/10, Winners and Losers:

Hakeem Jeffries – Darryl Towns is going to have all sorts of projects in his portfolio as he leaves the Assembly for his new job, but it’s his father’s seat in the House of Representatives that might be affected first and most visibly by his appointment as Andrew Cuomo’s housing commissioner. Now the eventual race to replace Rep. Ed Towns, whose retirement has been expected for years, will almost certainly have one less candidate. That’s good news for Hakeem Jeffries—the Brooklyn Assemblyman who most people have assumed was headed to DC from even before he first arrived in Albany—precisely because it’s bad news for Charles Barron, who will likely need another split primary vote if he wants to squeak through the open primary, whenever it finally comes.

Another potential candidate is the perennial Kevin Powell.

Posted by steve at 5:01 PM

February 10, 2011

Brooklyn's Brennan named Chair of Assembly Corporations Committee; will he press ESDC on Atlantic Yards?

Atlantic Yards Report

A press release from the office of Brooklyn Assemblyman Jim Brennan:

BRENNAN ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT AS CHAIR OF CORPORATIONS, AUTHORITIES AND COMMISSIONS

Assemblymember Jim Brennan (D-Brooklyn) announced that Speaker Silver has appointed him Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.

Mr. Brennan has served as a member of the committee for 26 years, and served as counsel to his predecessor, who chaired the Subcommittee on Public Power, a subcommittee of the Corporations Committee, for three years prior to his election. Mr. Brennan previously chaired two subcommittees of this 26-member committee – the Subcommittee on Business Corporation Law and the Telecommunications Task Force.

“I want to express my thanks to Speaker Silver for appointing me Chair of this committee,” said Mr. Brennan. “I look forward to the challenges ahead on the issues confronting the committee, including mass transit funding, utilities, and the accountability and governance of our public authorities and corporate entities.”

That's a powerful position, one Brennan's predecessor Richard Brodsky used to pursue reform of laws governing public authorities and to take a tough look at the New York Yankees' new stadium.

Avoiding AY in the Assembly

It's also one that Brodsky chose not to use to look at Atlantic Yards, which just happens to be favored by Speaker Sheldon Silver. So I wouldn't bet on Brennan holding an Atlantic Yards hearing (but am willing to be surprised).

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Posted by eric at 9:09 PM

Cuomo Appoints Towns (the Younger One)

Gotham Gazette
by Gail Robinson

Governor status-Cuomo has gotten a bit sidetracked from his "reform" agenda, apparently.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has named Brooklyn Assemblymember Darryl Towns commissioner and CEO of the state’s Homes and Community Renewal, which includes the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the state mortgage agency and other housing agencies.

Towns, who has served in the legislature since 1992, is the son of U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns and has often been mentioned as a possible successor to him.

In the release from the governor’s office both Steven Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, and Duncan MacKenzie, chief of the New York State Association of Realtors, praised the appointment, as did the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, a trade group. The statement did not include comments from any tenant groups.

We don't know about you, but three cheers from the real estate industry always screams "reform" to us.

He has backed the Atlantic Yards project and recently penned an op-ed for the Post, essentially supporting the idea of a Walmart in East New York.

link

NoLandGrab: No need for Forest City to run up to Albany — Mr. Towns has already cashed Bruce's checks.

Posted by eric at 8:46 PM

February 9, 2011

Looking for local coverage of Markowitz's fine

Atlantic Yards Report

On Monday, the dailies reported that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was fined by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for using Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura as his lawyer for a home-buying transaction in 2009.

The Brooklyn Paper hasn't reported that news yet, though yesterday it offered a tough story about Markowitz's objectification of women in public comments--a point I raised in my coverage last week of the State of the Borough address--and today covers the news/photo op involving the visit of Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas to Borough Hall.

link

Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

February 8, 2011

Second meeting of Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet slated for Thursday at Borough Hall; updates on first tower, web site coming?

Atlantic Yards Report

The second meeting of the Atlantic Yards District Service Cabinet will be held Thursday, February 10, at Brooklyn Borough Hall, from 9:30-11 am, allowing various agencies and entities involved with Atlantic Yards to update each other, and to hear from developer Forest City Ratner.

As with the first meeting, held in November, neither the Borough President's office nor any other sponsoring entity has publicized the event, though a staffer in the office of Council Member Letitia James confirmed the time and location in response to my query.

In contrast with such reticence, last September, Empire State Development Corporation Project Manager Arana Hankin said at a public meeting, "The structure and schedule of these meetings will be announced shortly, and we look forward to your participation."

Questions beforehand

The event is open to the public for observation, but questions must be submitted beforehand to local community boards, James's office, or the Borough President's Office.

Expect an update on construction progress, with an increased number of workers at the site.

New web site delayed

At the November meeting, Forest City Ratner Executive VP MaryAnne Gilmartin said the developer was "working on creating an information web page. This will provide the public with regular updates on the project, including issues around construction and traffic. Our goal is to have this up by the end of the year."

That didn't happen.

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NoLandGrab: God knows, in the year of our Lord, two-aught-eleven, it takes a loooong time to create a web page.

Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

Marty’s ‘pole’ numbers are dropping

The Brooklyn Paper

The pole dancing climax to Borough President Markowitz’s State of the Borough address didn’t go over so well — and some critics are saying that Markowitz’s objectification of women can no longer be ignored.

“I just didn’t think it was necessary,” said Chinita Pointer, who was honored at the Feb. 4 speech for running the non-profit music program, the Noel Pointer Foundation.
...

Markowitz couldn’t resist showing off photos of him with glittery celebrities Beyonce, Brooklyn Decker and Christy Turlington, who were included in the speech for eye candy.

“Tall women have a thing for short, chubby guys,” cracked Markowitz.

The joke was anything but isolated to this one speech.

Markowitz also made some frat house-groaners about Beyonce at the Atlantic Yards ground-breaking ceremony in March, which was attended by her hubby, the rapper Jay-Z.

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NoLandGrab: It's time for him to go.

Posted by eric at 10:09 AM

February 7, 2011

Markowitz fined for using staff lawyer to close home purchase, had denied doing so until confronted with documents; BP's travel record gets a look

Atlantic Yards Report

Tsk, tsk, Marty.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, according to the Times's CityRoom post, Brooklyn Borough Chief Fined for Conflict of Interest, has been fined $2,000 by the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for using Chief of Staff Carlo Scissura as his lawyer for a home-buying transaction in 2009. Scissura was fined $1100.

Scissura, in response to Markowitz's request, had recommended Leslie Lombard, who worked at his law firm. But Lombard was on maternity leave and Scissura replaced her. Markowitz didn't get a bill until the COIB began investigating.

The Daily News, in Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz slapped with $2K fine for using work lawyer for home deal, adds to the story it broke, pointing to some duplicity:

Markowitz initially denied that Scissura had represented him - then claimed, when presented with contradicting documents, that the law applies only to lawyers working for the city as attorneys, not as chiefs of staffs.

Beyond conflicts, travel

The Wall Street Journal, in its report, links to a 7/21/10 report, Officials Disclose Freebies, Debt, that stars the BP:

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz accepted more free travel than any other elected official in New York City last year, journeying with his wife to Turkey and the Netherlands, records released Tuesday showed.

Mr. Markowitz, and his wife, Jamie, visited the Netherlands March 18-21, 2009, and they spent Nov. 13-17 in Turkey. Each trip cost between $5,000 and $39,999, and in both cases the couple allowed others to pay their way, records show.

link

NoLandGrab: WE DON'T BELIEVE A WORD coming out of Marty's pie hole.

Posted by eric at 11:39 PM

STATE OF THE BOROUGH: MARTY MARKOWITZ HAS ISSUES

F**ked in Park Slope

I'm starting to think it's time for our unmedicated esteemed borough president Marty Markowitz to retire to Century Village or Naples, FL where he can ride his tricycle in peace.

Don't we have term limits around here? His schtick is getting old.
...

He talked about a few controversial projects without actually mentioning that they're pissing a lot of people off: Atlantic Yards and the expansion of the Gateway Mall (yeah, the Walmart one), to name a couple.

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Posted by eric at 10:37 AM

February 5, 2011

“You should let the marketplace decide,” Bloomberg asserts, regarding Wal-Mart; sound familiar?

Atlantic Yards Report

From yesterday's New York Times, headlined Wal-Mart Skips Council Hearing as Impact of Stores Is Assailed:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has said that New York should be open to any legal business that wants to come here, was asked by a reporter on Thursday about the hearing and if it was in the city’s best interest to let Wal-Mart set up shop.

“You should let the marketplace decide,” he said. “Anybody who has tried to manage the marketplace, it has not turned out very well. I think the Soviet Union is as good an example as you’d ever need of that.”

Bloomberg has similarly suggested that the market for sports teams is a free market, which, of course, it's not. It's a cartel, with limited supply.

And that leads localities to offer subsidies and other support to encourage them, such as an inside track on valuable public property like development rights to a railyard.

That's why Bloomberg’s identification with the developer, nearly 18 months before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s belated RFP for its Vanderbilt Yard, was clear in this verbal slip: "Then, we’ve got to find a find a ways--Bruce Ratner’s got to find a ways--to build this complex in Brooklyn."

link

Posted by steve at 2:50 PM

Markowitz Puts on a State of the Borough Spectacle

Carroll Gardens Patch
By Patrick Wall

Vesti la giubba, Marty.

But though the long speech was full of gimmicks and gags, the borough president didn’t avoid controversial topics, touching upon bicycle lanes, the Atlantic Yards project and the decision this week to close more than two dozen city schools.

...

As expected, the borough president also lauded the Atlantic Yards development, which he said would be an economic boon to Brooklyn.

“After seven years of planning and legal fights,” Markowitz said, “construction on the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project finally got underway, which means thousands of union jobs and an anchor for a rejuvenated downtown.”

The multi-billion dollar Atlantic Yards project, which will include commercial space, thousands of apartments and a basketball arena, has inspired passionate debate – and a few lawsuits – since it was first introduced in 2003.

link

Related coverage...

The Brooklyn Eagle, Marty’s Speech: It Wasn’t Just Bikes
By Raanan Geberer

He largely avoided controversy. Indeed, he mentioned several news developments — such as the Atlantic Yards project, the conversion of the old Domino sugar factory and the planned redevelopment of the Tobacco Warehouse by Arts at St. Ann’s — without saying that they were contentious issues. The one area in which he came out swinging (and, unfortunately, the only area that some news outlets and blogs chose to report) was the issue of bike lanes, specifically the expanded one on Prospect Park West. His entrance atop the “senior bike” on a synthetic-turf “bike lane” was meant to call attention to the subject in a humorous way.

Posted by steve at 2:11 PM

February 4, 2011

Markowitz uses new Strategic Policy Statement for tendentious, erroneous defense of his Atlantic Yards advocacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Does anyone know how to start the impeachment process?

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's new 2011 STRATEGIC POLICY STATEMENT [PDF] contains, among other things, a vigorous, tendentious, and erroneous defense of his Atlantic Yards advocacy, suggesting that the project would make use of an "abandoned rail-yard" and knit together neighborhoods rather than divide them.

It deserves several footnotes.

It starts:

I’m sometimes called a cheerleader or even a pitch-man for Brooklyn. One idea that I pitched on behalf of our borough was a long-held dream of mine that I’m thrilled is now definitely coming to fruition—my promise to bring major league sports back to Brooklyn. As a boyhood fan whose heart was broken when the Brooklyn Dodgers left for "La-La Land" in 1958, I wanted to bring that excitement back to the kids and families of Brooklyn. Nothing brings people together like music, food, religion and sports. I approached Forest City Ratner and expressed my desire for a NBA team in Brooklyn. Now all of Brooklyn awaits the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets! The plans evolved for an arena, retail and residential housing, including, at my insistence, 2,500 affordable units, located on the City’s third-largest transit hub, making modern use of an abandoned rail-yard and knitting together previously divided neighborhoods. The Atlantic Yards project will form a new cultural center befitting the nation’s fourth largest "city" of 2.6 million.

Though surely some Brooklynites await a new team, the tepid response from an invited audience at Markowitz's annual pronouncements during his State of the Borough address undermines his hyperbole about how "all of Brooklyn" awaits the Nets.

The railyard was and remains a working railyard to store and service trains; that's why Forest City Ratner had to build a temporary railyard and is supposed to build a permanent replacement.

There would be 2250, not 2500 subsidized apartments, but a good quantity--perhaps half--wouldn't be that affordable to the "real Brooklyn," as defined by the Daily News suggested.

Nor would superblocks knit neighborhoods; rather, insertion of new streets, as in the proposed UNITY Plan, might do so.

And "plans evolved" from a promise for 10,000 office jobs in four towers around the arena. Now just one of the towers is slated for offices, and indefinitely delayed.

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Posted by eric at 9:51 AM

At State of the Borough, Markowitz makes theater out of bike lane flap, touts "jobs, jobs, jobs," gets tepid response to Atlantic Yards salute

Atlantic Yards Report

It was an invitation-only audience, and the response to the Atlantic Yards arena was mostly tepid (as I'll describe below), which suggests that, when Markowitz makes the area more of a focal point, either in 2012 or 2013, he'll make sure to import a pro-arena contingent.
...

Markowitz said, "I also want to wish everyone a joyous Chinese New Year—'gung hay fat choy!' —happy Year of the Rabbit!" Of course, he made no mention of his shilling for Forest City Ratner's effort to recruit Chinese investors seeking green cards.

And while he kept talking about "jobs, jobs, jobs," he strained to connect that priority--“job one,” he asserted, for elected officials--to his favorite project.

His Atlantic Yards segment was brief:

Seriously, though, 2010 was the year that one of the grandest visions for Brooklyn finally became a reality. After seven years of planning and seven years of legal battles, construction on the first phase of the Atlantic Yards project finally got underway, which means, in the future, thousands of union jobs and an anchor for a rejuvenated Downtown.

That line drew no reaction, typical of past addresses. He didn't mention that jobs fall far short of expectations.

He continued:

Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Barclays Center will not only be the home of the Brooklyn Nets, who will mop up the floor with the Manhattan Knicks, it will also host the kind of events you used to have to leave Brooklyn to enjoy. But it’s not just about the arena; the affordable housing built nearby will help make sure that Brooklyn remains proud home to everyone from everywhere.

The reference to beating "the Manhattan Knicks" drew a brief burst of applause, less than for many other people and places mentioned. The other lines drew silence.

No one from Forest City Ratner or the Nets were present to take credit.

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Posted by eric at 9:38 AM

January 28, 2011

At State of the District, Jeffries talks education, jobs, housing, public safety--but not AY (later, he says he's waiting for an ESDC chair)

Atlantic Yards Report

At his fourth annual State of the District address last night, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries had some tangible and less tangible achievements to report to a supportive crowd, concerned with education, employment, housing, and public safety. And a few jabs at Mayor Mike Bloomberg certainly were well-received.

Ever more polished--part lawyer, politician, preacher--Jeffries drew a reasonable crowd on a snowy night, with local District Leaders (Walter Mosley, Olanike Alabi, Lincoln Restler) in attendance, along with Community Board 8 Chair Nizjoni Granville, CB 2 Chair John Dew, and Joe Chan, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Atlantic Yards, as with last year’s address, was not mentioned, a sign, perhaps, of Jeffries’ recognition that neither prominent criticism nor active support of such a divisive, complicated, and delayed project would play well with his base.

Or perhaps, Jeffries recognizes that he has relatively little clout at this point. I did interview him afterward (video below), and he said he hasn’t yet talked with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about Atlantic Yards because, understandably, a new Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) leader is not yet in place. (Update: Ken Adams was named today.)

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Related coverage...

Bed-Stuy Patch, Hakeem Looks Back at 2010

...he extolled his initiative meant to convert vacant luxury apartments into affordable housing, though he admitted progress was slowgoing.

“Since this law was passed several units of affordable housing have been created, but much work remains to be done,” Jeffries said. "We need more cooperation from financial institutions...some of them got more hustle than the fellas on 125th Street."

The Assemblyman only hinted at what was on his agenda this year, saying that the key to solving crime and poverty was jobs. Notably, he did not point to the Atlantic Yards project — often touted as a job creator — as a solution to the economic woes affecting neighborhoods in the vicinity of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues.

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

January 26, 2011

Markowitz quiz: "The [???] will distort and manipulate anything they have to, to justify their action"

Atlantic Yards Report

Both Streetsblog and Aaron Naparstek point to a stunning interview of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz by Marcia Kramer of CBS, opposing the Prospect Park West bike lane.

"I don't believe a word coming out of that department, not a word," Markowitz says of the Department of Transportation. "The Department of Transportation will use any way to justify their action, distort and manipulate anything they have to, to justify their action."

While Markowitz thinks bike advocacy groups juiced the statistics by showing up the day of a survey, the DOT had a plausible explanation for the counter-statistics offered by Markowitz's favorite civic group: they counted only at the end of the line.

The Borough President wants an independent group to study usage of the bike lane, one not beholden to the DOT or the community.

The AY contrast

As several commenters pointed out, this sequence contrasts mightily with Markowitz's unyielding support of Atlantic Yards.

Consider, by contrast, Markowitz's lost opportunity to question the obviously distorted statistics on the Brooklyn housing market, contained in a KPMG report to the Empire State Development Corporation.

Or consider Markowitz's blatant lies in service to Forest City Ratner's effort to raise cheap capital from Chinese millionaires seeking green cards.

link

NoLandGrab: If you answered "Forest City Ratner" or "ESDC" or "Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes," give yourself full credit.

Posted by eric at 11:46 AM

Required Reading for Brooklynites of a Political Persuasion: What’s Happening to Our Borough?

About.com Brooklyn, NY Blog
by Ellen Freudenheim

In case you missed them, two important pieces were published in the past few days about Brooklyn. Not about restaurants and places to spend money, but about Brooklyn's fundamental direction--and the power of big developers to literally shape the landscape of a borough that so many call home.

"We're Essentially Powerless"

Sunday's New York Times published a powerful piece calling out Brooklyn's lack of political muscle. Brooklyn civic activist Norman Oder (who, as author of the Atlantic Yards Report blog, certainly has had a birdseye view of power politics in Brooklyn) says, "We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations." His conclusion? Putting it mildly, "Brooklyn's powerful developers, institutions and politicians often evade scrutiny."

link

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

January 24, 2011

The Vanishing City: film focuses on the fruits of a corporate-friendly mentality and the "luxury city"; AY gets a cameo

Atlantic Yards Report

Trying to understand the arc of the city that led to such projects as Atlantic Yards, I've been writing recently about the loss of manufacturing. That's part of a larger story, told intriguingly--if incompletely--in the 55-minute 2010 documentary, The Vanishing City, by Fiore DiRosa and Jen Senko.

The overview:

Told through the eyes of tenants, city planners, business owners, scholars, and politicians, The Vanishing City exposes the real politic behind the alarming disappearance of New York’s beloved neighborhoods, the truth about its finance-dominated economy, and the myth of “inevitable change.” Artfully documented through interviews, hearings, demonstrations, and archival footage, the film takes a sober look at the city’s “luxury” policies and high-end development, the power role of the elite, and accusations of corruption surrounding land use and rezoning. The film also links New York trends to other global cities where multinational corporations continue to victimize the middle and working classes.

Opening with the voices of neighborhood residents who fear they are being pushed out, the film pivots on the insights of anthropologist and urban historian Julian Brash, author of Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City and subject of this 10/22/08 Q&A on Jeremiah's Vanishing New York blog.

The "luxury city" quote, as noted at the bottom, reflects Mayor Mike Bloomberg's framing of the city as a luxury product for corporations to choose as a location--a philosophy, as the film points out, that's belied by the tax breaks targeted for big employers.

But the film, not inappropriately, points to an emphasis on building luxury housing, with the attendant shift in the character of neighborhoods, as small businesses close.

The question, echoed in the 2007 and 2008 discussions of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, is whether that was simply the market at work. As the film reminds us, it wasn't.

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Posted by eric at 9:04 AM

January 21, 2011

Complaint Box | Powerless in Brooklyn

City Room
by Norman Oder

The man who launched Atlantic Yards Report as TimesRatnerReport is becoming a semi-regular fixture in the paper. This essay will also appear in Sunday's Times.

Of the boroughs outside Manhattan, Brooklyn gets the most buzz — as a tourist attraction, a “hipster brand” and an incubator of art and artisanal products. That has provoked a backlash from longtime Brooklynites and others wary of smugness from the borough’s Brownstone Belt.

However entertaining these debates, Brooklynites — and, I dare say, all of us in the non-Manhattan boroughs — share one common problem: we’re essentially powerless. We lack meaningful local government, as well as broad-based media and civic organizations.

Marty Markowitz, the borough’s president and its relentless cheerleader, says that Brooklyn has nearly everything a city needs and that fulfillment will arrive when a professional sports team, the Nets, finally moves to an arena here in 2012 or 2013.

If only that were true.
...

Thus, Brooklyn’s powerful developers, institutions and politicians often evade scrutiny. While local blogs and community weeklies do their part, the latter have been diminished. After Rupert Murdoch bought the independent weekly Courier-Life chain in 2006, its rival, The Brooklyn Paper, trumpeted its independence, only to suffer the same fate — a Murdoch takeover — three years later. The papers have since moved into the same building, cut the staff and published many of the same articles. In my blog, AtlanticYardsReport.com, I’ve observed how The Brooklyn Paper has muted once-tough coverage and editorial criticism of Mr. Markowitz’s beloved arena project, Atlantic Yards, which is being developed by the newspapers’ landlord, Forest City Ratner.
...

The upshot? While Brooklyn may make a neat T-shirt slogan and be shorthand for culinary innovation, such a focus on consumption and authenticity gives a pass to the powers that be.

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Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, New York Times Complaint Box essay: Powerless in Brooklyn (without meaningful local government and broad-based media, civic organizations)

I have a Complaint Box essay in the Metropolitan section of Sunday's New York Times, now online at CityRoom, headlined Powerless in Brooklyn.
...

It's a bit of a departure for Complaint Box, which tends toward examinations of the nuances of such things as subway etiquette or tipping, but, given the limited space for op-eds in the paper--after all, the former City section is gone--any space is welcome. (Fun fact: they don't pay for this type of reader contribution.)

And yes, in only about 500 words, my essay is less nuanced than a longer version, so let's see how the comments play out.

Comments and responses

I will update this post with some comments and responses to them.

Posted by eric at 11:01 AM

January 19, 2011

Why the NYPD Bicycle Crackdown Is a Sign of How New York Sucks in 2011

myFDL

Something is rotten in the state of New York. The putrescent miasma, leaching out slowly from the windows in towering pre-war apartments, from out of the sidewalk vents where one can hear from below the failing heartbeat of the subway system, slowly being bled to death. The stench is everywhere… thick, suffocating, lethal. Some are immune, born with the resistance through inheritance, countless others traded away their soul for it. Everyone else just has to suffer.
...

Bloomberg’s administration has, through a variety of policies, criminalized any kind of independence of thought. The rezoning of certain areas in a number of examples, the far west side/Hudson Yards, or the Atlantic Yards catastrophe that awaits the people of downtown Brooklyn. One of the most egregious, the 125th St. rezoning plan where the city has changed the code to allow for residential construction as high as 30 stories tall, increasing the residential capacity of the corridor by as much as 750%. Developers are awarded height bonuses for ‘inclusive housing’, lottery winners from the immediate neighborhood, or in other words the lucky few who won’t have to be a part of the mass exodus of the poor Harlem denizens to the Bronx and points further afield. Retailers that can afford these newly zoned spaces are ones that can afford the high new rent: Old Navy, American Apparel (although them maybe not much longer), Nike, M.A.C., The Body Shop, Starbucks, and the list goes on. Local retailers need not apply.

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Posted by eric at 9:49 AM

January 11, 2011

Comptroller DiNapoli issues report on public-private partnerships: needed are full and fair value, realistic agreements

Atlantic Yards Report

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has released a new report, Controlling Risk Without Gimmicks: New York’s Infrastructure Crisis and Public-Private Partnerships [PDF], an effort to evaluate both the opportunities and risks with turning infrastructure over to partnership with the private sector.

The report notes that the state faces an estimated $250 billion in infrastructure needs over the next 20 years, notably transportation ($175 billion), municipal wastewater ($36 billion) and clean water ($39 billion). (Here's coverage from City Hall News.)

The Atlantic Yards example is not mentioned, but is at least partly on point: the main issue was the marketing of public land without a fair process, and secondary issues involved the packaging and valuation of public infrastructure such as a new railyard and transit entrance.

Essential principles

So DiNapoli's conclusions are worth noting:

There are four essential principles that New York must adopt in order to mitigate the financial risks inherent in public-private partnerships:

Full and Fair Value: Identify and use the best practices for the valuation of public assets to ensure that the public receives the full, fair value for the use of its property.

Reasonable Pricing: Keep private sector profits within reason to ensure that P3 agreements do not burden the public with unwarranted expenses, excessive fees, or high toll increases.

Realistic Agreements: Carefully draft P3 agreements to ensure that they do not include unrealistic expectations or inaccurate financial calculations.

Responsible Budgeting: Avoid budget gimmickry by adopting financing rules that prevent a disproportionate shift of current capital costs onto future taxpayers. This must be based on a comprehensive reform of the State’s debt and capital financing practices.

What about AY?

Given the history of Atlantic Yards, I'd argue that public assets were not fairly valued, nor have costs and benefits been accurately assessed.

Meanwhile, developer Forest City Ratner's efforts to renegotiate the Vanderbilt Yard deal with the MTA suggests that private sector profits--bolstered by a mayor and governor firmly on board with the Atlantic Yards project-- held sway over public value.

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Posted by eric at 11:23 AM

January 10, 2011

On Brian Lehrer Live, Markowitz asks, "Is it a matter of public policy to make New York City like Beijing of 1940?"

Atlantic Yards Report

It's such a slow day for Atlantic Yards news that Norman Oder could only provide us with a little comic diversion.

Last week, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz appeared on CUNY-TV's Brian Lehrer Live, and while he didn't quite discuss one of the questions posed by Lehrer in the segment intro--how can to strike a better balance between big development and the human scale--his performance was telling, both in his over-the-top rhetoric and his Atlantic Yards blind spot.

Click the link for more, if you can stand it.

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Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

January 6, 2011

The Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club: lasting connections to a Brooklyn power base have meant Atlantic Yards support

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a look at the history of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, a veritable factory for the minting of sleazy politicians, slimy political operatives and Atlantic Yards enthusiasts.

Within the amazingly (and disturbingly) detailed 1988 book, City for Sale: Ed Koch and the Betrayal of New York, by Jack Newfield (R.I.P.) and Wayne Barrett, just let go by the Village Voice, is a highly unflattering portrayal of Meade Esposito, for 15 years the chair of the county Democratic Party until his resignation in 1984 (and his later conviction in an influence-peddling scandal).

Esposito's homebase was the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club in Canarsie, described in the book as "patronage-rich."

The AY connection

What's the Atlantic Yards connection? Well, the club remains one of the city's most powerful, and longstanding ties among those spawned by the club mean support for Atlantic Yards.

Specifically, Forest City Ratner Executive VP Bruce Bender, a former chief of staff to City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, comes out of the club, as Matthew Schuerman of the Observer pointed out 5/31/06.

And that's partly why politicians from southern Brooklyn, like Carl Kruger (under investigation, and a beneficiary of Ratner campaign cash), Marty Golden, Lew Fidler, Mike Nelson, and Alan Maisel, have been staunch supporters of Atlantic Yards, even though it's hardly a priority for their constituents.

And that's partly why the New York Times reported, 12/18/06, that it was unlikely that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, as a member of the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), would block Atlantic Yards:

“I’ve articulated my concerns to the speaker in writing, and beyond that, I think it would be counterproductive at this time to discuss the matter publicly,” said Mr. Jeffries, who said he was “confident” that Mr. Silver would take into account the views of the Brooklyn delegation.

That includes, however, a cluster of state lawmakers from south Brooklyn, who are almost unequivocal in their support of the project as it now stands. Forest City Ratner’s chief lobbyist, Bruce Bender, is close to those members; like many of them, he began his career in the area’s leading political organization, the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club.

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NoLandGrab: Thomas Jefferson would surely be thrilled that his name has been appropriated by these paragons of democratic principles.

Posted by eric at 10:23 AM

January 4, 2011

The Bloomberg Era, Part Two

Nathan Kensinger Photography

Forced Change
December 31, 2010 - At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, this multi-part photo essay examines how New York City's built environment has changed over the past 10 years, and what the future of New York's skyline might be. Part one of this essay can be seen here.

On January 1st 2010, Michael Bloomberg was sworn into office for a nearly unprecedented third term as the Mayor of New York City. Bloomberg, the 23rd richest person in the world, is only the fourth mayor in the city's history to serve a third term in office, and accomplished that goal by running "the most expensive self-financed political campaign in U.S. history," according to the Huffington Post. During his tenure, Mayor Bloomberg has "amassed so much power and respect that he seems more a Medici than a mayor," according to The New Yorker. He has used his power and wealth to enact an agenda of post-9/11 development that has radically changed the city's landscape. As described in part one of this photo essay, "not since Robert Moses has a single individual presided over such a large-scale transformation of New York City's built environment."

Like Robert Moses, the legendary Power Broker, Mayor Bloomberg currently exerts a stranglehold of power over New York City. In 2009, New York Magazine bluntly declared "Mike Bloomberg owns this town," and "in the past seven years Michael Bloomberg has become the only powerful figure in New York who really matters.... The mayor is not a dictator... but Bloomberg gets what he wants more than any mayor in modern memory." Also like Robert Moses, who was called New York's Master Builder, much of Mayor Bloomberg's work has focused on constructing a new version of the city. In 2009, Bloomberg drew comparisons between his accomplishments and Robert Moses', telling The New Yorker that "we’ve done more in the last seven years than—I don’t know if it’s fair to say more than Moses did, but I hope history will show the things we did made a lot more sense." Unfortunately, the parallels between Bloomberg and Moses also include the use of controversial methods to force development projects through, often at the expense of New York's unique fabric of small neighborhoods.

One of the most controversial tools Mayor Bloomberg has utilized in his quest to transform New York City is eminent domain, a practice whereby the state seizes private property to clear the way for an impending development meant for civic and public improvement. This was a favorite tool of Robert Moses, "who rammed highways through dense urban neighborhoods with a 'meat-ax' and became the un stoppable engine of 'slum clearance'," according to Metropolis Magazine. Moses' methods were often vilified, but he created the infrastructure for present day New York City, building highways, bridges, tunnels, parks and institutional landmarks like the Lincoln Center and the United Nations that have been freely used by countless millions of people. Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, has approved the use of eminent domain for private development projects that include luxury residences and retail shops, college campus facilities and a sports arena. When completed, none of these developments will be open to the general public. They include several neighborhoods documented on this website: Willets Point (aka The Iron Triangle), Manhattanville and the Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at 1:28 PM

December 28, 2010

Brodsky, in final report, warns of importance of further public authorities reform, "failure to receive value for investments," doesn't mention AY

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR remains the only source of Atlantic Yards news that has dug out from under the snow.

Departing Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the crusader for public authority reform who focused on the new Yankee Stadium rather than the Atlantic Yards project, has left with a valedictory report warning of the need for further reform, including this common-sense statement, "In an era when government is instructed to behave more like business, the failure to receive value for its investments is a crisis that can no longer be ignored."

Unmentioned in the six-page report (embedded below) is Atlantic Yards, nor the state's failure to receive any value for giving away arena naming rights.

Indeed, "the massive transfer of public property into private hands... not... accompanied by commensurate public benefits" hints at Yankee Stadium ("publicly funded sports facilities by IDA's") and the Columbia University expansion ("university construction using eminent domain powers") but not the equally controversial Atlantic Yards.

But Brodsky, who ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General, does get the politics:

To be sure, the rhetoric of job creation and economic development is powerfully expressed by elected officials, authority leaders and private sector beneficiaries of these transfers. But in the end the State has failed to protect its assets and interests.

And the issues he cites in the report, including added staff and increased power for oversight (the need for which I've previously reported), remain basic. Brodsky told City Hall News the future if very much up in the air:

Ultimately, ensuring that PARA is enforced is up to everyone in state government, he said, not just one legislative chamber or one governor.

“Everyone, the speaker, the new chair, the members, the governor, the comptroller. This is real and big and it has enemies,” Brodsky said. “Everyone is on the hook.”

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Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

December 11, 2010

Patricia Lynch, former Silver aide and lobbyist for FCR, among others, gets fined, but will that clean up Albany? Doubtful.

Atlantic Yards Report

One of Forest City Ratner's (and many others') lobbyists got her hand slapped this week, but it's hardly clear it will make a difference.

From an editorial yesterday in the New York Times, Lobbying for Gold in Albany:

Patricia Lynch, one of the most influential lobbyists in New York State, has agreed to pay a $500,000 fine and will be prohibited from doing any business with the state pension fund for five years. When one considers the sleazy way she maneuvered to get lucrative pension investments for her clients, that is only a slap on the wrist.

Ms. Lynch, who was once the top aide to Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, did acknowledge that she tried to “curry favor” with Alan Hevesi, the former comptroller, and his office. (Mr. Hevesi was one of eight people who pleaded guilty in a pay-to-play scheme.) As part of her agreement with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, she was not required to admit any wrongdoing.

We fear it is going to take a lot stronger medicine to change Albany’s relentlessly corrupt culture.

Albany’s lobbyists have far too much power to craft legislation or, more often, kill it. State lobbying codes are scandalously unfair to regular people who don’t have the $10,000 a month that is the going rate to hire Ms. Lynch and her well-connected colleagues.

(Emphasis added)

Among the non-regular people who do have the scratch to hire Lynch are Walt Disney, General Motors, Vornado Realty Trust, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and (ta da) Forest City Ratner, as shown in the state's Project Sunlight and the city lobbying database.

Read the rest of this blog post to see why skepticism is needed if anyone thinks that incoming governor Cuomo will act to diminish the influence of lobbyists.

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Posted by steve at 9:33 AM

December 10, 2010

Jeffries says ESDC "has fallen down on the job" regarding AY oversight; will new governance bill help?; Governor-elect Cuomo wants an AY meeting

Atlantic Yards Report

At the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council's forum Wednesday on Atlantic Yards traffic, it was impossible for Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries to untangle potential solutions from governance issues.

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said his goal was that “if this project comes to fruition we will minimize the detrimental impacts it will have on quality of life.”

He reflected on the “interesting time” in state politics since he took office in January 2007, with turmoil in the governor's office, state Senate, and other Albany entitities.

From December 2006 through January 2011, Jeffries said, “We will have been through four governors in five years, and the consequence of that, I believe, given that this initiative was conceived at least as a public-private partnership with public involvement and oversight at the state level from the Empire State Development Corporation [ESDC], is that there's been chaos and uncertainty and a lack of direction and focus from the state agency that is charged with oversight and accountability and responsibility.”

“And that's been very detrimental,” he said. “Because in essence, what has occurred is that we've had a public-private project without any real public input.”
...

Later, Council Member Letitia James reported that, at a recent meeting, Cuomo “whispered in my ear that we need to have a conversation about Atlantic Yards.” Several people in the audience clapped.

“I said, thank you Governor-elect, but said Governor Paterson said the same thing and let me down," James said. "I hope you don't let me down.”

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NoLandGrab: We expect that conversation to go something like this:

Status Cuomo: Tish, Bruce Ratner gave my campaign a lot of money, so cool it, ok?

Tish James: [Steam coming from ears.]

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

The editorial that hasn't (yet) appeared: "Shame on you, Marty Markowitz, promoting Atlantic Yards in China as if there's no opposition"

Atlantic Yards Report

Markowitz in October backed out of a plan to take a privately-funded trip to China to support Forest City Ratner's effort to get a no-interest loan from Chinese millionaires interested in trading purportedly job-creating investments for green cards.

Still, he did his best to support the project--which could save the developer at least $191 million while delivering questionable public benefits--from afar.

Markowitz appeared several times in a video aimed to convince potential investors that this distant, hard-to-grasp project was a valid one, likely to bring green cards and ensure the return of their capital.

"All I can say, Brooklyn is 1000 percent, 1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards, and we invite Chinese investors to join with us, because there's nothing better than China and Brooklyn together," the Borough President declared.

His statement is laughable. First, there's no way Brooklyn is "1000 percent behind Atlantic Yards," and Markowitz knows that. The borough is divided, and many people are indifferent.

Moreover, clownish lines like "there's nothing better than China and Brooklyn together" simply distract potential investors from looking closely.

His statement is also grimly disturbing. Markowitz was elected to fulfill a public trust, not to boost the borough's most powerful developer.

Markowitz has every right to support Atlantic Yards and to devote some of his office's resources to that end.

He doesn't have the right to lie, here or overseas, regarding Atlantic Yards.

And he should have the sense to recognize that Forest City Ratner's plan to raise money from immigrant investors tests the spirit if not the letter of federal immigration law.

Shame on you, Marty.

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Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

December 3, 2010

The "Brooklyn buy-in" for the Aqueduct "racino" involves the Darman Group and the state minority contractors' group (and Forest City, tangentially)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder looks at the sleazy shenanigans behind the Aqueduct "racino" bidding.

As I wrote November 29, Forest City Ratner continues to rely significantly on The Darman Group, a firm run by Darryl Greene, which was unfit to participate in a bid for the Aqueduct "racino" because of Greene's criminal record.

Indeed, in the past two years, Greene's firm has expanded beyond its Queens office, as indicated in the screenshot below, to Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

The Brooklyn office is at 182 Duffield Street, a row house adjacent to the MetroTech development, which is owned by Forest City Ratner's First New York Management division.

(Photos by Jonathan Barkey)

The IG's Aqueduct report

Greene and his firm came in for some tough treatment in the state Inspector General's 10/21/10 report that criticized the Governor’s Office and state Legislative leaders for failing to fulfill their public duty in the January 2010 selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to operate Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. (Full report here.)

According to the IG, AEG should have been disregarded at the start, and that the chaotic process resulting in AEG’s multi-billion dollar award was a “political free-for-all” marked by unfair advantages and more than $100,000 in campaign donations.

The report has been forwarded to United States Attorney Preet Bharara and New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., for appropriate action and referring Senators John Sampson and Malcolm Smith (Greene's former partner) and Senate Secretary Angelo Aponte to the Legislative Ethics Commission.

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NoLandGrab: Surely Governor-elect Status Cuomo is going to clean up this mess, though, right?

Posted by eric at 10:20 AM

Senate Democrats spend big bucks on consultants, including Melvin Lowe and BerlinRosen, both with Forest City Ratner ties

Atlantic Yards Report

A City Hall News article yesterday, headlined Helping Build Senate Democrats’ Debt, $6 Million In Outside Consultants And Vendors, explains that state Senate Democrats spent more than $6 million between consultants and outside vendors.

And two of those recipients have ties to Forest City Ratner and the Community Benefits Agreement.

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NoLandGrab: Surely Governor-elect Status Cuomo is going to clean up this mess, though, right?

Posted by eric at 10:16 AM

November 27, 2010

Flashback: How scout Khalid Green got hired by the Nets; his father's Ratner connection made the difference for a successful high school coach

Atlantic Yards Report

I missed this when it was announced, but veteran Bishop Loughlin basketball coach Khalid Green, son of longtime Assemblyman Roger Green, a leading local political backer of Atlantic Yards when it was announced in 2003, got a job two years ago as a scout for the Nets.

And his father helped connect him to the job.

All evidence suggest Khalid Green, as a successful high school coach, was qualified, but, as with so much about Atlantic Yards, it sure helps to know the right people to nudge ahead on the line.

(Remember how former Forest City Ratner point man Jim Stuckey said in 2005 that he didn't know whether railyard contract McKissack & McKissack was chosen by a bidding process?)

As No Land Grab's Lumi Rolley pointed out two years ago, "A 'casual introduction' to Bruce Ratner is one of those tangible 'community benefits' of the Atlantic Yards project."

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Posted by steve at 8:19 AM

November 26, 2010

Coming soon? Still waiting for Best of Brooklyn web site

Atlantic Yards Report

The web site for Marty Markowitz's not-so-transparent Best of Brooklyn charity (logo at right) is apparently "coming soon," I wrote in February 2009.

Still.

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NoLandGrab: 1,131 days and counting.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

November 25, 2010

In the latest issue of Marty's promotional Brooklyn!! "newspaper," some Nets cheerleading but no mention of "In the Footprint"

Atlantic Yards Report

Maybe the best way to analyze Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's promotional "newspaper" Brooklyn!! (latest issue embedded below) is to consider it a giant block association newsletter, with Markowitz as the president of the confederation of block associations.

A year ago, I pointed out (as in the past) that Brooklyn!! avoided any mention of Atlantic Yards. That's not so this issue.

Brooklyn Beat

Nudging up against mention of the Homecrest Senior Health Fair, the Borough President’s Latino Heritage celebration, and the participation of Randazzo’s Clam Bar at the Grand Central Oyster Bar's “Oyster Frenzy" in a page labeled headlined Brooklyn Beat, we learn:

Net’s [sic] new coach Avery “Little General” Johnson (center, back row) met with students of MS 51 in Park Slope to talk about positive choices and let kids know that they can “get to the next level.” He also encouraged his future fan base in Brooklyn to get ready to cheer for future NBA champions, the Brooklyn Nets!

The September visit prompted a dubious photo and caption in the New York Times. (How to "get to the next level"? The story of the Nets and Atlantic Yards offers numerous avenues surely not explored by the coach.)

Notably, Markowitz eschews the opportunity to recommend to fellow Brooklynites that they might learn something by going to see The Civilians' somewhat less rah-rah performance of IN THE FOOTPRINT: The Battle Over Atlantic Yards. Instead, he takes the safe route and recommends The Nutcracker.

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NoLandGrab: Around here, we're thankful for Norman Oder — and that January 1, 2014 is only 1,132 days away.

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

November 21, 2010

Columnist Lee Siegel on Mayor Mike Bloomberg: "Tammany Hall with a Carnegie Hall face"

Atlantic Yards Repot

Without mentioning Atlantic Yards, New York Observer columnist Lee Siegel, in a pungent column headlined Boss Pinstripes: Bloomberg Isn’t a Democrat, or a Republican, or an Independent. He’s 18 Billion Dollars., summarizes how Mayor Mike Bloomberg does his job:

The surprise that greeted Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement of the exceptionally unqualified Cathie Black, the former chairman of Hearst Magazines, as the city's new schools chancellor was par for the course. The very fact of Mr. Bloomberg as mayor is an ongoing surprise. His political ascension in New York is as unnatural an event as a typhoon in Ohio.

In a capital of the world that has always prided itself on a rich public life, Mr. Bloomberg is devoted to managing government like a private enterprise. To go from the hot banter of Lindsay's, or Koch's, or even Giuliani's news conferences to Mr. Bloomberg's petulantly ignoring a question by saying, "I have a city to run"—yes, well, that's what we want to talk to you about, if you have a minute—is to go from being a rambunctiously engaged citizen of New York to feeling like the frustrated client of a remote service provider. In a place that demands colorful candor from its mayors, he is secretive and peremptory, hiring Ms. Black without any kind of public discussion...

And in the city of the Draft riots, and the Columbia student protests, and Stonewall, and bohemian dissent, and bristling intellectuality, and Baldwin, and Mailer, and Steinem, and Hamill, and Kramer (Larry), and William F. Buckley, for heaven's sake—in this primordially independent and troublemaking place, Mayor Mike buys himself the right to run for an unprecedented third term, and then carpet-spends his way to an easy win.

Chutzpah? Try contempt. The chutzpah would be to defy him. But he gets his third term with no more than a hushed protest from his once-ferocious city-state. Under Mr. Bloomberg, the city that never has to sleep has become the city that doesn't make a peep.

Worth mentioning: a likely reason why mayoral rival Bill Thompson never took the gloves off: the mayor poured money into pet project of the Comptroller's wife.

The influence on media

Siegel writes:

Mr. Bloomberg's gravitational force affects everyone who might be in the business of consequentially criticizing him. (For example: Go after him, and you can forget about opining on the Bloomberg L.P.-funded Charlie Rose Show.) His enveloping wealth produces all the effects of corruption without, itself (as far as we know), being corrupt.

Well, the New York Times has produced some reasonably tough coverage of Bloomberg's appointment of Black. And the Daily News has reported civic concern.

But the editorial pages report to the publishers and, as with Atlantic Yards and term limits, they seem to be getting in line. Today the Daily News opines, Mayor Bloomberg must get Cathie Black as schools chancellor if mayoral control means anything.

The Daily News front page that reported the Black pick summed up the response with the word, "HUH?" over the question, "No education experience, kids went to private school - she's perfect to run our struggling schools! Right?"

Bloomberg is convinced she is. His opinion demands respect, given his track record in identifying talent and the fact that mayoral control of the schools means mayoral control of the schools.

The power of the (lack of) paycheck

Seigel writes about machine politics upended:

Machine politics derives its staying power from putting the "little people" on the payroll. Mr. Bloomberg doesn't need to do that. He puts business-executive friends like Robert Lieber, Daniel Doctoroff and Patricia Harris—many of whom shuttle back and forth between his media business and his mayoral administration—in charge of the payroll and centralizes the system so seamlessly that top-down management performs the ordering function of a political machine. The whole thing stinks of undemocracy. When Mr. Bloomberg's rich appointees boast that they are taking only one dollar as an annual salary, they want to demonstrate a public servant's self-sacrifice. But what they are really doing is displaying an investor's indifference to the relationship between money and work. They are redefining responsibility in government. If the public doesn't pay their salary, then they are not accountable to the public. The result is Tammany Hall with a Carnegie Hall face. Mr. Bloomberg is not Boss Tweed. He is Boss Pinstripes.

Such a business arrangement recalls somewhat the role of Susan Rahm, a volunteer helping the Empire State Development Corporation manage the Atlantic Yards project at the request of then-Governor Eliot Spitzer. To whom was she accountable?

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Posted by steve at 11:21 AM

November 18, 2010

Brooklyn's New Politicos

Lincoln Restler crashed the gates of the Democratic political machine, now what’s next for the bespectacled wunderkind?

New York Press
by Dan Rivoli

A stalwart of the fight against Atlantic Yards — and a prolific photographer/videographer — makes an appearance in an article about Brooklyn's youthful Democratic Party reform movement.

Raul Rothblatt, who owns a worldmusic management company, got involved in city politics because of Atlantic Yards, a development only a short walk from his Prospect Heights apartment. He found the club to be an access point for politically motivated people, especially the growing number of new arrivals.

According to Rothblatt, “It’s not easy to find out about local stuff.” Rothblatt is also the first vice president of Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, so he has experience in political clubs, but the reform clubs in the borough were started during the Vietnam War. Try as they might, attracting newer and younger members is difficult. “In a lot of existing clubs, often, the members are older,” Rothblatt says.

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Posted by eric at 10:57 AM

November 17, 2010

Client 9 (Spitzer): Divided by 3, No 2 Ways About It

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White reviews the new Eliot Spitzer documentary Client 9, with a heaping side dish of Atlantic Yards.

Darren Dopp, who resigned as Spitzer’s director of communications over his own role in the Troopergate scandal, suggests that a primary reason Spitzer’s outing lead to ouster was that the “reservoir of good will was empty” drained by Spitzer’s “combative style.” That is probably largely true, especially if the phrase “combative style” incorporates Spitzer’s near vendetta-based crossing of ethical lines in pursuing his adversaries together with his hypocritical holier-than-thou superiority. Still, Spitzer might have had access to a deeper “reservoir of good will” if he had also not been hypocritical about the basic principles for which he was elected. Noticing New York would have been much more reluctant to see him hurried out of office had he been doing and saying the right things with respect to Atlantic Yards. He wasn’t and David Paterson, the Lieutenant Governor, was standing promisingly in the wings with a history of opposing eminent domain abuse. (David Paterson is obviously another politician whose hypocrisy helped usher him quickly out of office.)

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Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

November 11, 2010

Voice warns Cuomo to steer clear of lobbyists, says closest firm to governor-elect is DKC (which works for Ratner)

Atlantic Yards Report

Wayne Barrett's cover story in this week's Village Voice, headlined PECKING ORDER: Andrew Cuomo Goes to Albany, Where Lobbyists Are Waiting, offers a blunt warning to Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to change the way he does business in Albany.

I wouldn't bet on it, but Barrett lays down the line:

If he doesn't take dramatic executive order action in his early days as governor to blunt the sway of lobbyists, they will chip away at his credibility, and voters will come to believe over time that all that has changed are the names of the ins and the outs. He can finance his next campaign without them. He can't restore public faith in state government with them.

Dan Klores firm has direct pipeline

Guess what: the firm with the most direct pipeline to the new governor is DKC, the firm that Forest City Ratner hired to massage its message. (This goes unmentioned in the Voice, which hasn't covered Atlantic Yards very closely.)

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NoLandGrab: We're preparing ourselves for the Status Cuomo.

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

November 10, 2010

Big Real Estate's Super: Steve Spinola Has Run REBNY But How Will He Get on With Another Cuomo?

NY Observer
by Zeke Turner

You might not believe this, but in New York City, real estate and politics are the same thing!

Developer Bruce Ratner came to Steven Spinola for help in 1985. Mr. Ratner needed to get tenants for his planned MetroTech Center in Brooklyn, and Mr. Spinola was Ed Koch's economic development chief. Part of his job was to keep tenants in New York, and Morgan Stanley was thinking about moving its back offices to New Jersey.

"They were trying to convince Morgan Stanley to go to MetroTech," said Mr. Spinola last Friday, sitting at the lunch counter at Junior's near Times Square, his left hand surrounding a Diet Coke with lemon as he recalled his rise to prominence. "They asked me to go to a meeting with Morgan Stanley to discuss and to tell them that the city was ready to encourage them to do whatever."

Mr. Spinola was wearing a dark brown, three-button suit with a black-and-gold Real Estate Board of New York lapel pin. For the past 24 years, REBNY has been the seat of Mr. Spinola's power. He's the longest-serving president in the century-plus history of the city's largest trade group and arguably the most powerful real estate lobbyist in the state. He faces his sharpest challenge in years in dealing with an incoming governor, Andrew Cuomo, who has an electoral mandate and also a need to work with a real estate industry whose interests do not always jibe with his party's political machinery.

After Mr. Spinola's meeting with Morgan Stanley, the prospects for a deal looked dim. "We went down in the elevator. I turned to Bruce Ratner and I said, 'There's no way you get them to MetroTech.' I said, 'But I have a site on Pierrepont Street that's currently a garage. And one of my guys came to me two months earlier and said, "The city's about to give a new lease for this garage. We oughta have a cancellation clause in case we ever need it."'"
...

"So I called up City Hall, I asked for it, they gave it to me. So I said to Ratner, 'Can you spend the weekend coming up with a design for a building on that site? I'll sole-source it to you if we can get Morgan Stanley to be the principal tenant.' And we made that deal."

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Posted by eric at 8:48 AM

November 8, 2010

Cuomo's Urban Agenda: vague regarding housing and transportation, but rhetoric about community development promises local consultation

Atlantic Yards Report

New York Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has an Urban Agenda (details in PDF), which sounds good in places, but is also vague and cautious. He was been criticized for issuing it too late and not grappling with big challenges like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Interestingly enough, when it comes to affordable housing, Cuomo says nothing about mega-projects and suggests, with perhaps more hope than anything else, that the federal government could play a much bigger role.

While the little press coverage focused on the politics of the agenda (e.g., outreach to the black community), the MTA, and housing, the document contains some impressive boilerplate in the direction of good planning.

Should such rhetoric be followed and Community Development Blueprints be created, projects like Atlantic Yards would be much more difficult to achieve, given the rhetorical importance given to community consultation.

But that's not necessarily how development gets done, especially when developers like Bruce Ratner have given campaign contributions and have the governor's ear.

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Posted by eric at 10:55 AM

November 5, 2010

Andrew Cuomo: How will he do with his shot at 'day one?'

Syracuse.com
by Sean Kirst

The more things change...

It struck me the other night, as I watched Andrew Cuomo make his acceptance speech, just how surreal the events of the last 48 months have been. It was only four years ago that we elected Eliot Spitzer, and I think most New Yorkers assumed we'd have him for governor for at least eight years - at which point he'd look toward Washington D.C. In any event, I went back and found the column I wrote when Spitzer was elected; an awful lot of it still goes for the attorney general who's becoming governor, this time around:

SPITZER IS VICTOR, BUT WHOM DID WE ELECT?

For Eliot Spitzer, this is Day One.

That's the theme he's used throughout his long campaign for governor. Today, at least symbolically, that time has come. George Pataki will have a month or two to clean out his office, but Spitzer becomes the one calling the shots.
...

Spitzer has supported the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, yet he remains so keenly aware of community concerns in his native New York City that he wisely called last summer for additional time to review the project. Compare that with what Spitzer did at almost the same time in Syracuse: One of his campaign aides, behind the scenes, lobbied Councilor Bill Ryan, a Democrat, for a quick "yes" vote on the equally complicated billion-dollar final deal for the Carousel Center expansion, Ryan said.

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NoLandGrab: Fear not, Syracusians. You can rest assured that Eliot Spitzer didn't spend a second more contemplating Atlantic Yards than he did your Carousel Center project. It was all an act.

And don't hold your breath for anything different under Andrew Cuomo. We sure aren't. His pockets have already been lined with Bruce Ratner's money.

Posted by eric at 11:19 AM

November 2, 2010

Matt Damon: Working Families Party Mouthpiece

Big Government

Even Andrew Breitbart's web sites can be right twice a day.

It looks like Matt Damon’s been overdosing on Kool-Aid again. He’s apparently doing the bidding now for the ACORN spawn, Working Families Party.
...

Former Working Families Party co-chair and NY state co-chair Bertha Lewis was also once the CEO and Chief Organizer of the mighty ACORN, before it disbanded from its national brand name to a multitude of local and statewide affiliates under different names (thanks to those infamous prostitution tapes).

Ms. Lewis departed from the WFP organization in February this year, in the wake of the federal investigation of its for-profit company, Data and Field Services over claims it was using their company to skirt around the city’s stringent campaign finance laws. In the end, the feds decided not to file any charges against WFP; however, the investigation resulted in the organization’s restructuring to create firewalls between the for-profit company from the rest of WFP.

Let’s also not forget the sordid story behind real estate mogul Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner. The infamous Atlantic Yards project in NY is a multi-year long story of buyoffs, intimidation and corruption, not to mention the audacity of a massive land grab. Bertha Lewis and the WFP, initially opposed to the land grab because of their concerns about the “gentrification” of Brooklyn, quickly turncoated on their Brooklyn neighbors as soon as Ratner offered Lewis a $1.5 million bailout and a 50/50 deal on housing in his future high-end condos.

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Posted by eric at 3:22 PM

Jay-Z to Jeezy: 10 Rappers Who Should Run For Political Office

RapFix
by Chris Yuscavage

Why couldn't a rapper with a rap sheet hold office — plenty of other crooks in New York already do.

So today, in honor of Rhymefest's announcement and voting day tomorrow, RapFix came up with 10 other rappers who should consider running for political office. These guys would definitely get our vote if they ever decided to put their names on a ballot.

The Rapper: Jay-Z
The Political Office He Could Hold: Borough President of Brooklyn
His Qualifications: Jay's been holding BK down through his music for more than a decade now. But, more importantly to the people of NYC's biggest borough, he's been influential in helping bring the NBA's New Jersey Nets to BK's Atlantic Yards complex, a move that should help the local economy. It's also put him in touch with BK's current Borough President. So, how long until President Carter becomes, well, President Carter?

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NoLandGrab: If experience tells us anything, it's that nearly anyone can hold the office of Brooklyn Borough President.

Posted by eric at 3:14 PM

November 1, 2010

The Charter Commission's missed opportunity to address real change, and the "Morton's fork" faced by voters Tuesday on term limits, reform package

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder attempts to sift through the absurdly confusing, non-reformist Charter "reforms" on Tuesday's ballot. What's a voter to do?

New York City voters on Tuesday will turn over their ballots to see two ballot referenda in small type, the relatively minor but not unimportant results of a Charter Revision Commission, appointed by Mayor Mike Bloomberg, that, this summer, heard much concern about issues such as land use reform.

Instead, the commission devised a question on term limits that's quite cynical--the current three-term limit, enacted after the City Council did Bloomberg's bidding, would be replaced by the old two-term limit, but not apply to current incumbents.

And, rather than offer yes-no voting on several other issues, the commission--claiming it was told that ballot strictures required it--lumped seven disparate reform measures into one vote.

On term limits, cynicism time

Wrote Craig Gurian in a Remapping Debate commentary headlined And then they’ll say we ratified their scheme:

We won’t know the outcome, of course, for another week. But there is something that we can safely predict. If voters reject the [term limits] proposal, those apparently believing in the divine right of municipal officials to a third term will say: “See, voters really don’t want us limited to three terms.” If voters approve the proposals, they will describe the outcome as: “See, voters think that relaxing limits to permit three terms is a good idea.” Heads the New Royalists win; tails we lose.

Will press coverage do anything more than uncritically convey the spin that term limit extenders choose to rationalize the ultimate outcome? As the Journal’s Riley put it two years ago: “[T]here's something deeply disturbing about a local press corps that lets the political class get away with it.”

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Posted by eric at 10:39 AM

October 30, 2010

Phoenix Suns owner Sarver on how arenas get built: "They get built through politics and political connections"

Atlantic Yards Report

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver gets praise in The Atlantic's Brave Thinkers feature for agreeing to have the team wear "Los Suns" jerseys as a rebuke to newly-passed legislation, aimed at illegal immigrants but feared as fostering racial profiling.

Part of his explanation:

A lot of people looked at the decision as an inappropriate mixture of sports and politics. But I think it’s naive to say that sports and politics don’t mix. I mean, how do stadiums and arenas get built? They get built through politics and political connections. Almost all professional sports owners are active in politics to support candidates and causes, but it’s usually based on a financial agenda. To me, this law was more of a human-rights issue—and just an issue of fairness—than it was political.

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Posted by steve at 7:36 AM

Five Questions for Chris Owens

Prospect Heights Patch
By Graydon Gordian

Citizens are urged to keep a critical eye on Atlantic Yards in this interview with District Leader for the 52nd Assembly and Atlantic Yards opponent, Chris Owens.

Now that the construction of the Atlantic Yards development, or at least the Barclays Center, appears inevitable, how should the neighborhood engage with the development? Are there ways for Prospect Heights residents and other Brooklynites to interact with the development in a positive way? Or should those who opposed the development initially remain staunch in their opposition?

It is imperative that Prospect Heights residents remain extremely engaged in the development of the Atlantic Yards project. As a staunch opponent of the project, even I realized that if we lost the battles we would need to "sit at the various tables" as the project moved forward. I am proud to say that many PH residents have been active in fighting to ensure that the project does not totally destroy Prospect Heights as a special neighborhood.

Just last week I attended a block association meeting where representatives of the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner were doing a lot of explaining about the impending traffic challenges for Prospect Heights.

In the end, our elected officials have to be unafraid to make a stink if things are not going right -- including the low level of employment for local community residents thus far, for example, and the uncertainty surrounding traffic patterns. (Look at the disasters already unfolding on Flatbush Avenue.)

Assembly Members Hakeem Jeffries (57th AD) and Joan Millman (52nd AD) along with State Senators [Velmanette] Montgomery and [Eric] Adams, and Congresswoman [Yvette] Clarke now bear the responsibility of enforcing appropriate and meaningful regulatory and political oversight of this monstrous project.

All of us have direct influence over these representatives whether or not we have direct influence over [Borough President Marty] Markowitz, [New York City Mayor Michael] Bloomberg or the next Governor of our state. I will certainly be involved with these efforts as much as possible.

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Posted by steve at 7:27 AM

Green Party Candidates Want ‘Green New Deal’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Atlantic Yards opponent Gloria Mattera is running for Lieutenant Governor of New York on the Green Party ticket.

“We’re building a green political movement with a very diverse, exciting slate of candidates who represent a true cross-section of the population,” said Mattera.

Currently a member of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn steering committee and an executive board member of Physicians for a National Health Program NY Metro Chapter, Mattera is running for office for a fourth time in a decade.

...

Mattera ran for borough president in 2005 against popular Democratic incumbent Marty Markowitz, objecting to his support of the Atlantic Yards project. Mattera’s run for the top Brooklyn office called for “human scale sustainable development driven by community special needs.”

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Posted by steve at 7:20 AM

October 29, 2010

Green Party Candidates Want ‘Green New Deal’

Slope’s Gloria Mattera Runs for Lt. Governor

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Harold Egeln

As Albany stews in a political cauldron of dysfunction, one of the alternative tickets being offered for the state’s top leadership posts offers a “Green New Deal.”

One of those candidates is from Park Slope, Green Party lieutenant governor hopeful Gloria Mattera, a healthcare worker known for her community and political activism.
...

Currently a member of the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn steering committee and an executive board member of Physicians for a National Health Program NY Metro Chapter, Mattera is running for office for a fourth time in a decade.

In 2001 and 2003 she ran for City Council against Democrat Bill de Blasio, with campaigns focused on growing economic inequities, reaching out to the Muslim communities, and opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In her 2003 challenge to de Blasio, she emerged second with 20 percent of the vote.

Mattera ran for borough president in 2005 against popular Democratic incumbent Marty Markowitz, objecting to his support of the Atlantic Yards project. Mattera’s run for the top Brooklyn office called for “human scale sustainable development driven by community special needs.”

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Posted by eric at 10:34 AM

October 27, 2010

Cuomo has apparently put on back burner investigations of Willets Point, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership lobbying

Atlantic Yards Report

There's a very intriguing passage within a New York Times article today about Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, likely to win election as Governor next Tuesday, headlined Mixed Views on Cuomo as Attorney General:

But the praise is neither universal nor complete, and there are many who assert that Mr. Cuomo has, not unlike his predecessor, been more interested in headlines than in undertaking the tedious chores needed to bring lasting reform, and that he has mishandled, sidestepped or prolonged some public integrity cases.

For example, an investigation into whether the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and some public officials violated lobbying laws in their redevelopment efforts is still unresolved after two years. (Mr. Bloomberg last month endorsed Mr. Cuomo’s campaign for governor.)

What might that refer to? It's time to repeat my post from 12/12/09, adding that I never got a response to my queries from Cuomo's office:

Learning from Willets Point, Part 2: is the Attorney General still investigating lobbying by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership?

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Posted by eric at 4:18 PM

October 21, 2010

State IG probes problematic Aqueduct racino bidding; no such investigation was made of Vanderbilt Yard process

Atlantic Yards Report

A New York Times article today, headlined Report Says State Senators Manipulated Casino Bidding, cites the state Inspector General's report on the Aqueduct "racino":

In a scathing 300-page report [PDF] on the competition to install video slot machines at the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, the inspector general described a chaotic and ultimately doomed process that was without formal rules or objective criteria, and was awash in “unrestrained political considerations,” lobbyists and targeted campaign contributions.

But when Forest City Ratner was anointed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard without any competiton--and when an RFP was issued 18 months later--there was no such inquiry.

And, as I argued in March, the Vanderbilt Yard deal was worse.

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NoLandGrab: These clowns might go down, but we all know nothing ever sticks to "Teflon Bruce."

Posted by eric at 3:53 PM

October 20, 2010

Marty Hypocritz Calls for City Council Approval for Bike Lanes, Atlantic Yards Not So Much

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is upset with the new bike lanes on Prospect Park West and real hot under the collar about them (when isn't he hot under the collar?).

What does he think the solution is? According to the Brooklyn Paper:

“This issue of where to place bike lanes, it’s worthy of review by the City Council,” said Markowitz. “What is our objective in this city? To stigmatize the use of cars? To make it difficult to park? Do we want Brooklyn to replicate Amsterdam? These are legitimate policy issues.
(Emphasis added.)

Right, Markowitz, a few bike lanes to calm traffic on PPW should go under City Council review, but the largest development project in Brooklyn's history shouldn't. Surely there must have been some "legitimate policy issues" raised by Ratner's land grab, no?

(Btw, Brooklyn could learn a lot from Amsterdam.)

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NoLandGrab: People who disagree with the Borough President might be interested in this.

Photo: Ben Muessig/Brooklyn Paper, via Gothamist

Posted by eric at 4:53 PM

October 14, 2010

DiSanto to Voters: Golden Responsible For Status Quo After Nearly a Decade in Albany

Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn
by Dagny Taggart

Atlantic Yards-loving political hack Marty Golden is taking some flak from fellow Republicans — those of the reform variety.

Now, even before our blog took a critical look at Golden, a fellow Republican, he has never done anything to convince us or our readers that we are wrong in any way. He has never commented regarding our local GOP coverage and has kept entirely to himself, even as the local media has taken interest.

This campaign apparently has not provoked a different response from him.

But Golden continues to make a huge mistake by allowing a vacuum to form around him with GOP voters. Let’s not forget–and Mr. DiSanto intimates this in his statement–Sen. Golden has had some tough press lately. First, it was his involvement with Atlantic Yards. Then, it was his flip-flop on a critical piece of gun legislation. Most recently, he has been noticeably absent during crucial votes in the Senate.

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Posted by eric at 10:28 AM

October 9, 2010

Mr. Paladino and the System

The New York Times, Editorial

Does The Times have a double-standard when it comes to nutty, belligerent Tea-Partying gubernatorial-candidate and "liberal do-gooder" real estate developers?

Carl Paladino, the Republican nominee for governor of New York, portrays himself as a business-hardened outsider who would reform Albany’s corrupt and bloated bureaucracy and drive out the pay-to-play special interests. “I’m just a regular guy from Buffalo,” he says.

A look at his record as a developer shows that he has been an eager recipient of just the sort of government largess he so bitterly condemns and a generous contributor to politicians who can best do him favors.

His flourishing real estate business was stoked with tax breaks, multimillion-dollar state leases and government land giveaways. At the same time, he used his partnerships and corporations to donate nearly $500,000 to scores of elected officials, judges and candidates since 1999 — a bit more than most regular guys from Buffalo.

Mr. Paladino is the largest landowner in Buffalo, and building his empire required many local zoning variances and municipal permissions. Buffalo’s politicians, who received generous donations from him for years, were happy to help.

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NoLandGrab: Does this means that if Bruce Ratner ran for governor, The Times might actually condemn his modus operandi?

Posted by eric at 11:31 AM

October 3, 2010

Markowitz isn't "taking full-advantage of permissible perks to boost economic investment in the borough;” rather, he's doing Ratner's bidding

Atlantic Yards Report

Who does the Brooklyn Borough President work for?

The more I think about it, the quote from Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union about Borough President Marty Markowitz's putative trip to China was way off, and in more ways than one.

The Post reported:

"[Markowitz] is clearly taking full-advantage of permissible perks to boost economic investment in the borough,” said Dick Dadey of the government-watchdog group Citizens Union.

Well, Citizens Union isn't much of a watchdog if it thinks that Markowitz's effort to get Forest City Ratner low-cost financing by flacking green cards will "boost economic investment in the borough."

It would more likely boost the developer.

More importantly, Markowitz, however much he may enjoy a foreign trip, would not be going in order to be "taking full-advantage of permissible perks."

Rather, he'd be doing Ratner's bidding, and the bidding of the New York City Regional Center funding the trip.

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Posted by steve at 9:04 AM

September 30, 2010

Markowitz planning China trip to trade green cards for Atlantic Yards funding

NY Post
by Rich Calder

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s latest planned overseas trip sounds more like a punch line than official business.

Markowitz – who racks up more frequent-flyer miles on government business than most local elected officials and all of the city’s other Beeps combined -- is seeking city blessing to travel expenses-paid to China.

His mission: fly 7,000 miles to the other side of the world to help his longtime ally, developer Bruce Ratner, peddle green cards to rich foreigners in exchange for investing in Ratner's embattled Atlantic Yards project.

They want to use a little-known federal program to raise about $250 million for the financially troubled $4.9 billion Prospect Heights project, which includes an arena for the NBA’s Nets, officials said.

"[Markowitz] is clearly taking full-advantage of permissible perks to boost economic investment in the borough,” said Dick Dadey of the government-watchdog group Citizens Union.

Markowitz’s many other expenses-paid business trips the past three years include visits to the Netherlands and Israel and a Trans-Atlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2.

The planned China trip was first reported yesterday by the blog Atlantic Yards Report.

If the city’s Conflict of Interest Board says the China trip won’t violate city ethics laws, the beep will spent a week abroad -- – five days in China and two days traveling, sources told the Post. He also intends to pay out-of-pocket for his wife, Jamie, to accompany him.

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NoLandGrab: Note to China — better hide the placemats.

Posted by eric at 8:58 PM

September 25, 2010

Quote of the week: economist Shiller says people feel "a small group of wealthy people who get bailed out and bribe the government are in charge"

Atlantic Yards Report

Atlantic Yards is a reflection of something gone seriously wrong in the United States, not just Brooklyn.

Economist Robert Shiller, BusinessWeek:

There are many dimensions to trying to restore confidence. A plan to reduce the national debt is a relatively small part of it at this point. The really big thing is, people are very upset. They feel that the country is not theirs, and that a small group of wealthy people who get bailed out and bribe the government are in charge.

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Posted by steve at 8:54 AM

September 23, 2010

Brooklyn Democrat Is Said to Be Investigated

The New York Times
by William K. Rashbaum

Brooklyn political boss Vito Lopez, architect of the Atlantic Yards 421-a "carve out,", is under investigation by the Feds.

Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, a long-serving Brooklyn Democratic leader who is widely viewed as the borough’s patronage king, is at the center of two separate federal investigations, according to several people briefed on the matter. A third inquiry, by the city’s Department of Investigation, those people said, is focused on a network of nonprofit groups Mr. Lopez controls.

All three investigations focus to some extent on the nexus of politics, nonprofit groups and real estate developers in Brooklyn, the people familiar with the inquiries said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

“The name of the game” is real estate development, one of the people said, adding that the inquiries have produced masses of records, and in several of the cases the authorities have “mounds of paper to go through.” The person would not name the developers under scrutiny, saying only, “There is a lot of developers in the game here.”

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Posted by eric at 11:52 AM

September 17, 2010

Now they tell us: ads for Montgomery proclaiming independence from "special interests" come from (not disclosed) special interest (NYSUT)

Atlantic Yards Report

Like other residents of the 18th Senatorial District, I got several slick mailings with the same "Velmanette Montgomery" logo but no returning mailing address, just a tiny, unreadable logo.

And Montgomery's campaign said they didn't know who was responsible.

That's unacceptable. Either they were lying or should know. (It's shades of BUILD's James Caldwell, in 2005, claiming he didn't know who was paying for the group's public relations.)

The day after Montgomery cruised to a more than 4-to-1 margin--thanks, in part to a 10-to 1 advantage in volunteers, many from unions--I got a message from Montgomery staffer Jim Vogel.

"Senator Montgomery’s campaign finally discovered who sent out the mailer you were wondering about," he wrote. "Yesterday afternoon we had a visit from the local head of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) who told Senator Montgomery they did the mailing. She really had no idea before then."

It's a logical contribution, given that Montgomery was opposed by Mark Pollard, funded by charter school supporters, but it wasn't a transparent one.

(And I'm now assuming that the campaign call I thought was funded by Pollard's campaign came from the teachers.)
...

There's no little irony in Montgomery not only getting support from the teachers, but having them produce a somewhat deceptive campaign mailer about her opposition to Atlantic Yards.

After all, they're not on the same page regarding the project.

In August 2006, there was United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten at a pro-project rally, declaring confidently that “the advantages outweigh the risks,” citing the importance of affordable housing to schoolteachers who want to live near the communities where they work.

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NoLandGrab: As Oder points out, Montgomery finally got some financial support from State Senate Conference President (and Forest City fundraiser beneficiary) John Sampson on September 3rd — likely once they figured out she was going to crush her opponent on Primary Day.

Posted by eric at 12:04 PM

September 16, 2010

Leading Atlantic Yards Opponents Trounce Opponents in Democratic Primary

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

While Bruce Ratner is making a mess over at the intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush after putting shovels in the ground, two of the most high profile political opponents of Atlantic Yards were held in high regard yesterday by the voters. Of course Atlantic Yards was not the defining issue in yesterday's races for State Senate in the 18th district and State Committee member (Male District Leader) in the 52nd district, but the fervor of the opposition sure helped Chris Owens win office for the first time and Senator Velmanette Montgomery retain her seat in the Senate. And both highlighted their Atlantic Yards opposition during their campaigns.
...

It is pretty clear that in Central Brooklyn an overwhelming percentage of the electorate is very comfortable with the position these two leaders have held over the past seven years.

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Posted by eric at 9:17 AM

Candidates of Wall Street, Charter Schools Wash Out in Democratic Primaries

The L Magazine
by Mark Asch

Earlier this year, the great Tom Robbins reported on deep-pocketed charter school advocates essentially sponsoring primary challenges to three Democratic state senators "whose tough talk during the debate rubbed charter advocates the wrong way," though they eventually did vote for a bill that worked out to charters' advantage (having gotten concessions about auditing and conflicts of interest inserted into the bill). The piece begins at a meet-and-greet sponsored by a rich millionaire, at which candidates are introduced to the hedge-fund millionaires largely behind the candidacy of Reshma Saujani, the former finance-industry professional running as a "fresh face" against Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, of the Upper East Side.

The three Senators who offended the charter schools were Harlem's pretty great Bill Perkins (also a persuasive, vociferous opponent of Atlantic Yards), who chaired hearings on the subject and wondered aloud, "What about the 97 percent of kids in regular schools? Where's the energy and attention for them?"; my state senator, the distinguished Velmanette Montgomery (asked why he was gunning for the state senate, the opponent recruited to run against her told Robbins only said, "It's time for new, energetic leadership), and Shirley Huntley, of Queens, who also voted against gay marriage (her opponent, previously a candidate for City Council, also received support from gay advocacy groups).

Yesterday, in the Democratic primary, Perkins defeated former Hillary Clinton aide Basil Smikle with more than three quarters of the vote. Montgomery defeated lawyer Mark Pollard, garnering more than four fifths of the vote. Huntley won with slightly less than three quarters of the vote.

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Posted by eric at 7:55 AM

September 15, 2010

In the 52nd, Owens, Simon win big over machine; Restler edges out Cohn; Montgomery, Millman, Towns cruise to victory

Atlantic Yards Report

In the 52nd District: Owens and Simon

Despite endorsements and robo-calls from Borough President Marty Markowitz and 33rd District Council Member Steve Levin, and a slew of mailings, the two machine candidates for District Leader in the 52nd Assembly District, Hope Reichhbach and Steve Williamson, lost big.
...

One source of suspense was whether Jesse Strauss, who ran with Simon, both endorsed by the Independent Neighborhood Democrats, would split the reform vote with Owens sufficiently to let Williamson prevail.

That was not to be, as Owens, who has more name recognition due to longer service and his 2006 race for Congress (in which he was the candidate against Atlantic Yards), relied on the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID) and other endorsements.
...

Owens: anti-Atlantic Yards spirit helped

CBID First VP Raul Rothblatt shot the video below, in which Owens said an anti-Atlantic Yards spirit helped him win.

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Posted by eric at 12:34 PM

No surprises at all in local primaries

The Brooklyn Paper
by Aaron Short and Andy Campbell

The headline overstates the absence of surprises, but one thing was very clear: candidates with a strong record of fighting Atlantic Yards won big.

State Senate — Democrats
Velmanette Montgomery, 12,742
Mark Pollard, 3,104

18th District

Fort Greene, Park Slope and Red Hook

Incumbent Velmanette Montgomery won in an 81-19 percent landslide over newcomer Mark Pollard, yet another weak challenger to a senator who has been in Albany since 1986.

Some said Pollard was a fresh face, but Montgomery won big, in part due to her support for the federal Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal, the fetid waterway that now has a federal budget, and her longtime opposition to the Atlantic Yards mega-development.
...

District leaders
Chris Owens, 2,154
Jesse Strauss, 1,361
Stephen Williamson, 771

Jo Anne Simon, 2,645
Hope Reichbach, 1,657

52nd Assembly District

DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope

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Posted by eric at 12:19 PM

September 14, 2010

It Now Comes Down To This: Democrats Should (Run Off and) Vote Tomorrow For Eric Schneiderman as Attorney General

Noticing New York

To get a feel for all of these issues we still feel that best touchstone is Atlantic Yards and the hard questions that can be asked about the specifics that come to light when that is given focus. That includes the fact that Andrew Cuomo, our current state Attorney General and presumptive governor-to-be, has taken and not returned campaign contributions from Forest City Ratner, the developer of Atlantic Yards notwithstanding requests that he take action with respect to the megadevelopment. (At an event not long ago one of his campaign representatives explained that the contributions did not need to be returned because of the timing of their acceptance!)

We therefore suggest that the best way to get a feeling for what the candidates might do in terms of cleaning up Albany (a better feel than you will get listening to the debates) is to read our earlier article that uses Atlantic Yards and eminent domain abuse as a touchstone. We think that when you have duly considered the matter you will vote Eric Schneiderman especially when you consider that he seems to be the one with the momentum necessary to defeat Kathleen Rice.

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Posted by eric at 9:23 AM

Primary Day: A few mini-endorsements

Joshua Malbin

For most of the ultralocal races, it matters most who’s most willing to take on Kings County boss Vito Lopez. So I’m following The Brooklyn Paper and going with Chris Owens for male District Leader over Jesse Strauss and Steve Williamson; and Jo Anne Simon over Hope Reichbach for female District Leader. (I’m breaking my personal rule of thumb here to always do the opposite of what Gatemouth wants.)

And Velmanette Montgomery over Mark Pollard. Montgomery is one of the guys with her heart in the right place. She stood up against the Atlantic Yards project and so as far as I’m concerned she gets to go back to Albany until I see a strong reason why she shouldn’t.

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Posted by eric at 8:58 AM

September 13, 2010

Election preview: why the race in the 18th Senatorial District is no inspiring example of democratic debate

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder has an in-depth rundown on the race for the 18th State Senate district, in which anti-Atlantic Yards stalwart Velmanette Montgomery faces a challenge from Charter School advocate Mark Pollard, who promises he'll keep a close eye on Bruce C. Ratner. Uh huh.

I can't say the 18th Senatorial District race between 26-year incumbent Velmanette Montgomery and challenger Mark Pollard has been a particularly inspiring example of democracy.

While the candidates have been out campaigning, the main contact many of us have with this race is by receiving propaganda in the mail.

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Posted by eric at 10:24 AM

September 11, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report Saturday Morning Coverage of Local Races

Atlantic Yards Report

In the 57th, a District Leader debate that wasn't, and some signs of the times

Given the charged nature of the battle (as cited in The Local) between incumbent Olanike Alabi and challenger Renee Collymore for the position of Female District Leader in the 57th Assembly District, and given the announcement of the first debate for a District Leader position this season, I hauled over to the Humble Martial Arts Dojo on Fulton Street last night.

After all, some of these District Leader races are highly charged, but fought mainly with press releases and campaign fliers. Nobody debates.

It was not to be.

A handful of people showed up, a couple of them organizers from the Prospect Heights Action Coaltion (aka sisters Patti Hagan, who lives in Prospect Heights, and Schellie Hagan, who lives nearby in Clinton Hill) who know both candidates well; guest moderator Medhanie Estiphanos, a candidate for the 35th District Council seat last year; a couple of bloggers; a staffer for City Council Member Letitia James, and a couple of civilians.

Collymore came 15 minutes late. Olabi never arrived. (She told The Local her attorney advised her not to show and she had another engagement.

In 52nd District race, Owens mailer takes aim at both opponents

I was wondering how Chris Owens, running for Male District Leader in the 52nd Assembly District, would try to distinguish himself from not only the machine candidate, Stephen Williamson, but the other reform candidate, Jesse Strauss, who has the endorsement from one major political club (while Owens has more endorsements).

The answer: call Strauss the "Albany candidate." There's no proof, but maybe that's supposed to mean support from Assemblymember Joan Millman. (The rest of his fundraising has no obvious Albany connection.)

A more subtle critique--and one that should've been aired in a debate between the two--comes from Owens supporter David Michaelson, who writes that Owens said he wouldn't have run without the Lambda Independent Democrats' endorsement, while Strauss said he'd stay in.

Michaelson doesn't call Strauss an "Albany candidate," just a potential spoiler. The lesson, again, is that Instant Runoff Voting is needed, so voters can rank preferences. And that debates would help, so we don't have to rely on campaign advertising.

(Also, watch Room 8 blogger Gatemouth, aka Howard Graubard, and Strauss go at it.)

Posted by steve at 8:58 AM

Guest Blog: Hope Reichbach, Candidate for District Leader 52nd AD

Brooklyn Heights Blog

Hope Reichbach, endorsed by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss and Atlantic Yards supporter, Vito Lopez, uses this blog entry to take swings at her opponent, Jo Anne Simon. One big miss is her mischaracterization of Simon, a long-time opponent of Atlantic Yards.

Up until recently, she was pro-Atlantic Yards. Suddenly, when it seemed politically beneficial, she became a crusader against Atlantic Yards.

Despite Reichbach's claim of not wanting to sling mud, click through for the mudfest.

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Posted by steve at 8:46 AM

September 10, 2010

District Leader races: Lopez issue gets more play in Voice than Brooklyn Paper; an Orwellian mailing in the 52nd; a debate tonight in the 57th

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes a well-worth-reading look at a number of contested races in Tuesday's primary — a job the Brooklyn Paper fails to tackle.

There a primary election Tuesday, with some hard-fought races, especially on the District Leader level.

So what does the Brooklyn Paper put on the quite-diverse front page of its new issue? Tabloid stuff, mostly, stories to get people talking but not that address that boring but important issue of power.

So, along with some news, we get a report on the Brooklyn Cyclones (hm, the Cyclones page inside is sponsored by stadium sponsor MCU, which means there's another article), an article about kickball (!), and a story plus major graphics about an all-insect dinner.

The editorial page? No endorsements, but a safe enough stand for religious tolerance.

There's a full page ad about using the new voting machines. On page 12, there's an Election Guide that takes up about one-third of a page, with brief descriptions of contested legislative races.

(It's the first mention, as far as I can tell, of the 18th District Senate primary between incumbent Velmanette Montgomery and challenger Mark Pollard; I'll have more on that race Monday.)

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Posted by eric at 8:16 AM

September 5, 2010

In race for State Committee in the 52nd: Jo Anne Simon (finally) takes gloves off; also, Lopez candidate gains as Owens, Strauss vie for reform votes

Atlantic Yards Report

This is a look at races for Female and Male District leaders in the 52nd Assembly District, with a short mention of the the Female District Leader race in the 57th Assembly District.

A year after it really mattered, Jo Anne Simon has directly gone after the candidate endorsed by Brooklyn Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez.

This time it's for re-election to her unpaid position as State Committeewoman, or Female District Leader (Democratic) for the 52nd Assembly District (represented by Joan Millman). The vote will be during the primary election on September 14.

Like a couple of other races, it is essentially (as the Brooklyn Paper described) a referendum on Lopez, the political powerhouse, who, among other things, ensured that a new law toughening subsidies for affordable housing would not apply to Atlantic Yards. (The developer's argument was that the project was planned under the assumption 421-a subsidies would be available.)

And unlike the race for Male District Leader, in which the presence of two reformers should help the Lopez candidate, this one's one-on-one.

...

Reichbach's running mate, Williamson, also worked on Levin's campaign. He was set to challenge incumbent Alan Fleishman, a Lopez foe.

But Fleishman has since withdrawn, which has set up an interesting situation. Simon's mailer says that Jesse Strauss has "taken Fleishman's place on the ballot," which isn't quite true.

Strauss, a CB2 member and a member of the executive committee of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND), has been endorsed, as has Simon, by Joan Millman and the IND.

Chris Owens, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2006 and has a long history of activism challenging Atlantic Yards (among other things), got endorsements from the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (of which he was once president) and the Lambda Independent Democrats.

In such obscure races on a primary day with no major race to bring voters to the polls--the biggest statewide contest is the Attorney General primary--the candidates understandably want most to get voters out in the first place.

But without IRV, Strauss and Owens should be doing their best to remind reform-minded voters not merely that they are reformers, but that only one of them has the best chance to beat the candidate favored by Lopez and Markowitz.

(By the way, the race for Female District Leader in the 57th Assembly District is getting rather tabloid, at least according to The Local.)

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Posted by steve at 11:10 AM

August 31, 2010

Why does Ratner not contribute to local races? Maybe because contributions keep the line open to Cuomo, the next governor

Atlantic Yards Report

A couple of people have asked me: if Bruce Ratner is no longer a campaign contribution refusenik, why isn't he giving money to Mark Pollard, who's challenging Atlantic Yards opponent Velmanette Montgomery in the 18th Senatorial District and has gained the support of some Atlantic Yards backers?

Well, maybe it's purely pragmatic; Montgomery has endorsements galore and a record of achievement.

Even a strong candidate--and I don't think Pollard qualifies, having started his campaign only in May, rather than building momentum over time, and relying disproportionately on charter school backers outside the district--would have trouble beating a veteran like Montgomery, even in this anti-incumbent political climate (and her failure to fully embrace reforms in Albany).

(When the 11-day pre-primary reports are made available on Friday, we'll see if Ratner's changed his tactics.)

Influence at the top

Ratner is not averse to contributions in local races, but maybe it's purely pragmatic on another level.

Ratner, I suspect, doesn't worry much about local elected officials; his concern is the governor, who controls the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), the unelected agency that's shepherding Atlantic Yards and not looking too hard.

So that's why Ratner gave $5000 to the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo in February 2009, plus another $7500 this past May.

From Ratner's perspective, Montgomery may be a pest. But as long as the man at the top takes his calls, he'll be fine.

Or, to paraphrase Leona Helmsley, only the little people need to buy state Senators.

Even better, how's this for a laugh?

Ratner also gave $10,000 to New York Uprising, the clean-up-Albany project spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, Citizens Union Director Dick Dadey, and former New York City Parks Commissioner and New York Civic Director Henry Stern.

I suspect that Ratner's contribution was generated less by desire to support candidates signing New York Uprising's worthy three-part pledge (Non-Partisan, Independent Redistricting; Responsible Budgeting; and Ethics Reform), than by his relationship with his old mentor Stern, an often-useful civic watchdog whose critical scrutiny has reliably bypassed Atlantic Yards.

link

NoLandGrab: Ratner giving money to an effort to clean up Albany is like Bonnie and Clyde making a deposit five minutes before robbing the bank. And the fact that they would take Ratner's money tells you all you need to know about New York Uprising.

Posted by eric at 1:04 PM

August 30, 2010

In 18th District, Citizens Union prefers Pollard over Montgomery, who's reticent about addressing some reforms; challenger tries to thread AY needle

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder takes another look — two looks, actually — at the race for the state Senate's 18th district.

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery can point to some real achievements, as noted in a campaign mailer (right; click to enlarge), such as reforming the juvenile justice system and the Rockefeller drug laws.

But her reluctance to sign onto a full suite of Albany reforms means the 26-year incumbent, who has the support of veteran Brooklyn pols like Council Member Al Vann, may be sweating just a bit.

The Citizens Union last week announced it supported the reelection of only six incumbents, issued a "no preference" in several races, and endorsed several challengers, including Montgomery rival Mark Pollard.

(Pollard hasn't yet noted this on his web site. Montgomery doesn't have a current campaign web site--the one from the previous election has not been updated. Neither are particularly nimble in cyberspace; are they convinced that getting out the vote for the September 14 primary represents retail politics?)

While the CU did not elaborate on the Montgomery race (and some others), Executive Director Dick Dadey said the CU's preference "provide a clear signal to voters which incumbents have made an effort to bring change to Albany and which ones have stood in the way of reform and need to be replaced."

The CU doesn't hold the power it once had--its endorsement, for example, of Evan Thies in the 33rd Council District last year meant little--but it does aim to set benchmarks for good government practices.

article

NoLandGrab: Neither does the CU have the reputation for integrity it once had, since it refused to take a strong stance against Atlantic Yards, despite the project's lengthy list of vices.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Ziggy for Pollard: a not-quite-Atlantic Yards connection in the 18th District Senate race

State campaign finance filings (32-day report, July periodic report) show that Mark Pollard, the pro-Atlantic Yards challenger to state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, has paid $8000 in consulting fees to Brooklyn Sports MMM, which just happens to share the same address as Brooklyn USA Basketball.

Both Brooklyn Sports Management, Marketing, and Memorabilia and Brooklyn USA Basketball are the work of Thomas (Ziggy) Sicignano, coach of a traveling basketball team that's gotten $10,000 in funding from Forest City Ratner and whose players have bolstered some Atlantic Yards rallies.

(He's also notorious for cooperating in a federal investigation of prostitution he organized at an Atlanta strip club he managed. Correction August 31: Sicignano points out that he did not receive probation, as reported in the Brooklyn Paper.)
...

Sicignano said he's not working for Pollard at the behest of FCR, though he does think it would be "good for Brooklyn that we have a Senator who can deal with the developer."

NLG: By "a senator who can deal with the developer," Sicignano means "a senator who can provide unqualified support for the developer's deals."

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

August 28, 2010

From City Pragmatist: behind the Charter Revision Commission, an effort to shift power to the mayor

Atlantic Yards Report

Please click through to this blog entry and learn about two important proposals you're going to be voting on this November.

So, it turns out that the Charter Revision Commission did nothing--beyond a hearing--to grapple with issues like land use reform. And while a complicated term limits vote is one of the two proposals on the November ballot, the real import of the Commission's work is the second proposal, which--despite a fig leaf of reform--would essentially strengthen an already strong mayor.

Credit CityPragmatist blogger Alvin Berk, who's been following the Commission closely, concluding, NYC Charter Revision Proposals: A Hobson’s Choice.

He writes:

Here are the proposals being placed on November’s ballot by the New York City Charter Revision Commission. The commission has restricted voters’ options by lumping the changes into just two ballot questions, putatively because this year’s new paper voting forms are too small to show the proposals individually.

He's skeptical--and any serious reader of these long and thus confusing ballot questions would have reason to agree. (The Daily News also slammed the decision.)

link

Posted by steve at 9:16 AM

August 26, 2010

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shuns Montgomery (among few incumbents); could Sampson's Atlantic Yards support be the reason?

Atlantic Yards Report

Sleazeball NY Senate Democrats brook no dissent against the Party's unofficial chairman, Bruce C. Ratner (who also happens to be unofficial chairman of the state's Republican Party, too).

There was a unexplored angle to a City Hall News article yesterday headlined DSCC Spends On Consultants, WFP, But Not Espada.

The main news was that the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee was not helping scandal-tinged Majority Leader Pedro Espada but helping incumbents with safe seats as well as incumbents faced with primaries but in districts that will remain in Democratic hands. (Shouldn't the DSCC be stressing seats that could be lost to the Republicans? Not in New York.)

However, if Senate Democrats are spending on "nearly every incumbent facing a primary," it was notable that Espada was joined on a very short list of the "outs" by his Bronx ally Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. and 18th District Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who represents Central Brooklyn.

The AY connection

I haven't been able to learn why Montgomery got the short end of the stick--there could be internal political dynamics at work--but it's worth noting that Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, some major contributors, and the Senate Democratic Conference's prime strategist are supporters of Atlantic Yards or have ties to Forest City Ratner.

Sampson, notably, was the beneficiary of a fundraiser held at Forest City Ratner offices and signed a letter to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov calling Atlantic Yards "a major economic development venture that is vital to the economy and the future of Brooklyn."

He didn't attend the arena groundbreaking in March but sent his regrets.

article

NoLandGrab: We sent our regrets, too, after being held back by some 200 police officers, including the counter-terrorism squad.

Posted by eric at 9:52 AM

August 14, 2010

A push poll in the state Senate race, perhaps from the Pollard camp

Atlantic Yards Report

If you wanted to know anything about any kind of a poll was being conducted around the primary race for the State Senate between incumbent Velmanette Montgomery and challenger Mark Pollard, the best person to receive the call would be Norman Oder.

The call was probably linked to the Pollard camp, since a Montgomery representative said it wasn't them. (Update: Maybe that was too conclusory. It could've come from a group supporting Montgomery.)

The caller said she was a representative of a public opinion research firm called M.E.M. "We're conducting a brief survey about important issues in your area," I was told.

I asked for the location of the firm and a web site. There's no web site, I was told, and "I'm just in a call center." (She couldn't pronounce "Gowanus," so she was clearly from way out of town.) So I took a few notes.

Atlantic Yards makes an appearance in a poll question.

The next two questions concerned what is apparently the principal issue--or at least the principal campaign issue, given Pollard's funding by charter school supporters:

  • What do I think of the United Federation of Teachers
  • What do I think of charter schools?

The next question concerned what is apparently a significant secondary issue:

  • What are my feelings about Atlantic Yards?

link

Posted by steve at 2:23 PM

August 4, 2010

Deputy Mayor Wolfson owns $5000 of Forest City Enterprises shares; does it matter? Nah

Atlantic Yards Report

Does it make a difference that Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, who joined the Bloomberg administration in March, bought about $5000 worth of Forest City Enterprises (FCE) stock in 2007?

No, because 1) the administration was already behind the Atlantic Yards project promoted by FCE subsidiary Forest City Ratner and 2) the amount is too low to trigger action by the Conflicts of Interests Board (COIB).

Wolfson reported stock in the company, parent of Forest City Ratner, worth $5,000 to $39,999, but officials told the Post it was close to the minimum.

Unmentioned in the Post or AP reports is that $40,000 is the threshold for an "ownership interest" that, for someone in Wolfson's position, would require either divestment of that interest or disclosure to the COIB of that interest, subjecting him to the board's ruling.

article

NoLandGrab: $39,999 of Forest City stock purchased on April 16th, 2007 would be worth less than $7,300 today.

Posted by eric at 1:20 PM

Bloomberg staffer owns stock in company building B'klyn arena

NY Post
by Rich Calder

One of Mayor Bloomberg’s top staffers owns stock in a company whose subsidiary is getting city funding and tax breaks to build a Brooklyn arena for the NBA’s Nets — a revelation that’s raising eyebrows among opponents of the controversial project.

Former Hillary Clinton political strategist Howard Wolfson, who joined the Bloomberg administration in March as deputy mayor for governmental affairs, listed investments totaling $250,000 to $935,000 — including stock in Forest City Enterprises worth $5,000 to $39,999 – in a city financial disclosure report made public today.

"This project has never had any real oversight or accountability or full public transparency, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that a member of the Bloomberg administration has money invested in it," said Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes the 22-acre project footprint within Prospect Heights.

A city spokesman said Wolfson bought the stock in 2007 – three years before he took the post – and that the investment amount was "close to $5,000" and, therefore, "far below the threshold that raises potential conflict of interest issues" for city employees.

James, however, said Wolfson should sell the stock or put it in trust until he leaves City Hall.

The project is getting more than $200 million in city money for land acquisition and infrastructure repairs, plus tax exemptions and city-owned property at no cost.

article

Related coverage...

NY Daily News, Bloomberg administration disclosures: Ethics issues for Howard Wolfson, Raymond Kelly and others

A deputy mayor owns stock in the company building the controversial Atlantic Yards stadium - and the police commissioner takes rides on the mayor's plane.

Those are two of the eyebrow-raising disclosures in the annual ethics forms released Tuesday for top officials in Mayor Bloomberg's administration.

Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson reported owning $5,000 to $40,000 worth of stock in Forest City Enterprises, the parent company of the firm developing a stadium and apartments over former railyards in Brooklyn with up to $205 million in city subsidies.

"He doesn't have any responsibilities that affect Forest City," Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said. "He's not an economic development person."

NoLandGrab: Let's hope Wolfson is a better Deputy Mayor than he is an investor. The low for Forest City stock in 2007, when Wolfson bought it, was about $44 per share; today it trades below $13.

Posted by eric at 12:45 PM

August 2, 2010

Brooklyn Focus: August 3rd: MEET AND SUPPORT STATE SENATOR VELMANETTE MONTGOMERY

Mole's Progressive Democrat

I urge anyone who can to go to this event and support one of the best Democrats in New York:

MEET AND SUPPORT STATE SENATOR VELMANETTE MONTGOMERY

At the home of Joan Reutershan and Meg Harper

70 South Portland Avenue (near Lafayette) 6:00 – 8:00PM

Join Council Member Letitia James along with hosts Joan Reutershan, Meg Harper, Naomi Dickerson, Charles Jarden, Lucy Koteen, Patricia Johnson, Paul Palazzo, and Steve Soblick.

Senator Montgomery, currently the Chairperson of the Children and Families Committee, has stood up for all the right issues:

  • Community Supported Development
  • Reforming the Juvenile Justice system
  • Affordable Housing for all
  • Marriage Equality
  • Democratic Education
  • Opposition to Atlantic Yards
    ...

Velmanette is my state senator and she is one of the very few in Albany who is worth anything. She has led the fight against Atlantic Yards overdevelopment, led the fight to clean up the Gowanus Canal, led the fight for better and more effective sex education in our schools, and I have to say, led pretty much every fight I support in Albany.

link

Posted by eric at 9:40 AM

July 31, 2010

At heart of Pollard's challenge to Senator Montgomery, charter schools (and big bucks from charter school proponents)

Atlantic Yards Report

Senator Velmanette Montgomery, foe of the Atlantic Yards project, is facing an opponent in the September primary.

I got a mailing the other day from Mark Pollard, who's challenging 13-term incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery in the 18th District, which includes Atlantic Yards.

What it doesn't say is that the contest is significantly about charter schools, given that charter school proponents from outside Brooklyn have contributed a large majority of his $87,385 war chest.

(The candidates allso differ on Atlantic Yards, but I didn't see any AY backers contributing to Pollard yet, other than $25 contributions from Delia Hunley-Adossa, chair of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement Coalition and head of the potemkin Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, and her daughter Saadia. Hunley-Adossa last year challenged incumbent 35th District City Council Member Letitia James, a Montgomery ally.)

Click through to see how individual Pollard supporters, mostly from Manhattan, are contributing as much as $6,000 to his campaign.

link

Posted by steve at 8:42 AM

July 29, 2010

Phone calls from Utah firm about Atlantic Yards: is Pacific Crest Research back? and is this about the Senate race or just AY p.r.?

Atlantic Yards Report

It looks like the shadowy, Utah-based polling firm Pacific Crest Research (PCR) may be back and involved in tapping/shaping public opinion about Atlantic Yards.

From Brooklynian, selected comments:

  • just got off the phone with someone, based in utah, who peppered me with a lot of questions about the yards project, and whether i agree that forest city ratner's doing a great thing for the slope and the community as a whole. i assume ratner's paying for the survey since many of the questions seemed tilted in his favor.. but i had some free time, and it was a very cathartic experience....still, to be doing a survey like this, the developers must be really worried about something.
  • I took the survey and it was obviously sponsored by Ratner. I told the guy that I really shouldn't be taking the survey as my husband used to work for FCR and says the affordable housing phase of the project ain't never gonna happen.
  • I took the survey too and also think it was sponsored by Ratner. Whenever they asked whether finding out something positive e.g., about job creation changed my mind, I just responded that I didn't believe any of it (the good stuff) would happen.

The background

None of the commenters on Brooklynian mentioned the name of the firm, but the Utah connection offers a significant hint. Remember, in 2006, I got two calls from the company, the second “a very brief public opinion survey on some very interesting issues in Brooklyn.”
...

Why now?

It could be that FCR is simply trying to gauge public opinion in anticipation, for example, of the its next phase of p.r. statements regarding the project.

It could be that FCR is trying to help candidates such as Mark Pollard, who's challenging incumbent state Senator Velmanette Montgomery, an Atlantic Yards opponent (though the big backing for Pollard in that race comes from charter school proponents).

After all, in one 2006 call, I was asked some general questions, but most focused on the race between last-minute challenger Tracy Boyland and Montgomery.

Or maybe it's another client with another motive.

article

NoLandGrab:

DoesFCRequalPCR.jpg

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, More Annoying Atlantic Yards Phone Polling

One would think that 30 years of construction and massive parking lots would be enough of an imposition on Brooklynites. But no!

Someone (Ratner, Barclays, an unknown) is polling Brooklynites on Ratner's Atlantic Yards to tap and shape public opinion.

Posted by eric at 10:31 AM

July 23, 2010

Carl Paladino: I'd Use Eminent Domain To Block Ground Zero Mosque

NY Daily News
by Celeste Katz

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has dreamed up a novel new use for eminent domain: religious bigotry!

If elected governor, WNY's Carl Paladino vows in a new radio ad that he'd use the eminent domain laws to stop the construction of a controversial Islamic center/mosque near Ground Zero.

(I'm not sure he could actually do that, by the way, but I'm looking into it.)

It's New York State. You can use eminent domain for anything, as long as you're rich and powerful enough to get away with it. Just ask Bruce Ratner.

Paladino says sure he can, and instead of a mosque, the site should be a war memorial.
...

It's notable from a political standpoint that Paladino is going after Cuomo here, leaving out that other Republican guy who wants to be governor, Rick Lazio.

Cuomo and Lazio have tangled on the topic, with Lazio doing most of the tangling.

Lazio spokesman Barney Keller replied to my inquiry about Paladino: “Since Rick Lazio called on Andrew Cuomo to do his job several weeks ago and look into the funding stream of the Cordoba Mosque voices of opposition have emerged from coast to coast.”

Also weighing in on this one: Libertarian gubernatorial hopeful Warren Redlich, who's dumping on the "knee-jerk" Paladino idea as a "plan to waste money and abuse property rights through eminent domain."

article

NoLandGrab: We had to look it up, too — "WNY" stands for "Western New York," not "Wing Nut Yokel."

Posted by eric at 11:20 AM

July 22, 2010

DSCC consultant Lowe, connected to Sampson and Ratner (and Boyland's challenge to Montgomery), racks up the bucks

Atlantic Yards Report

State Senate leader John Sampson involved in sleazy dealings? Who knew?

From an article in City Hall News headlined Largely Unknown DSCC Consultant Cleared $300k In Last Year:

The Democratic State Senate Committee and Conference Leader John Sampson have spent over $300,000 with two companies run by the same consultant, a shadowy operative named Melvin Lowe who had worked on only a few campaigns prior to being brought on in the wake of the Senate coup last year.

...Several people familiar with the DSCC and Lowe have expressed mystification at what his position entails to justify being paid this sum, and the DSCC itself declined to provide details.

Lowe, who was brought on to provide oversight for the DSCC, is the principal of both Prestige Strategic Communications and G&L Consulting, which, as reported on Wednesday by Liz Benjamin on the State of Politics blog, share an address at 350 West 110th Street...

Before the massive influx of money to the campaigns in the last 12 months, Lowe had retained only a handful of clients... $16,000 paid to him by former Council Member Tracy Boyland in her 2006 race against State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery that was paid to Prestige...

Immediately before starting with Sampson and the DSCC, Lowe was a lobbyist for Forest City Ratner Companies, helping lobby on behalf of the Atlantic Yards. While at that job, Lowe got involved in the Ridge Hill development in Yonkers and is among the people mentioned in subpoenas that came out of the local U.S. Attorney’s office related to the passage of that project.

Here's brief coverage from 8/31/09 about Lowe's DSCC hiring, his role in Ridge Hill, and reports of consulting work regarding Atlantic Yards.
...

The Boyland connection

News to me from the City Hall News story: Lowe was paid by Boyland's campaign. That reinforces suspicions that Boyland's shadowy run was connected to Ratner.

Remember, Boyland used the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that FCR uses for its deceptive Atlantic Yards mailers and Boyland told the Brooklyn Papers that she's friends with FCR's Bruce Bender, a former top City Council aide.

article

Posted by eric at 11:05 AM

July 14, 2010

Virtually ignored by the Charter Commission report: a strong mayor, weak Borough Presidents, and the fact that there's "no real local government"

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder files another report on the review of New York City's Charter.

The news from the city's Charter Revision Commission is that a vote on term limits (and maybe Instant Runoff Voting) are apparently on the agenda, but more substantive change, regarding issues like more public input into land use and expanded power of Borough Presidents, is not.

That's plausible, given the tight schedule to get measures on the November ballot, but the commission's staff report was dismissively brief, ignoring many legitimate criticisms posed by the Borough Presidents and others.

As the Staten Island Advance reported yesterday, that ticked off one Commission member:

"The fact the conversation on borough presidents and community boards warrants maybe two paragraphs, to me is utterly disrespectful to the communities," said Carlo A. Scissura, who is chief of staff to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Almost as disrespectful as the sham Atlantic Yards "process" that his boss so heartily embraced.

The fundamental problem

The failure to address the BPs' concerns reflects a larger issue, one that doesn't get traction in the Commission report, and one that explains the hundred successful rezonings under Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his ability to get agencies to march in lockstep to support projects like Atlantic Yards.

"The fundamental principle in this city is that there’s no real local government," suggested Gerald Benjamin, a professor at SUNY New Paltz, speaking at a June 10 hearing of the Commission.

article

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

July 13, 2010

Charter Panel's Narrow Scope Stirs Concerns

When the Charter Revision Commission meets Monday night, it will weigh its staff's recommendations against advocates' calls for a wider vision.

City Limits
by Jarrett Murphy

The site of the Atlantic Yards development, the biggest land use battle in recent memory. Advocates and developers both want changes to the city's land use process, but the staff of the Charter Revision Commission has recommended that those questions be put off to a later day.

link

Photo: Marc Fader/City Limits

Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

July 10, 2010

Charter Revision Commission: term limits, instant runoff voting on agenda, but not land use or the power of Borough Presidents and Community Boards

Atlantic Yards Report

The City's Charter Revision Commission has held some interesting (and undercovered) hearings on issues like land use and the power of Borough Presidents and Community Boards, but it doesn't look like those complex topics are going to make it to the ballot this November.

Far more likely are term limits and instant runoff voting (IRV); the latter would be especially welcome to allow voters to rank their preferences in multi-candidate races.

It makes sense that issues like land use deserve more time and discussion; I'll have reports this coming week on some of the testimony.

link

Posted by steve at 8:50 AM

July 5, 2010

Carl Kruger, already under investigation, now has Post looking at his questionable campaign spending

Atlantic Yards Report

After news surfaced of a federal corruption investigation involving Brooklyn state Senator Carl Kruger--an aggressively unabashed supporter of Atlantic Yards, and recipient of Forest City Ratner-related campaign contributions--now the New York Post is following up with a close look at his campaign spending.

In Senate's biggest 'waste' Probed pol a lavish campaign spender, the Post reported yesterday:

The state Senate's top fat cat lives like a king off his campaign cash, tapping donations to pay for his meals, car, hotel rooms, phone, computers -- even flowers, candy and iTunes, records show.

While Dick Dadey, executive director of the government watchdog Citizens Union, called for a criminal investigation, he acknowledged that lax state laws provide a lot of leeway: "He's abusing the law, even if he's not necessarily violating it."

(The article came with a requisite ambush photo of Kruger.)
...

Today, in Probed pol's bizarre money trail, the Post followed up:

Embattled Brooklyn state Sen. Carl Kruger last year tapped his campaign fund for $10,500 in payments to an obscure New Jersey company that operates out of a private home and communicates via post-office box, The Post has learned.

The payments went to Reliable Repair Inc., a Fair Lawn, NJ, firm the Democratic lawmaker said was hired to install air conditioning and heating systems at his district office.

...Reached by phone to answer questions about work done for Kruger, Mark Yanishevsky, named as Reliable Repair's vice president, asked: "Why are you trying to blackmail me? How did you find me?"

What if the Post looked into the equally suspicious Pacific Crest Research?

link

NoLandGrab: Does Kruger look guilty? You decide.

Posted by eric at 10:17 AM

July 4, 2010

Hakeem Jeffries returns for summer "office hours" at subway stops; ask him about AY and the vague governance bill

Atlantic Yards Report

Beginning Wednesday, July 7, for the fourth straight year, central Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will host his “Summer at the Subway” evening office hours (schedule below) at subway stops in his 57th District.

Jeffries and staff members will visit stops in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhoods.

...

Jeffries' web site highlights the following issues, all surely less controversial in his district than Atlantic Yards:

  • employment of housing authority residents, as per federal law
  • counting prisoners in their home counties rather than the location of the prison
  • keeping personal information out of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk
    database
  • the conversion of vacant luxury apartments into affordable housing

...

Note that Atlantic Yards is not a priority, perhaps because Jeffries--who's long taken a cautious position on the project--doesn't think he can do that much about it and perhaps because it's an issue on which his constituents are divided, and resigned.

...

He has pushed to ensure that 200 of the planned 1930 condos on site are subsidized, but we haven't heard much about that lately.

And he has sponsored a new version of a bill to establish a governance entity for Atlantic Yards, a bill that the Empire State Development Corporation happens to support.

Given the ESDC's resistance to oversight, that's a bit of a red flag.

Jeffries acknowledged that, "The bill, as written, still requires significant negotiation between elected officials, community leaders and ESDC as to the precise nature of the governance structure moving forward."

Which means that, unless it's written into the legislation, the governance entity could be toothless. It's worth some questions for Jeffries.

Click on the link to see where and when Assemblyman Jeffries will be holding his evening office hours.

link

Posted by steve at 9:16 AM

June 28, 2010

THE GATEWAY (WARNING: INCLUDES ACTUAL BREAKING POLITICAL NEWS)

Gatemouth's Blog [Room Eight]

WOW! You Heard It Here First Department:

Supposedly Purer Than Thou anti-development, anti-establishment, Doug Biviano is circulating joint nominating petitions with Mark Pollard, the pro-development shill Bruce Ratner is running against State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

Does this make Biviano Ratner's means of punishing Joan Millman?

link

Posted by eric at 10:22 AM

June 27, 2010

Federal corruption investigation reportedly involves Senator Carl Kruger, whose attorney says he's "not a target"

Atlantic Yards Report

Southern Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger, he of the big political war chest and questionable allegiances (e.g., the "Three Amigos" insurrection in Albany), has long carried Forest City Ratner's water on Atlantic Yards.

And while a reported federal corruption investigation of Kruger does not apparently touch on Atlantic Yards, it suggests some more dubious behavior on the part of the Senator--though parties involved say that's not so.

...

Who can forget how, at a 5/29/09 oversight hearing, he criticized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for "foot-dragging in developing a dialogue” that could advance the project and also cited the MTA's “apparent refusal to move forward on a project that is critical to New York City’s economic future.”

Kruger represents another district tied to the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, , part of the southern Brooklyn zone from which Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender sprung (as noted by Matthew Schuerman in the Observer).

Kruger endorsed the $6 billion lie; he received $4000 from Bruce Ratner's brother and sister-in-law; and, though a Democrat, he campaigned for Republican Martin Golden in return for new district boundaries that protected his seat, as recounted by Seymour Lachman in Three Men in a Room.

link

Posted by steve at 8:00 AM

June 26, 2010

Catching up on AY-related campaign contributions to Andrew Cuomo, and reasons to expect little reform when it comes to developers

Atlantic Yards Report

As with Attorney General-turned-Governor Eliot Spitzer, it's unwise to expect Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the gubernatorial front-runner, to enact fundamental reforms when it comes to developers.

The campaign finance system is just too entrenched.

And while Cuomo has said nothing about Atlantic Yards, and taken campaign contributions from those associated with the project, he--assuming he's elected--would have a significant role in overseeing the project via the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and the proposed (and yet undesigned) governance entity.

His lengthy campaign platform does not discuss reform of the ESDC when it comes to projects like Atlantic Yards. Nor does it address reforms regarding eminent domain, even though New York is an outlier among states that have tightened their laws in the last five years.

Even without following the advice of libertarians like the Institute for Justice, Cuomo might conclude that cases like that regarding the expansion of Columbia University show that the eminent domain system needs a second look.

Attorney General Cuomo sat on his hands for Atlantic Yards.

As Attorney General, Cuomo has remained singularly uninterested in Atlantic Yards. State Senator Bill Perkins last December asked Cuomo for a written opinion regarding the Atlantic Yards bond deal, focusing on the absence of a PACB review.

As far as I know, no formal response was issued.

link

Posted by steve at 8:13 AM

Brooklyn Senator a Focus of Federal Corruption Inquiry

The New York Times
By Danny Hakim and A.G. Sulzberger

Atlantic Yards booster, Carl Kruger, is the object a corruption investigation. Kruger comes out of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, which also produced Bruce Bender, aide to developer Bruce Ratner.

Federal investigators are examining whether Senator Carl Kruger, one of the State Legislature’s most powerful members, sought campaign contributions in exchange for political favors, according to court filings and people briefed on the case.

Mr. Kruger, a Democrat from Brooklyn who has amassed the Senate’s largest campaign account, declined to comment on the investigation.

But a Senate Democratic spokesman confirmed Friday that the F.B.I. and the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn were reviewing allegations that Mr. Kruger helped businessmen with bureaucratic hurdles, with the expectation that they would hold fund-raisers for him.

link

Posted by steve at 7:49 AM

June 24, 2010

Cuomo Accepts Millions From Interests He Assails

The New York Times
by Serge F. Kovaleski and Griffin Palmer

The more things change, the more Albany remains a nest of dysfunctional sleazeballs.

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, declaring his candidacy for governor of New York, could not have been clearer.

“The influence of lobbyists and their special interests must be drastically reduced with new contribution limits,” Mr. Cuomo said last month. “We will be taking on very powerful special interests which have much to lose. We must change systems and cultures long in the making.”

But as he delivered his announcement, Mr. Cuomo was sitting on millions in campaign cash from the very special interests whose influence he said he wanted to limit.

One of those "special" interests was none other than Bruce C. Ratner, who gave Mr. Cuomo a nice $5,000 "gift."

An analysis by The New York Times shows that of the estimated $7.1 million that the Cuomo campaign has received from political action committees, associations, limited liability corporations and other entities, more than half has come from the biggest players in Albany: organized labor, the real estate and related industries like construction, the health care sector and lobbying firms.
...

The donations underscore the awkwardness of Mr. Cuomo’s effort to run against Albany and its insiders at the same time he is benefiting from their largess and, in some cases, his long relationships with them. He drew a similar proportion of his campaign money from special interests in his failed 2002 campaign for governor and his 2006 bid for attorney general.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, declined repeated requests to be interviewed for this article.
...

Kenneth L. Shapiro, managing partner of the Albany office of the law firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker L.L.P., is also not put off by Mr. Cuomo’s remarks.
...

A political action committee of Mr. Shapiro’s firm and the partnership itself — whose clients have included the Atlantic Yards Development Company, Consolidated Edison, the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association and numerous hospitals — has contributed about $59,200 to the Cuomo campaign.

article

NoLandGrab: Of course, The New York Times is one to talk.

Posted by eric at 9:41 AM

June 20, 2010

The Aqueduct racino deal: AEG deal seen as unethical but not illegal; Sampson-Andrews leak provokes more controversy; bonus: AY/AEG parallels

Atlantic Yards Report

The scandals keep coming from the state's attempt to award the contract for a Racino video casino at Aqueduct Raceway. Those following the Atlantic Yards fight might wonder why this particular story is getting so much play in New York papers, while the MTA's decision to award rights to the Vanderbilt Yard to developer Bruce Ratner 18 months before issuing an RFP in 2005 was largely ignored.

Is it really surprising that some of the cast of characters for the Racino scandal also show up in Atlantic Yards dealings? Amongst those making an appearance are Senate Democratic leader John Sampson and Carl Andrews, a lobbyist for Aqueduct Entertainment Group (one of the parties vying for the contract).

Andrews famously asked a Forest City Ratner representative, "What are you going to do for my support?" a question a former staffer apparently interpreted as a request without civic betterment at its heart.

A fundraiser for Sampson was held last October at Forest City Ratner's MetroTech offices.

Rap entrepreneur Jay-Z, who has a small piece of the Nets, had a small piece of the AEG deal before he dropped out.

Shady minority contracting consultant Darryl Greene, source of much controversy in the AEG deal, exited that deal but has received little flak for his role in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

link

Posted by steve at 7:17 AM

June 19, 2010

Should the Public Advocate be in charge of overseeing CBAs? Or is some more general oversight needed?

Atlantic Yards Report

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has issued several proposals for reforms of the City Charter, and a couple involve oversight of Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs).

(He believes that the Charter Revision Commission should only place questions regarding term limits on the 2010 ballot, and to reserve action on all other issues until 2012.)

His proposals include:

• Increasing disclosure by making more government operations and decision-making available online including capital and discretionary funding requests, Requests For Proposals, Community Benefits Agreements, the responsiveness of City agencies to Freedom of Information Law requests, lobbyists visits, and other aspects of City government;

• Granting subpoena power to the Public Advocate’s office to strengthen its oversight role and empowering the office to track compliance with Community Benefits Agreements;

It certainly makes sense to put all CBAs--at least those in which the government is involved--online.

But empowering the Public Advocate to track CBA compliance is hardly a reform to inspire confidence, considering de Blasio's failure to do due diligence on Atlantic Yards and its CBA.

link

Posted by steve at 8:27 AM

June 5, 2010

That new office to monitor public authorities? Hamstrung by funding shortfall

Atlantic Yards Report

Remember the big battle last year to get the state legislature to reform the state's myriad public authorities?

In Manhattan Media's The Capitol newspaper, a 5/10/10 article headlined New Authorities Budget Office Could Be Swept Away By Lack Of Funding explains:

When Gov. David Paterson signed a bill last December to regulate the state’s 700-plus public authorities, the legislation was hailed as one of Albany’s most significant reforms in decades—the beginning of the end for the state’s “Soviet-style bureaucracies” that have amassed $45 billion in public debt.

The centerpiece of the dense 25-page bill was the creation of the Independent Authorities Budget Office, which replaced a similarly named office that had existed with limited scope and responsibility since 2006. The new office was given a host of new powers—such as the ability to issue subpoenas and remove authorities’ board member. It also was given a number of responsibilities, including the ability to audit authorities for potential financial abuses, oversight of new lobbying regulations for authority board members and regulation of the sale of authority land, among others.

But the office appears to have so far fallen victim to the same budget woes that it was supposed to help alleviate.

The office had seven employees before the law took effect March 1, and is supposed to go to 11 under Gov. David Paterson's budget, even though, when the bill was "first being seriously considered," it was supposed to have at least 25.

So here's where they're at:

With its resources limited, the office had not launched a new review of any public authority’s operations since the law was passed in March, said the office’s director, David Kidera.

link

NoLandGrab: The mostly unaccountable public authorities (including the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, the ESDC) are responsible for running up most of the state's debt, yet an agency designed to reign them in is endangered due to cost-cutting.

Posted by steve at 8:41 AM

May 29, 2010

Noticing New York's White puts the AG candidates on the spot re Atlantic Yards; Brodsky's in high dudgeon over suggestion he went easy on AY

Atlantic Yards Report

In Touchstone For Whether There Will Be Change In Albany: Attorney General Candidates on Atlantic Yards and Eminent Domain, Michael D.D. White offers a long but important-to-read post. The summary:

The good news with respect to the possibility of change is that at least two of the candidates for state Attorney General (the Erics) think that the job of Attorney General should entail actions designed to stop Atlantic Yards dead in its tracks. That includes, in the case of state senator Eric T. Schneiderman, investigation of likely violations of law and, in the case of former state insurance superintendent Eric R. Dinallo, use of the Attorney General’s power to issue opinions and rulings to make clear that the law is not being properly interpreted when eminent domain is abused by state officials. (We will be quoting both at length further on.)

The bad news is that if the Erics are correct and that addressing these Atlantic Yards abuses should be part of the Attorney General’s job (or at least within the AG’s discretion), none of the current AG candidates are willing to say that it is improper for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, the current holder of the AG position, to be taking campaign money from Forest City Ratner, the mega-project’s developer. That this is not improper notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Cuomo has been asked to investigate Atlantic Yards and issue rulings on the conduct by the public authorities facilitating it. That it is not improper notwithstanding the questions that lurk: Is Mr. Cuomo taking action on Atlantic Yards and is Mr. Cuomo taking appropriate action?

Atlantic Yards as "Superlative Touchstone"

White calls Atlantic Yards "the superlative touchstone to detect for true reform-mindedness," comparing it to Yankee Stadium, the Aqueduct "racino," the destruction of the Coney Island amusement area, Willets Point, Columbia University's expansion, and putting it in the context of public authority reform and campaign finance, state ethics and lobbying reform.

He notes that, while Cuomo has given back some campaign contributions, he's failed to return a contribution from Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, nor has he issued some publicly requested opinions on AY.

article

Posted by eric at 11:02 AM

Touchstone For Whether There Will Be Change In Albany: Attorney General Candidates on Atlantic Yards and Eminent Domain

Noticing New York

Might we get actual, honest-to-God change in Albany this November? Who needs tea leaves when we have Atlantic Yards.

Are things in Albany about to change? We are in the middle of an election cycle where we will see turnover in all the important offices. Notwithstanding that all the candidates will be talking about reform, is change and reform what we will get in the end or will we just get be more of the same, a continuing lack of transparency, pay-to-play political contributions, and the same old mire of tangled political relationships that separate us form proceeding directly to the reforms that need to implemented?

Do we really need to remind our readers that in the last election cycle, just four years ago, the candidates Eliot Spitzer, Alan Hevesi, David Paterson, also all ran on the platform of reform? Because of scandal one of those candidates, Alan Hevesi, never took office as state Comptroller, Eliot Spitzer soon resigned from the governorship in scandal and David Paterson who succeeded Spitzer is now enmeshed in is own crippling scandals that would likely remove him from office were he not so close to the end of his term and were the public not already so utterly exhausted by the scandal-driven midterm turnovers to date.

Touchstones and Stepping Stones

Are things in Albany about to change? We think we can furnish some insight. We arrive at the perceptions we can offer by use of the singular touchstone reference which we think cuts through obfuscation and the political posture and pretense like a hot knife through butter: Atlantic Yards. We apply our test to a race for a state office which itself can serve as a touchstone, the race for New York State Attorney General. That race is a touchstone not only because of how key the office is itself, but also because it is now being vacated by Andrew Cuomo, the perceived front runner in the race for Governor, the highest office in the state, who like his predecessor, the disgraced Eliot Spitzer, has been able to use the AG’s office as the penultimate stepping stone to the highest state office.
...

Think of anything going on the state that is objectionable to reformers and Atlantic Yards trumps it by several shades of darkness.

article

Posted by eric at 10:44 AM

May 27, 2010

Green Party Nominates Clark and Lawrence for US Senate

Via NewsChannel34.com (Binghamton, NY)

New York's Green Party has nominated its candidates for statewide office, and among them is local activist Gloria Mattera, a stalwart of the fight to stop Atlantic Yards, who's running for Lieutenant Governor.

From Green Party of New York State:

The Green Party state convention in Albany last weekend nominated a full slate of candidates for statewide office in New York this November.

Gloria Mattera, a long time peace activist from Brooklyn was nominated to run for Lt. Governor on a ticket with Syracuse labor activist Howie Hawkins (www.howiehawkins.org).
...

In 2005, Mattera challenged incumbent Marty Markowitz for Brooklyn Borough President, after he enraged local communities by championing the use of eminent domain to seize homes for the benefit of private developer Bruce Ratner’s professional basketball arena and a multiple high-rise tower project. Mattera advocated human scale development driven by community specific needs that promoted sustainability and offered truly affordable housing.
...

Mattera is a long time Executive Board member of Physicians for A National Health Program NY Metro Chapter and on the steering committee of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

article

Posted by eric at 10:40 PM

May 25, 2010

How about that under-the-radar Charter Revision Commission? Hearing Tuesday in Brooklyn takes on term limits

Atlantic Yards Report

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who spends an inordinate amount of time sending out press releases commenting on every possible matter of public interest (except one), is doing something useful: casting light on the shadowy efforts by the New York City Charter Revision Commission to amend the charter regarding issues like term limits, land use, and public integrity.

There's no small self-interest, as well; Mayor Mike Bloomberg wants the commission to examine whether the Public Advocate's office should be abolished.

Hearing on term limits

On Tuesday at 6 pm, the commission will hold a hearing on term limits at Brooklyn Borough Hall. It will be webcast live. Three nationally recognized experts will testify and those wishing to testify can begin signing up one half-hour prior to the start of the forum.

The hearing on land use will be Thursday, June 24, in Flushing, Queens.

article

Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

On the Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday: Marty Markowitz and "Your Anecdotal Census"

Atlantic Yards Report

As part of the program’s ongoing Census coverage, WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show presents YOUR ANECDOTAL CENSUS–a county-by-county look at the stories emerging from each neighborhood in 2010. The series debuted earlier this month, and continues each Tuesday at 11 am through September.

Tomorrow today the subject is Brooklyn. Among the guests: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Anecdotes welcomed

Listeners have been asked how the world around them has changed in the past decade. One of the more interesting comments already posted:

Jacqueline Woodson from Park Slope, Brooklyn

I think I am one of a shrinking number of African American recent homebuyers in Park Slope. We bought our house in 2002 when my daughter was 10 months old. I had lived as a renter in the neighborhood for many years before that and have watched the neighborhood go from being racially and economically diverse (as well as having a large number of queer people living here) to being a predominantly white, wealthy, straight neighborhood. It saddens me to see this change. Saddens me that my daughter (and now young son) aren't growing up in a neighborhood where they see their worlds constantly reflected back at them. I find myself thinking about organization IJack & Jill -- started so that African American children could meet other children of color. Who ever thought there would be a need in Brooklyn? But the children of color on our own block can be counted on one hand. Our mixed race gay family is a rarity in the neighborhood and when my partner and I walk through the neighborhood holding hands now, we get stares we wouldn't have imagined ten years ago.

link

Posted by eric at 9:14 AM

May 24, 2010

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth? An Examination of Brooklyn Bridge Park in Terms of the Politics of Development

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White publishes an epic three-part look at the politics of development in New York City, viewed through the prism of Brooklyn Bridge Park. It touches only tangentially on Atlantic Yards, but the delays in construction of the park conjure scary visions of a 50-year buildout in Prospect Heights.

This three-part article, which is principally about the new Brooklyn Bridge Park currently under development, wends a long, more serpentine path through the politics of New York City development than perhaps any other we have written. As you would expect, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's appearance is much more than a cameo. We don’t offer him praise.

Inevitably the metaphor of looking a gift horse in the mouth comes to mind when we contemplate the spectacular change to the city’s waterfront that will one day be Brooklyn Bridge Park. Whatever our government agencies ultimately do, the park will provide desirable benefits that will be extremely hard to complain about. But not conscientiously examining “gifts” that government officials deliver just doesn’t work in the political environment of New York. Besides Brooklyn Bridge Park is not truly a gift; it is something that community activists worked for years to obtain. Our elected representatives are, after all, supposed to be working for us. It is their job to properly administer our available public resources. Whether they are doing so requires a conscientious examination. We hope you will find that conscientious examination takes us on an interesting and worthwhile trip.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Posted by eric at 10:59 AM

May 23, 2010

How Lieber fills Doctoroff's shoes

Crain's (requires subscription)
By Greg David

This article on current Deputy Mayor Bob Lieber discusses predecessor Dan Doctoroff's legacy including Doctroff's participation in the Atlantic Yards project.

Mr. Doctoroff was the passion behind the effort to first build a stadium on the far West Side and then rezone the area for a new commercial and residential neighborhood. He led the rezoning of Greenpoint-Williamsburg, made the deals for the new baseball stadiums, and behind the scenes pushed through approval of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn.

The article concludes with this assessment of Lieber:

In the end, he will be known for completing the agenda. It will always be called the Doctoroff era, and the final grade will depend on whether those projects survive the recession and live up to their promise.

link

NoLandGrab: With promises of jobs, affordable housing and tax revenues greatly diminished or evaporating and a completion date some 25 years hence, Atlantic Yards is well on target towards failure.

Posted by steve at 9:05 AM

May 21, 2010

Vote On Charter Schools Questioned, Sen. Montgomery Gets A Challenger

City Hall
by Andre Tartar

Trial attorney and law professor Mark Pollard is preparing to mount a campaign to unseat 13-term State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, whose 18th senatorial district covers much of central Brooklyn.

Pollard is positioning himself as an upstart outsider, though that hardly seems the case. What kind of grassroots candidate takes his cues from "party bosses."

This is not Pollard’s first foray into politics. In 1997, he considered running for City Council, but dropped out because he says party bosses told him to wait his turn. Last year, he was angling to take a run for the seat held by his former boss Al Vann, until the term limits extension allowed for Vann’s re-election.

“Velmanette Montgomery is no Al Vann,” Pollard said, explaining why he finally pulled the trigger.
...

Pollard also hopes to win the support of Assembly member Bill Boynard and trade unions alienated by Montgomery’s opposition to the Atlantic Yards development.

But so far, most of the political establishment is backing Montgomery. Although Pollard used to work for Al Vann, the Council member is backing Montgomery, saying in a statement to City Hall that, “I think it is unwise for someone with no track record to run against her.”

Council Member Letitia James, whose district overlaps Montgomery’s and is also an Atlantic Yards opponent, is likewise backing Montgomery.

“She’s been my mentor and is arguably one of the most progressive voices in the State Senate,” James said. “I’m confident she will win re-election.”

article

NoLandGrab: Pollard is right about one thing — Velmanette Montgomery is no Al Vann, and thank goodness for that. She's been a staunch opponent of Atlantic Yards, and, as Tish James points out, a progressive voice in the ass-backwards NY State Senate.

Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

May 20, 2010

Run, Dennis, run? ESDC Chairman Mullen, a Republican, said to be tapped to run for governor (but ESDC says no)

Atlantic Yard Report

Capitol Tonight's Liz Benjamin wrote today, in a piece headlined Source: Cox Approached ESDC Chair To Run For Gov:

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox is so worried about party-flipping Suffolk County Steve Levy’s chances of getting on the ballot at the party’s upcoming convention that he has been actively recruiting a fourth gubernatorial candidate, multiple sources confirm.

Less than one month ago, Cox approached Dennis Mullen, a Rochester businessman who was confirmed by the Senate last week as ESDC chairman, to sound him out about potentially running, according to a source with direct knowledge of the conversation.

State GOP spokesman Alex Carey told Benjamin the two spoke but didn't discuss a gubernatorial run, and ESDC spokesman Warner Johnston said "Mullen’s number one priority is his work as the leader of New York State’s economic development agency" and "has no plans to seek elected office."

What if? Mullen would move AY

Well, that sounds definitive. But a Mullen governorship--he'd have to get the nomination and then beat Andrew Cuomo, which is a tall order--might prove interesting for the Atlantic Yards project.

After all, at an ESDC meeting March 26, Mullen joked that Atlantic Yards is "a project that I would like to move off our portfolio."

link

NoLandGrab: Uh, desperate much, NYS Republican Party? With the fine fettle in which Democratic rule has placed us, this is the best you can do?

Posted by eric at 10:46 PM

May 11, 2010

De Blasio: Eminent Domain Is Needed

GlobeSt.com
by Ian Ritter

NYC Public Advobdicate Bill de Blasio has apparently forgotten that the only need for eminent domain in the Atlantic Yards footprint is to clear the way for a basketball arena.

Certain projects that provide affordable housing to residents here are in the best interest of the city and require the need for eminent domain, said Bill de Blasio, New York City’s public advocate, speaking at a breakfast put on by non-profit association ABNY. He specifically pointed to the controversial mixed-use Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn being built by developer Bruce Ratner, which bought out a number of residences and building in the area and was the center of a contentious legal battle.

“I do think there’s a place for eminent domain,” de Blasio said, explaining that he is a “pro development progressive.” “When appropriate you do maximize height and density to maximize affordable housing.”

article

NoLandGrab: The "non-profit" ABNY is run by a real estate magnate, with assistance from a former senior advisor to the chairman and CEO of the Empire State Development Corporation and ex-flack for stellar governors Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson. De Blasio, no doubt, is starting to line up donors for his 2013 run for mayor.

Related coverage...

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Developers' Advocate Bill de Blasio: Eminent Domain Was Needed for Atlantic Yards Housing

A "pro-development progressive" would realize that Atlantic Yards and the use of eminent domain for it, is all about the developer's profit.
...

Worse is this: affordable housing could be accomplished over the Vanderbilt Rail Yards in a high density and highrise community without the use of eminent domain at all. And when eminent domain is continuously used for private benefit, the eventual backlash will be such that it will be difficult to use it when it is actually crucial for a public purpose.

Atlantic Yards Report, Public Advocate de Blasio defends eminent domain for Atlantic Yards; he's apparently forgotten his "no more subsidies" position

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who issues daily press releases but did not see fit to attend or comment on the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking in March, now concludes he's happy with the project, at least according to a speech before the business-friendly Association for a Better New York (ABNY).
...

No more subsidies?

During the campaign last August, de Blasio said in a debate, "But no more subsidies. That project has gotten all the subsidy it deserves. And they either have to figure out a way to make it work or we should pull the plug."

As I wrote, de Blasio came a little late to "no more subsidies," given his silence when the developer gained more than $100 million by renegotiating the Vanderbilt Yard deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Beyond that, when the Empire State Development Corporation a few weeks later announced new concessions to developer Forest City Ratner, de Blasio was silent.

Posted by eric at 8:40 PM

May 10, 2010

Harlem group's chaos endangers $76M gift

'The appearance of impropriety, favoritism or conflict . . . could harm [West Harlem] as a whole.'

NY Post
by Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein

You'll never believe this, but another "Community Benefits Agreement" appears to be failing to benefit the community.

A $76 million windfall intended to help Harlem residents is in limbo -- and may never be paid -- because the politician-backed nonprofit in charge of distributing the money is in disarray, The Post has learned.

Although it formed four years ago, the West Harlem Local Development Corp. lacks a mission statement, has yet to get tax-exempt status from the IRS and doesn't even have a phone number.

The group already has received $500,000 from Columbia University -- part of a 16-year payout designed to assuage community fears over the school's expansion -- yet hasn't spent a cent on the neighborhood.

At least five people have quit the nonprofit, alleging that it was becoming a "slush fund" for Manhattan politicians.

The delay "threatens to undermine" the agreement and leave Harlem with nothing, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer charged in a scathing letter to the group.

article

NoLandGrab: Pot, meet kettle. Stringer was instrumental in setting up the LDC, which undermined community opposition to Columbia's landgrab.

Posted by eric at 11:44 AM

May 4, 2010

Brodsky gains Assembly Speaker Silver's endorsement in Attorney General race; was quiet about Atlantic Yards a factor?

Atlantic Yards Report

Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, known for pursuit of public authorities reform and criticism of the Yankee Stadium deal (but not the similar Atlantic Yards deal), has won a key endorsement in the hard-fought race for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.

Today Brodsky announced support from four Manhattan Assembly Members and, notably, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who said, "I'm proud of the way Richard has taken on difficult and controversial matters, and changed the outcomes. We can elect statewide leaders who know how to build coalitions and fix problems. He'll be a great Attorney General."

As I've written, it's widely believed that Brodsky didn't push on Atlantic Yards (despite occasional swipes at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty) so as to not offend Silver.

Also in the race

Those also in the race include state Senator Eric Schneiderman (endorsed by the state’s largest labor union, 1199/SEIU, not to mention Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz), former New York insurance superintendent Eric Dinallo; former U.S. Representative Liz Holtzman; Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice; and attorney Sean Coffey.

The incumbent, Andrew Cuomo, is widely expected to run for governor.

link

NoLandGrab: How does one choose between candidates endorsed by Shelly Silver and Marty Markowitz? By opting for "none of the above." Meanwhile, Cuomo has already accepted a nice fat contribution from Bruce C. Ratner.

Posted by eric at 7:39 PM

April 30, 2010

Schumer Says Atlantic Yards Area Is Not Blighted. Doesn’t See AY As A Ratner Mega-Monopoly, But Could His Support Wane?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White recounts a conversation with Chuck Schumer, and wonders if the Senator's support for Atlantic Yards isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Among other things, we discussed whether the no-bid Atlantic Yards effectively leverages the housing subsidies it is getting. Supplying the Senator with documentation that Atlantic Yards is not leveraging its housing subsides effectively could conceivably get the Senator to withdraw his support for the project if it is provided in a manner so as to be sufficiently incontrovertible. Such documentation, however, is already available and we are not overly sanguine about politicians, Schumer included, paying attention to facts over politics and campaign contributions when it comes to Atlantic Yards.
...

So might Senator Schumer further reconsider his support of the mega-project? (In fact, is there maybe even an indication of the possibility of ebbing support when he uses the phrase “not as much” saying: "The reason I supported it, and it’s still part of it, not as much but still, is affordable housing.") If there is no “blight” as he assures us he knows there isn’t, then it’s illegal. And as for the inappropriate use of housing subsidy, surely our calculations that there is approximately $638.67 million in housing subsidies involved should convince him that the amount is substantial. Our review of what Ms. Bertha Lewis of ACORN “negotiated” should convince him that the community is really getting virtually nothing in terms of true affordable housing. And the testimony of urban planner Ron Shiffman and Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of the Fifth Avenue Committee, ought to convince that the subsidies can be far better used and leveraged elsewhere.

article

NoLandGrab: Schumer's recent Harry Reid fundraiser, hosted by none other than the Devil himself, would indicate otherwise. Plus, at this point, does Schumer's support — or lack of it — really matter?

Posted by eric at 12:50 PM

April 27, 2010

In City Hall News article, Markowitz credits Chief of Staff Scissura for lowering the heat on AY; remember testimony to MTA?

Atlantic Yards Report

From a City Hall News article headlined The 20 Most Influential Unelecteds: That most New Yorkers Have Never Heard Of:

CARLO SCISSURA

Chief of Staff, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.

...“He said, ‘Here is how budgeting works, here is how to appoint community boards,’” said Brad Lander, the new Council member from Park Slope and one of Scissura’s luncheon companions. “He has a sense of how things work and he is willing to be helpful and share that knowledge.”

Scissura calls himself the “consigliere” to the colorful borough president, and says his job description is simply “everything.”

Markowitz credits him with helping reach out to communities affected by the Atlantic Yards and Domino developments.

“If we aren’t able to get everyone to agree all the time, Carlo is at least able to lower the heat,” Markowitz said. “Plus, I value his judgment. He has a great ability to present all sides of an issue.”

What's missing

Hold on. Scissura's surely an able aide and amiable fellow, but lowering the heat?

Remember his testimony last June before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, channeling Markowitz?

article

NoLandGrab: We always find it charming when unelected pubic officials describe themselves as mobsters. Don't you?

Posted by eric at 10:06 AM

April 17, 2010

Watchdog Role Essential in Tough Times, Says Liu

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

This coverage of a briefing held by City Comptroller John Liu mentions a question of oversight of Atlantic Yards. Liu seems to have some idea of what could be done but is not articulating what that would be.

As far as Brooklyn specifically is concerned, one reporter asked Liu about oversight of the Atlantic Yards Project. Atlantic Yards, said Liu, “goes far beyond land use. … For me the problem is not what benefits [such as the controversial Community Benefits Agreement] have been negotiated, but to ensure that agreements are realized to ensure actual delivery” of jobs and affordable housing.

link

Posted by steve at 8:04 AM

April 7, 2010

Suit: Marty ran the Beep’s office like a frat-house

The Brooklyn Paper
by Stephen Brown

We weren't going to touch this story, thanks to our great willpower, but then former Marty Markowitz Chief of Staff Greg Atkins raised Atlantic Yards in his deposition.

Borough President Markowitz turned his office into a macho frat house featuring sexist jokes, double standards and possible violation of campaign regulations, bombshell court documents revealed this week.

New details about the inner workings of Markowitz’s top staff have emerged from the sex discrimination suit brought by Markowitz’s former communications director, Regina Weiss, which portray a work environment filled with dim-witted chauvinist wisecracks and even “volunteer” work for Markowitz’s re-election campaign.

The descriptions of the goings-on come straight from Markowitz himself, along with former chief of staff, Greg Atkins, in depositions the two took under oath.
...

But one final detail hints at the rampant machismo at Borough Hall. Markowitz’s testosterone-fueled staff was so full of bluster that it even had lengthy internal discussions on how best to pick a fight with The Brooklyn Paper because the Beep had become irked with the paper’s hard-hitting, award-winning coverage of the Atlantic Yards project.

“At a staff level [there were] numerous discussion about how they [The Brooklyn Paper] were going about their … unfair and unbalanced coverage of Atlantic Yards,” Atkins said, adding that the staff discussed cutting off The Paper from the borough president’s regular press releases.

“I was not sure if it was ever agreed upon,” he said. “I certainly wished it.”

Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman declined to comment.

article

NoLandGrab: Wonder what kind of fight they were contemplating picking with NoLandGrab? Go ahead, we dare you to cut us off from your regular press releases. Ouch.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Deposition in lawsuit says Markowitz was upset about Brooklyn Paper's (former) Atlantic Yards coverage

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

March 25, 2010

NYC Comptroller Liu's CBA task force & more to come from the DuBois Bunche Center

Community Benefits Agreements
by Amy Lavine

Last week, New York City Comptroller John Liu announced the formation of his task force on Public Benefit Agreements. (Why he chose the "PBA" nomenclature is unclear.) According to Liu's website, "The Task Force will develop recommendations on best practices and draft a framework for a more effective and equitable process to guide public subsidized economic development projects in the City of New York, including accountability and enforcement mechanisms that would apply when tax dollars, rezonings, and other public resources are used to facilitate private development."
...

One of those three [pro-Atlantic Yards] task force members is Roger Green, the executive director of the DuBois-Bunche Urban Policy Center (and former New York Assembly member). The DBC announced that it will be undertaking its own study of CBAs, which will "review the origins of the various Community Benefits Agreements to determine their effectiveness in enhancing minority business and equal employment opportunities."

link

Posted by eric at 10:13 PM

March 16, 2010

Pols Didn't Want to Be Seen at Ratner's Arena Groundtaking Ceremony

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB follows up on Norman Oder's report this morning on who showed (and who didn't) at last week's Bruce Ratner tent show.

Granted, Ratner had an unelected Governor, a Mayor who bought a third term through a multi-million dollar power grab, and a borough president who rode that power grab's coattails all present and pronouncing science fiction-worthy numbers at his March 11th groundbreakingtaking ceremony.

But who else was there, willing to show their faces under the boondoggle tent?

Six elected officials, all but one representing districts far away from the project site, and all with deep financial and/or political ties to Ratner, his partners (BUILD), and his South Brooklyn political fixer Bruce Bender.

Atlantic Yards, they all claim, is the most important project in Brooklyn, and one of the two most important in all of NYC. So where was Speaker Quinn, Public Advocate de Blasio, Comptroller Liu or any one else from Brooklyn or beyond? (Where was Chuck Schumer, or a single member of the Brooklyn Congressional delegation?)

The poor showing gives the lie to the claimed popularity and importance of the bait and switch project. It also seems to be perhaps the biggest missed story of the day. Until now...

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Posted by eric at 7:08 PM

Deep bench at the groundbreaking? There were only enough Brooklyn elected officials to play three-on-three

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder continues his examination of last week's official groundbreaking.

Yes, Bruce Ratner had the top elected officials from the state, city, and borough behind the Atlantic Yards project, and they happily wielded shovels for the inevitable photo opportunities.

But a deep bench of supporters (to quote the Brooklyn Paper)?

Not if you consider that there were only enough Brooklyn elected officials to play three-on-three, and none of them came from close to the Atlantic Yards site. That has to indicate dismay toward the process, if not the project, a process that bypassed any local elected official.

Among the missing were Assemblyman (and Brooklyn Democratic Chair) Vito Lopez, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Public Advocate (and former Council Member) Bill de Blasio.

And, of course, the representatives of the neighborhoods closest to the site: Council Members Letitia James, Brad Lander, and Steve Levin; Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Brennan, and Joan Millman, and state Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams.

Introductions from Markowitz

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz tummled up a storm introducing these officials, but they were a motley crew, distinguished by no particular ideology but rather connections to Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, receipt of campaign funds, and ties to Ratner-funded groups.

Click through for a rundown on the Atlantic Yards hall of shame.

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Posted by eric at 9:56 AM

March 11, 2010

Paterson still rues Dr. J trade at groundbreaking for new Nets arena

NY Post
By Rich Calder & Bill Sanderson

The Governor who tried to rewrite history in a recent statement placing the final blame for Atlantic Yards on the Court of Appeals cracked wise at today's groundbreaking held at the temporary tent city in Ratnerville:

Dr. J’s departure was "one of the worst days of my life — before I became governor," Paterson cracked at the groundbreaking for the Nets’ new arena in Brooklyn.

The line got a big roar of applause and a standing ovation from the crowd — no doubt a lift for a governor whose approval rating hit 21 percent in a recent Quinnipiac poll.

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NoLandGrab-bed: A 21-percent approval rating isn't bad for a spineless hypocrite — this was the same Paterson who called for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain, before he incidentally became governor.

Posted by lumi at 7:17 PM

Passing the buck: when it comes to Atlantic Yards, elected officials and judges say the other's responsible

Atlantic Yards Report

From state Supreme Court Justice Marcy Friedman's decision yesterday in the case challenging the Empire State Development Corporation's (ESDC) 2009 approval of the Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan:

At this late juncture, petitioners’ redress is a matter for the political will, and not for this court which is constrained, under the limited standard for SEQRA review, to reject petitioners’ challenge.

From Governor David Paterson's statement in response to a question on Tuesday:

"Since the project was already in implementation when I came into office, I waited for the Court of Appeals to make a decision, and they ruled the way they did."

That makes it look like, once Atlantic Yards got started, it had inevitable momentum.

But that's not so. After all, as I noted, it was a pretty "late juncture" when, last year, Forest City Ratner renegotiated deals with the ESDC and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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NoLandGrab: It's comforting to know that New York State's appointed judges and elected unelected officials are equally cowardly.

Posted by eric at 10:30 AM

March 9, 2010

Campaigning for Governor

WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show

Another Republican candidate for Governor, former Congressman Rick Lazio, hems and haws about Atlantic Yards and eminent domain on yesterday's Brian Lehrer Show.

The brief "yes or no" question begins around the 16:20 mark.

Lehrer: "Do you support eminent domain for Atlantic Yards?"

Lazio: "Uh, hffff, uh, I, I, I, I say yes, but a qualified yes, and I need to look at that plan more carefully to make sure that this is being done in a way that is..., that doesn't undermine the historic neighborhood...."

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NoLandGrab: We would hope that after "careful" review, Mr. Lazio's "qualified yes" might become an unqualified no.

Posted by eric at 12:47 PM

Redlich Condemns Atlantic Yards Decision

Redlich for Governor

Libertarian (and Republican) gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich draws a stark contrast with equivocating sitting Governor David Paterson when it comes to Atlantic Yards.

Governor candidate Warren Redlich condemned the latest Atlantic Yards court decision. Justice Abraham Gerges upheld the seizure of homes and businesses so that developer Bruce Ratner can build apartments, office space and a sports arena in Brooklyn.

In Redlich’s view, Atlantic Yards is a symptom of the state’s problems: “Politicians reward and protect insiders, like we keep seeing in the Capitol. Eminent domain can be used, sparingly, when government takes private property for public purposes such as a road. But the Kelo decision and projects like Atlantic Yards grossly abuse eminent domain to benefit private developers connected with political leaders.”

While other states have acted to curb eminent domain abuse, New York’s legislators and governors have done nothing. New York taxpayers fund the violation of property rights in such cases as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and West Harlem in Manhattan, for the benefit of developers. Redlich would amend eminent domain laws to protect property owners.

Redlich also calls for abolishing the involved state agencies, including the Empire State Development Corporation and others. Eliminating “economic development” spending would save approximately $3 billion in the state budget.

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Posted by eric at 12:40 PM

At Borough Hall, Paterson asserts he's making tough decisions, but when it comes to Atlantic Yards, he punts (with video)

Atlantic Yards Report

Speaking at a budget Town Hall meeting yesterday before a friendly audience at Brooklyn, Gov. David Paterson portrayed his administration as making tough decisions, speaking the truth, and maintaining accountability.

However, when he faced a tough question about the Atlantic Yards project, he deferred to the courts, somehow ignoring the fact that, under his watch, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) both approved the project and defended it to the hilt in court.

The video below contains segments edited from Paterson's opening address; an Atlantic Yards question from Council Member Letitia James; an AY question from Noticing New York blogger Michael D.D. White; Paterson's closing remarks; and comments from Dean Street resident Peter Krashes on Paterson's unfulfilled opportunity to create a governance structure for the project.

Norman Oder has much more on the Town Hall meeting via the link.

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Additional coverage...

Courier-Life Publications, Paterson comes to Brooklyn Borough Hall

Embattled Governor David Paterson came to Borough Hall Monday to talk budget, amid continued questions of his alleged misconduct.

Along the way, Paterson appeared to sidestep Atlantic Yards while addressing such issues as a tax on sugary drinks and allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores.

When asked about his support of the $4-plus billion Atlantic Yards including the Barclays Center arena, Paterson noted the project was already in place when he took office.

There has been plenty of debate on both sides of this issue, he said, noting the Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of condemning property for the 22-acre project at the Flatbush/Atlantic Avenue intersection.

“Ten years from now they [proponents of the project] will be right or you’ll be right, but I didn’t want to impose on the court’s decision,” said Paterson.

Runnin' Scared, Paterson's Town Hall -- Some Other Moments of Truth, Or As Close As We Can Get

He took some small flak from council member Tish James about both Atlantic Yards and his proposed soda "fat tax" proposal which she said was "regressive." The governor, seated cross-legged in a wooden chair on a platform, said that the decision on the Yards happened on someone else's watch and that he is now just going along with an appeals court decision on it, one that "surprised him."

So nice they covered it twice?

Runnin' Scared, David Paterson Budget Town Hall: As Pointless As You'd Imagine It To Be

[Councilwoman Letitia James] asked him to fill the budget gap by closing prisons upstate, and by diverting public money from the Atlantic Yards project, which is in her district and which she considers "a waste of taxpayer dollars."
...

When a follow up questioner also asked him why he wasn't fighting to keep the state from paying $2.9 billion towards the Atlantic Yards "boondoggle," Paterson punted to the Court of Appeals, and tried to side-step the issue as something that was in place before he arrived and decided by the courts during his tenure beyond his control.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Paterson, at Borough Hall, Takes Break From Scandal

Several people in the audience criticized the state’s sponsorship of Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, calling it a boondoggle that costs the state $7.3 billion [sic: the state's contribution, while still substantial, would be a fraction of that amount]. They called attention to the fact that Paterson, while a state senator, had made statements critical of the plan.

Paterson replied that, while he realizes that the plan is contentious on both sides, he waited to make any public pronouncement until state Supreme Court Justice Abraham G. Gerges made his ruling. Justice Gerges recently ruled that the state could take the title of land in the Atlantic Yards “footprint” from private landowners.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Paterson, Shirking Responsibility, Tries to Rewrite Atlantic Yards History

Paterson is trying to re-write history. While Atlantic Yards was unveiled and approved under Pataki, a new sweeter-heart deal with the MTA was struck with Ratner under Governor Paterson, and a Modified General Project Plan was introduced and approved under the Paterson Administration. Both of those Paterson actions took place in September 2009.

Posted by eric at 12:05 PM

March 4, 2010

Despite eerie parallels, more outrage over Queens video casino deal than Vanderbilt Yard bids; however, FCR, not AEG, had an 18-month head start

Atlantic Yards Report

In the Battle of the Boroughs, Bruce Ratner's Brooklyn's Boondoggle is still the heavyweight champ.

What's the difference between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) questionable procedure for disposing of the Vanderbilt Yard--the key public property inthe Atlantic Yards project--and the state's recent selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) to run a video casino at Aqueduct Raceway?

Well, there are several similar red flags, and the Vanderbilt Yard deal is clearly more of an outlier regarding one fundamental issue.

But the press and politicians are far more exercised about AEG.

Norman Oder brings us the tale of the tape:

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Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

March 1, 2010

Daily News: Markowitz raises $122K from campaign donors for State of the Borough

Atlantic Yards Report

During Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's State of the Borough address last month came this acknowledgment:

AND FOR MAKING THIS EVENT POSSIBLE TONIGHT, MY DEAR FRIEND AND CAMPAIGN TREASURER FOR MANY YEARS, MIKE WEISS, TREASURER OF “BRAVO BROOKLYN” 2009

The Daily News, which noted that Markowitz's speech lasted an hour and 15 minutes (vs. the 20-minute speech by Queens Borough President Helen Marshall), asked about the cost; a Markowitz spokesman said no numbers were available, but "his campaign inaugural committee, Bravo Brooklyn, would pick up the tab."

(Weiss is Executive Director of the MetroTech Business Improvement District, an organization with ties to MetroTech developer Forest City Ratner here's the only official mention I could find of Bravo Brooklyn.)

Following up

Credit the Daily News for following up and finding some notable numbers:

Most pols went for modest ceremonies in the poor economy, but Markowitz raised $122,000 for a State of the Borough address featuring singing, dancing and a multimedia production - plus food and beer for 1,600.

"Marty's famous for finding every opportunity to host big events on behalf of Brooklyn and not incidentally on behalf of Marty," said David Birdsell, dean of Baruch College's School of Public Affairs. "The question is whether it's politically useful. It would seem perhaps the least prudent time in recent memory to launch a big celebration of someone's ascension to office."

...Many Markowitz contributors - mostly Brooklyn developers and business owners - gave him the maximum contribution of $3,850 for his campaign and then ponied up another maximum $3,500 for his inauguration.

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NoLandGrab: Like Marty says, "if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all." So mum's the word.

Posted by eric at 11:07 AM

February 27, 2010

Governor Paterson Had Strong Ties to Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By David Caruso, Associated Press and Raanan Geberer, Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Governor David Paterson announced yesterday that he will not run for a full term. This article takes the opportunity to review Paterson's appearances in Brooklyn and his involvement with Brooklyn issues, including his broken promise to take a much-needed hard look at Atlantic Yards.

Paterson, however, was criticized by opponents of the Atlantic Yards/Barclays Arena project, who had hoped that he would come out strongly against the plan.

“We met with the governor and he had promised an independent review of Atlantic Yards in December, but he never followed through,” said Dan Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn. Goldstein concurred with Village Voice writer Wayne Barrett’s depiction of Paterson as a “pathological liar.”

NoLandGrab: Paterson's failure to execute a review of the proposed Atlantic Yards project allows the ESDC, the tool of developer Bruce Ratner, to run roughshod over Prospect Heights.

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Posted by steve at 8:58 AM

February 24, 2010

Liu Outlines Powers Being Exercised, Powers He Would Like And State Of Campaign Plans

At City Hall Event, comptroller talks budget, charter commission, CBAs and slush fund

City Hall
by Selena Ross

Liu said he believes encouraging private development is important but crucial to keep tabs on developers who receive public help. In major projects like Yankee Stadium and Atlantic Yards, he said he would consider looking back over Community Benefits Agreements signed before he came into office to see if they had been upheld.

With this week’s news that ACORN, a signatory to the Atlantic Yards agreement, has folded its New York operation and relaunched as New York Communities for Change, Liu said there were many questions surrounding the enforcement of CBAs and that he wanted to create a clear framework for similar agreements in the future.

“That probably would not be the only example of a community organization that was part of putting together and signing onto a Community Benefits Agreement that is no longer in existence,” Liu said. “That just highlights the problem even more so. It's very difficult to hold developers accountable to the CBAs that they’ve signed onto in years past.”

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Posted by eric at 10:47 PM

February 17, 2010

Atlantic Yards YES! New York's parks and historic sites, NO!!

While Atlantic Yards, which the Paterson administration is supporting with hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies, promises a paltry eight acres of "publicly accessible" (private) open space (most of it planned for the highly tenuous second phase of the project), the cash-strapped state may close nearly half of our parks and historic sites this year due to — wait for it — a lack of cash. Really, you can't make this stuff up.

AP via Crain's NY Business, Closings loom for NY parks, historic sites

About 100 state parks and historic sites will likely close this year as budget woes plague the state, and high-profile attractions such as Niagra Falls and Jones Beach could make the list.

No nuptials at Niagara Falls? Jones Beach off limits on a 90-degree day? The "Grand Canyon of the East" devoid of campers?

New York's state parks system, the nation's oldest, is facing another round of funding cuts that is likely to result in the first budget-related closures in the system's 125-year history. State officials say even popular parks at Niagara Falls and Jones Beach, with attendance figures in the millions, could be closed, along with such destinations as Letchworth, a popular hiking and camping spot ringing the rugged Genesee Gorge south of Rochester.

"It's going to be pretty bad. As bad as I've ever seen it," said Robin Dropkin, executive director of Parks & Trails New York, a 25-year-old nonprofit advocacy group.

Peter Humphrey, a member of the State Council of Parks, predicts as many as 100 of New York's 213 state parks and historic sites could be shut down because of the state's fiscal problems.
...

Carol Ash, the commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, has said park closures are unavoidable in 2010 as the state deals with a multibillion-dollar budget deficit.
...

Gov. David Paterson's amended budget proposal calls for cutting $20 million from state parks. When added to budget cuts made in the two previous fiscal years, the agency stands to see its funding reduced by some 40% over the span of three years, Ms. Ash said.

$20 million? Bruce Ratner's basketball arena is slated for some $700 million in public assistance from the state and New York City. But what about the jobs and economic development, you ask?

The parks system will operate with 1,100 fewer people — including lifeguards, cleaners and security guards — than it had just a few years ago, is canceling its park police training academy for the third consecutive year, and will cut park police staffing this summer to 266 full and part-time uniformed officers, about half the number that were on the job in 2003.
...

Closing the Niagara Falls park would be a "disaster" for local businesses, said the owner of one of a handful of companies that provide wedding services on the American side of the falls.
...

Messers. Dropkin and Humphrey pointed out that parks' $155 million budget isn't all that much in a state that plans to spend more than $130 billion. Meanwhile, the parks system contributes $1.9 billion a year in economic activity statewide, according to one recent study.

Closing parks, Mr. Humphrey said, would cut off a revenue source while shutting out visitors looking to spend money in local communities.

"This is clearly, purely from an economic standpoint, a lose-lose," he said.

Posted by eric at 10:24 PM

February 15, 2010

If Cuomo has "the strictest" campaign finance policy in the state, shouldn't he give back Bruce Ratner's $5000 contribution?

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Daily News reported today, in an article about the real estate industry taking advantage of campaign finance loopholes, that Andrew Cuomo's campaign spokesman, Phil Singer, said, "The AG has the strictest self-imposed campaign finance policy in the state, prohibiting donors from contributing if any matter is pending before his office and for 90 days thereafter."

(Cuomo is widely believed to be running for governor.)

Cuomo's gift from Bruce Ratner

Well, why hasn't Cuomo returned the $5000 he received on 2/4/09 from developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner?

While Ratner did not have a matter pending directly before Cuomo's office, Ratner's company was a defendant in a pending case challenging the Final Environmental Impact Statement for Atlantic Yards.
...

But if the Attorney General, who has a vast lead over Governor David Paterson in fundraising--$16 million to $3 million, as of last month--wants to avoid the widespread perception that the real estate industry has an inside track, shouldn't he give the money back?

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NoLandGrab: "Strictest self-imposed campaign finance policy in the state" of New York isn't exactly setting the bar very high, is it?

Posted by eric at 11:17 AM

February 7, 2010

NY State Governor Under Fire for Bidding Wars

The Watering Hole
by Clinton Miller

New York State Governor David Patterson has been criticized by New York State Republicans, The Daily News and The New York Post for his handling of the bidding process for the upcoming “Racino” featured at Aqueduct Race Track.

Is this the first time that municipal bidding processes have been controversial and questionable? How about Forest City Ratner (Bruce Ratner) getting the bid for the Atlantic Yards project when his company bid $100,000,000 less than the other bidder in the midst of financial insolvency for the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority? How about all of the conflicting deals that Joe Bruno engineered when he was the leader of the New York State Senate? Isn’t this how Albany has always worked?

Perhaps there is such an outcry over this selection because the usual beneficiaries of the winning entities did not come out on top this time around.

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Posted by eric at 11:24 PM

February 4, 2010

Atlantic Yards gets a cameo in Markowitz's State of the Borough address; response is light (and nonexistent to mention of "Brooklyn Islanders")

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder had the, um, pleasure, of attending Marty Markowitz's swearing-in and State-of-the-Borough address last night.

Well, Atlantic Yards is still not quite ready for prime time, judging from the underwhelming response to the AY segment last night in Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's typically overstuffed State of the Borough Address.

The speech, held at the handsomely renovated Park Slope Armory, now a recreation center, was preceded by the usual parade of official speakers and diverse entertainers. It also included the swearing-in conducted by a jovial Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose effort to overturn and extend term limits gave Markowitz his third term.

How did talk of Atlantic Yards go over?

The applause was light and Markowitz rushed rather than paused on the term "Atlantic Yards." (There was far more applause a few minutes later when Markowitz proposed opening up a call center in East New York rather than halfway across the world.)

The crowd made no response to the mention of the "Brooklyn Islanders," which is where the NY1 segment ended. (There's no evidence the arena could accommodate major league hockey.)

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Posted by eric at 10:19 AM

Markowitz Sworn In For Third Term; Touts Borough's Progress

NY1

After being sworn in for a third term Wednesday night by Mayor Bloomberg, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz outlined his commitment to several high profile projects.
...

"In 2009, confident investors also rushed to buy bonds for Atlantic Yards, meaning they believe Brooklyn is the future. Soon we will have affordable housing, union jobs and the downtown cultural center that the fourth largest city in America deserves with a state-of-the-art arena hosting everything from music and theater to pro basketball and maybe a hockey team called the Brooklyn Islanders," Markowitz said.

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NoLandGrab: By "soon," Markowitz means "perhaps never," at least where affordable housing is concerned.

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

January 29, 2010

Real Estate Interests Help Cuomo Gain a Big Edge

New York Times
By Christine Haughney

The real estate industry seems to prefer Andrew Cuomo as governor over incumbent David Paterson.

As Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo readies his candidacy for governor, one industry is helping him amass a huge fund-raising advantage: real estate.

The real estate industry, which Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo helps oversee, has been his top giver, even as it has hit hard times.

New records show that even as the industry has confronted its worst crisis in decades, developers, construction executives and real estate lobbyists have given millions of dollars to Mr. Cuomo, providing one in every five dollars over the past six months

It will come as little surprise that Bruce Ratner is on the list of donors to Cuomo.

Other prominent givers included Lloyd Goldman, an owner of the World Trade Center site; Bruce C. Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer; Steven Roth, the chief of Vornado Realty Trust; Stephen M. Ross, the chief of the Related Companies; and Richard Lefrak, whose family developed Lefrak City in Queens and owns tens of thousands of apartments.

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NoLandGrab: Since he doesn't seem to have Ratner's backing, maybe Governor Paterson can finally give Atlantic Yards a promised "objective and fair hearing."

Posted by steve at 4:49 AM

January 28, 2010

Jeffries: "less than cautiously optimistic" on AY, waiting for Paterson response, says ESDC hasn't explained why governance structure isn't needed

Atlantic Yards Report

At his third annual State of the District address, held last night in the Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall, 57th District Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries spoke to a supportive crowd about three main issues, none of them Atlantic Yards, though he did answer questions about the project afterward.

His bottom line on AY: after initiating dialogue with the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), he's "less than cautiously optimistic" about progress on most issues, including the use of eminent domain and the commitment to build affordable housing expeditiously. (He mentioned a letter to Governor David Paterson that he hadn't released when it was sent in December.)

Nor has the ESDC convinced him why Atlantic Yards, unlike such other large projects as Queens West or Brooklyn Bridge Park, does not deserve a separate governance structure to provide oversight over the long term. He was most animated in his frustration over that issue.

Jeffries, unlike other local legislators (City Council Member Letitia James, Assemblyman Jim Brennan, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, and state Senator Velmanette Montgomery), has not gone to court to challenge decisions by the ESDC and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He's said that doing so would compromise his advocacy.

Thus he walks a careful line: expressing opposition to eminent domain but not standing with the main groups fighting eminent domain for the project; hoping to ensure that, if the project goes forward, there are jobs for community residents and sufficient affordable housing; and hoping to ensure that, if the project goes forward, there's a credible governance structure.

AYR also links to a video, posted on Jeffries's YouTube page, featuring an appearance on Fox News last November that included the Assemblyman and Matthew Brinckerhoff, the attorney who has argued the Atlantic Yards eminent domain cases on behalf of property owners. We missed that segment when it aired originally.

Click through Norman Oder's Q&A with Jeffries following his address last night.

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Posted by eric at 9:50 AM

January 26, 2010

Brooklyn jobless rate continues to grow

Borough's unemployment rate exceeds city, state and national average

Courier Life Publications
by Stephen Witt

Don't worry, Brooklyn. Borough President Marty Markowitz has a plan.

“There are still far too many in our borough for whom economic and employment opportunities are few and far between, and that’s why creating jobs must remain ‘job one,’” said Borough President Marty Markowitz.

Markowitz said the borough’s high unemployment rate is deeply troubling, and his office has been proactive in creating employment opportunities throughout the borough.

This includes everything from hosting economic strategy sessions at Borough Hall to supporting job-creating projects in Coney Island, Gateway Estates Shopping Center, Atlantic Yards and the Navy Yard, he said.

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NoLandGrab: The jobs-per-dollar of public investment in Atlantic Yards would surely make the project the least efficient jobs program in America.

Posted by eric at 11:35 PM

January 23, 2010

Jeffries to hold State of the District address on Wednesday, January 27

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries will hold his annual State of the District address at the Pratt Institute's Higgins Hall at 6:30 pm on Wednesday, January 27.

The address is 61 St. James Place at Lafayette Avenue. An RSVP is requested, to either (718)596-0100 or jeffriesh[at]assembly.state.ny.us.

According to a press release:

This will be the assemblyman’s third State of the District address since taking office in 2007. This year’s speech will mention an update on Project Reclaim, the initiative introduced at last year’s address which seeks to transform market-rate condominiums that have failed into desperately needed affordable housing. The assemblyman will also hold a discussion on the Section 3 Campaign for HUD, and legislative initiatives to combat alleged police misconduct and shootings.

In his first and second addresses, he made only glancing mentions of Atlantic Yards, so, according to that pattern, we shouldn't expect much more. Then again, AY is in the news these days.

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Posted by steve at 8:25 AM

January 20, 2010

New Public Advocate Assails Bloomberg’s Performance on Homelessness

The New York Times
by Julie Bosman

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is apparently making homelessness job one, so we're wondering what prevented him from standing with the protesters Monday night who held a vigil for families being evicted from the Prospect Heights shelter in the Atlantic Yards footprint that Bruce Ratner plans to turn into a parking lot?

Was it his support for the project, despite no iron-clad guarantee that affordable housing will ever be built? Was it the dearth of TV news cameras? Or is this just more "empty rhetoric" from a politician, to quote Councilmember Letitia James.

In his first policy announcement since taking office, Bill de Blasio, the city’s new public advocate, will challenge Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s record on homelessness and call on him to intensify his efforts to address the problem.

A day before Mr. Bloomberg’s State of the City address, scheduled for Wednesday, Mr. de Blasio will hold a news conference of his own at his office at noon on Tuesday, surrounded by invited elected officials and advocates for the homeless.

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Posted by eric at 11:03 AM

January 15, 2010

Brodsky seeks investigation of "shady, inadequate, unfunded" MTA agreement on tunnel repairs associated with Atlantic Yards (fake)

Atlantic Yards Report

Since thing are a bit slow over at AYR (only five other posts today), Norman Oder imagines the kind of press release New York State Assemblyman Richard Brodsky might issue if he wasn't mysteriously AWOL on the matter of Atlantic Yards.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, the watchdog of public authorities, leader on public authority reform, fierce after-the-fact critic of the Yankee Stadium deal, and putative Attorney General candidate, has chosen not to look closely at Atlantic Yards (despite occasional swipes at the MTA's failure to fulfill its fiduciary duty), so the below press release is only what Brodsky might have said.

Click through for the goods.

Posted by eric at 12:41 PM

January 7, 2010

Brooklyn BackBroadside Double Dose

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Dennis Holt

New Atlantic Avenue LIRR/Subway Entrance Fits the New Brooklyn

The decision by the MTA to finally bring the complex into the new century was not made in isolation. As has frequently happened in recent Brooklyn history, Bruce Ratner influenced matters. After the Atlantic Center was built, he made plans to build what we now call the Atlantic Terminal Mall. Then, after 9/11, he decided to build a new office building for a displaced company.

The patriotic Bruce also saw an opportunity to get his hands on a pile of federal subsidies.

And then came the master plan for Atlantic Yards across Atlantic Avenue, and independent of Ratner, the concept of a new cultural center, in and around BAM.

One did not have to have a degree in urban planning to realize that a lot more people would be coming that way, everything would be new, and it would make no sense for people to get off at a station that looked like a dump.

Moreover, Ratner, with the MTA’s hearty endorsement, planned to link the station underground with the new sports arena, and the MTA concluded it was time to get cracking. While they were at it, someone decided, why not build a whole new entrance to go along with all the other jazzy stuff coming to the neighborhood?

Only problem is, the ESDC says it won't be "feasible" for LIRR passengers to get from the train to the arena underground.

New Talent to Match Old In City Government Posts

These are [Bloomberg's] visions for the city in the decades to come — big goals supported by big development projects.

Atlantic Yards and the West Side Rail Yards will not be finished in four years, but should be far enough along to assure completion. And Bloomberg will not be content to coast along — he will want to see his Coney Island plan in movement.

Actually, it's very likely that only the arena, and maybe one of Atlantic Yards' planned 16 buildings, will be finished by the time Bloomberg leaves office (assuming he doesn't try to buy a fourth term). But Prospect Heights will have acres of surface parking lots as his monument.

Posted by eric at 4:42 PM

January 6, 2010

Atlantic Yards Report: coffers and sewers...

Ratner, no longer a campaign contribution "refusenik," is already investing in Cuomo and DiNapoli 2010

Norman Oder examines Forest City Ratner's money trail leading to politicians that have been called upon to investigate the legality of the quasi-public corporation that issued the tax-free bonds for the arena at Atlantic Yards.

More recently, in a look ahead to next year's statewide elections, Ratner gave $5000 to Andrew Cuomo 2010. (He hasn't given to Gov. David Paterson's campaign, though Cuomo, now Attorney General, is expected to challenge the sitting Governor.)

And he gave $2000 to DiNapoli 2010, the campaign committee for Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. (Both Cuomo and DiNapoli have been asked by state Senator Bill Perkins to weigh in on the legality of the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation, or BALDC).

More "sewer money" from Forest City to Housekeeping accounts, including $10,000 from a Cleveland Ratner to New York Senate Republicans

Today Governor David Paterson is expected to unveil a plan to ban corporate campaign contributions, lower the maximum contribution for any candidate for state office to $1000, and cut back severely on Housekeeping accounts, where political parties can now get unlimited gifts they can dispense to candidates.

The latter was dubbed "sewer money" in a 10/19/09, a New York Times editorial headlined Fed Up With Albany, which criticized New York's "notoriously loose" campaign finance laws.

And Forest City Ratner is one of the prominent participants. I pointed out at the time that the Times missed an opportunity to criticize Forest City Ratner's January 200, contribution of $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

But I should have checked further. On 12/4/08, FCR gave another $3644 to the Democrats' Housekeeping account.

And if you keep following the money, it includes some bucks for New York State Republicans from a caring contributor in Cleveland with a last name that begins with "R" and rhymes with "Fat-cat-ner."

Posted by lumi at 7:28 AM

January 5, 2010

Jan 5. Senator Perkins' Hearing on Eminent Domain and Reforming New York State's Heinous Laws

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE: NEW YORK STATE SENATE

Senate Standing Committee
Corporations, Authorities and Commissions
Senator Bill Perkins, Chair

Unconstitutional: What the Appellate Division’s Eminent Domain Ruling Means for the Columbia Expansion

Location – Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building
163 W. 125th Street, 2nd Floor Art Gallery
New York, New York 10027

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 – 4 P.M. to 7 P.M.

link

Posted by eric at 2:19 PM

January 4, 2010

Senate Democrats Look to Repair the Damage -- Before It's Too Late

Gotham Gazette
by David King

It was too late for Albany a long time ago — nothing short of a mass uprising by the citizenry will bring real change — but there is one potentially game-changing piece of legislation in the offing.

Another major piece of legislation the Senate will consider -- if Sen. Bill Perkins has anything to say about it -- is legislation to change the state's current eminent domain law. Perkins was motivated by a recent appellate court ruling that found the Empire State Development Corp. overstepped its bounds by declaring as blighted parts of Manhattanville where Columbia University hopes to build a new campus. The state backed Columbia's efforts.

Perkins has called on Paterson to declare a moratorium on the use of eminent domain and asked that the state not appeal the appellate court ruling; Paterson has indicated he plans an appeal and has not declared a moratorium. Nevertheless Perkins has hearings planned across the state, including one on Jan. 5 in Harlem. Perkins' actions could have bearing on the Atlantic Yards project as well as the Columbia case. But, according to Shafran, it is unclear where the Perkins' colleagues stand on the issue.

link

NoLandGrab: Unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, who seem to care only about enriching themselves and their cronies and wielding political power, Bill Perkins actually thinks government should serve the people.

Posted by eric at 10:38 AM

December 24, 2009

Bloomberg salutes AY progress, continues to ignore IBO findings on loss to the city

Atlantic Yards Report

A statement from the mayor:

STATEMENT OF MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON PROGRESS OF ATLANTIC YARDS DEVELOPMENT
“While the rest of the country wrings its hands about the national recession, we’re building our way out of it. The $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards project - the most extensive development ever undertaken in Brooklyn - is moving forward, bringing thousands of units of housing and thousands of jobs for New York City’s middle class. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve made major investments or reached critical milestones on development projects decades in the making at areas like the Hudson Yards, Hunter’s Point South, Coney Island, Willets Point and other neighborhoods across the City. This is no time to wait and see what happens with the national economy and just hope for the best. We’re acting more aggressively than ever to create jobs and ensure New York City’s best days are still to come.”

Well, as the mayor conveniently forgets, the New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO) found the arena--the only part of the project with a design--to be a net loss for the city. As for the thousands of units of housing, they depend on yet-to-be-announced city subsidies.

And while construction of the arena and other buildings surely would bring construction jobs, the number of permanent jobs projected has been steadily shrinking, with the market for office space questionable.

article

Posted by eric at 12:39 AM

December 23, 2009

As master closing proceeds, with filing of condemnation, Perkins says governor's response unacceptable; is lawsuit coming?

Atlantic Yards Report

Ratner-moneybags2.jpg With the governor's blessing, it looks like the "master closing" for Bruce Ratner's subsidy-sucking, eminent-domain-abusing, public-accountability-circumventing, Atlantic Yards megaproject will proceed today, despite the use of a questionable quasi-governmental "creation" to issue the arena bonds.

No one has a written statement responding to questions raised by state Senator Bill Perkins about irregularities in the issuance of arena bonds, but the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) yesterday said it expected the Atlantic Yards project to proceed through final approvals today, with the final contracts signed and the eminent domain process to begin in earnest.

"We anticipate the Master Closing to happen tomorrow," spokeswoman Elizabeth Mitchell said yesterday in an email message. "It will include the bond closing, deposit of the funds and real estate documents in escrow, and the filing of the condemnation petition. ESDC expects possession of the title on or near February 1st, 2010."

"We are going to continue to demand that there is going to be accountability and transparency with this project," Perkins said. "We think it’s clearly in violation of the type of scrutiny that is required by law… I know that a lawsuit is being considered." But he didn't say what role he might play in such a lawsuit or who might be plaintiffs.
...
I spoke yesterday with Perkins, who said he’d spoken with Peter Kiernan, Paterson's Counsel, on Monday.

“I asked him, as per our prior conversation on Friday, what he came up with," Perkins recalled. "And he said 'We’re satisfied with what we got from ESDC and others.' I said, 'Well, what does that mean?' He said, "It’s a creation of JDA.' So I said, 'OK, Is that a subsidiary?' He says, 'No, it’s a creation.' I say, 'What does that mean? Because that sounds like a new word in the context of the conversation… because you said at first it was a subsidiary.'"

article

NoLandGrab: By calling the BALDC a "creation", not a "subsidiary," of the Job Development Authority (JDA), the BALDC is not subject to any of the laws regulating either the Empire State Development Corporation or the JDA?

This is another example of the mind-boggling contortions New York State has performed, in order to give Bruce Ratner what amounts to the largest single-source private development project in NYC history.

State government has run amok... disgusting!

Posted by lumi at 5:49 AM

December 22, 2009

Pol says Brooklyn arena financing is illegal

New York Post
By Rich Calder

Here is further mention of State Senator Perkins' letter to Governor Paterson regarding concerns that bonds for the proposed Nets arena are illegal.

A state Senator says that a $511 million finance plan to help pay off an NBA arena proposed for Brooklyn appears to be illegal.

Sen. Bill Perkins (D- Harlem), chair of the Senate Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, sent a letter to Gov. Paterson Friday addressing legal concerns about the $511 million in tax-exempt bonds floated for developer Bruce Ratner’s project by the state-created Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation.

He said the funding plan raises “the spectre of fraud,” and that the bonds are “effectively worthless.”

At issue is the BALDC’s origin.

It was created by the Job Development Authority, a dormant state public authority, rather than directly through the Empire State Development Corporation.

...

ESDC did not return a message seeking comment.

All concerned are still awaiting a definite statement from Governor Paterson on this matter.

When asked about the letter Saturday, Paterson said “If there is information in the letter that is asking us to take a look to see that everything was done properly, we would certainly be happy to do that.”

A spokeswoman for Paterson today sent the Post an e-mail saying “In addition, I can add that there is an objective, ongoing review being conducted by our counsel on the procedures. Top administration officials along with the chairmen of ESDC and the MTA met with Assemblyman [Hakeem] Jeffries last week to address concerns that he has with respect to Mr. Ratner’s commitment to building affordable housing. We are carefully reviewing.”

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report: Still waiting for the ESDC to comment on the BALDC questions, but something's percolating

Ok, so perhaps the counsel for Paterson, Peter Kiernan, will produce a statement sometime Tuesday, a day before the expected "master closing" in which all contracts are supposed to be signed.

As for Jeffries' concerns, the affordable housing depends on incentives and penalties built into the contractual documents that won't be made available, as well as the city's willingness to allocate scarce tax-exempt housing bonds to this project above others.

Posted by steve at 7:54 AM

Markowitz basks in Barclays/Nets photo op

Atlantic Yards Report

That's Borough President Marty Markowitz at a media event--as opposed to, say, the much quieter announcement of the lawsuit that helped him raise the money for his new home--in which his favorite developer brought holiday toys to Brooklyn children. To his left is Forest City Ratner's Scott Cantone; to his right is Nets rookie ("star" in the press release) Terrence Williams, in the Santa hat.

...

At the press conference, Markowitz again invoked the Brooklyn Dodgers. "You're so lucky," he addressed the children. "Brooklyn will be back on the map in the national sports arena." He ended his five-minute address by excitedly saluting the Brooklyn Nets.

...

The Salvation Army takes sides

To quote Eric McClure of NoLand Grab:

Far be it for us to throw a wet blanket over a little holiday cheer for children who might otherwise have none, but perhaps this explains why the Salvation Army's Travis Lock testified before a board meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation on September 17th, saying "It is my sincere hope this morning that you would move forward with this project, the Atlantic Yard projects, on behalf of the Forest City Ratner Corporation."

Yes, Lock said exactly that, without irony. And that's Lock in the video, too.

link

Posted by steve at 7:29 AM

Public authorities: not reformed quite yet

New York Fiscal Watch
By Nicole Gelinas

Did the ESDC cut one corner too many and end up helping to issue fraudulent bonds?

Are New York’s public authorities fixed? Little more than a week ago, Gov. Paterson signed a bill to “rein in” New York’s “free-spending public authorities.”

But State Senator Bill Perkins of Harlem thinks that the convolutions New York’s Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) put itself through to get the Atlantic Yards basketball arena funded “vitiate the longstanding efforts of the Legislature to reform public authorities and make them more accountable and transparent.”

Moreover, Atlantic Yards may not even pass muster under the law, Perkins says.

How could that happen?ESDC, the state agency in charge of Atlantic Yards, has worked with developer Bruce Ratner to complete the $511 million bond deal for the arena portion of the Brooklyn project through something called the “Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corp,” or BALDC.

...

Whatever the complexities, the PACB and the comptroller should vote on the debt issuance, because the Atlantic Yards debt carries a moral guarantee from Albany. A vote “would have required the PACB to undertake a substantive review of the financial merits of the bond issue, which are questionable,” Perkins notes.

link

Posted by steve at 7:03 AM

Council OK’s Broadway Triangle rezoning

The Brooklyn Paper
By Andy Campbell

Because the "Broadway Triangle" project went through the city's ULURP process, outgoing Councilmember David Yassky was able to look past a development featuring a no-bid contract. He tried to justify his decision by pointing to the even worse process used for the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

“This is not an Atlantic Yards project that circumvented [the process],” Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) said at what would be his final hearing in office. The Triangle is in his district and, as such, he played a large role in seeing it get through the Council.

“We’re going to have 800 affordable apartments. We went through the process and had public input.”

link

Posted by steve at 6:13 AM

December 21, 2009

HOLIDAY STORY PHOTO OP TODAY

The office of the Brooklyn Borough President put out the following press advisory earlier today:

BP MARKOWITZ, NETS PLAYERS CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS AND TERRENCE WILLIAMS, NETS LEGEND DARRYL DAWKINS TO DELIVER TOYS TO 60 BROOKLYN CHILDREN

4:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.
TODAY, MONDAY, DECEMBER 21
BROOKLYN BOROUGH HALL

...

Today, Monday, December 21, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will join NETS players Chris Douglas-Roberts and Terrence Williams, NETS legend Darryl Dawkins and The Salvation Army to deliver hundreds of toys to 60 children at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The toys are being donated by the Barclays/Nets Community Alliance, which includes a partnership among Barclays, the NETS, and Forest City Ratner Companies. Presented by National Grid, a NETS sponsor, the event will provide toys to children who otherwise might not have received any during the holiday season. The Barclays/Nets Community Alliance is donating to The Salvation Army more than 1,100 toys for Brooklyn youngsters, as well as funding children’s holiday parties at each of the five main Salvation Army centers that serve Brooklyn, including in Bay Ridge, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick and Sunset Park.

Far be it for us to throw a wet blanket over a little holiday cheer for children who might otherwise have none, but perhaps this explains why the Salvation Army's Travis Locke testified before a board meeting of the Empire State Development Corporation on September 17th, saying "It is my sincere hope this morning that you would move forward with this project, the Atlantic Yard projects, on behalf of the Forest City Ratner Corporation."

At that meeting, the ESDC board voted to enhance public funding for Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 4:38 PM

Mayor says big projects will go forward in NYC in 2010

SILive.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today that, going into 2010, major public and private projects are moving forward in the city despite the recession.

Here are his remarks as prepared for delivery on 1010 WINS News Radio:

"Great cities grow and change. And despite the lingering impact of the national recession, growth and change are reshaping New York - for the better.
...

And the proposed Atlantic Yards project at the heart of Brooklyn got a big vote of confidence last week from private investors, who snapped up more than $500 million worth of bonds for that housing and commercial development in just two hours time.

link

Posted by eric at 3:47 PM

December 20, 2009

Asked About Taking a Promised Hard Look at Atlantic Yards Before Issuing Arena Bonds Does Paterson Understand AY?

Noticing New York

Michael White catches up with Governor Paterson

Governor Paterson was asked questions today about the hard look his administration said it would take at Atlantic Yards. Questions came from Norman Oder of Atlantic Yards Report (see, Saturday, December 19, 2009, Hail Mary or silver bullet: Perkins, raising questions of fraud in arena bond sale, asks Paterson to put Atlantic Yards on hold) and Noticing New York was able to ask our own question at the same brief press conference.

At a critical time the governor probably still needs to get up to speed on Atlantic Yards.

Our question to the governor and his response were as follows:

NNY: Governor, you are trying to close a budget gap and the MTA is trying to close a budget gap. You said that you will take a serious, hard look at the Atlantic Yards project. That project is perhaps $2-3 billion in public subsidies and it’s calculated by the city Independent Budget Office to be a $220 million net loss to the public, that’s the net loss not te cost. Don’t you think that perhaps taking that serious look should happen before bonds are issued for the arena?

Paterson: The bonds were issued for the arena. There are a number of projects that probably add up to tens of billions of dollars that we could take off the table if we were trying to save cash. The whole premise of these sort of public-private arrangements is to create jobs and bring revenues back into the state. So, if you take a snapshot in time it is a loss. If you take a snapshot in time funding the educational system is a loss, but the revenues that you generate from the workforce in the years to come far outweigh the investment that you make.

...

The governor’s statement that the bonds have been issued is not correct. Goldman Sachs has found buyers for the bonds but the bonds are not currently scheduled to be “issued” until this Wednesday, December 23rd, and that date could be postponed if the governor and his counsel decide they need time to think about whether they should be issued at all. This is a very important distinction for the governor to understand since he had just finished answering questions from Mr. Oder about the serious likelihood that the bonds, if issued, would be illegal.

Read the rest to see that Paterson still needs to come up to speed on the Atlantic Yards Project. Otherwise, he might continue to try and compare the proposed Atlantic Yards project to the construction of a public school. Also, he might want to understand how the almost phantom Job Development Authority's (JDA) creation the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) resulted in the issuance of illegal bonds.

link

Posted by steve at 7:06 PM

December 19, 2009

Hail Mary or silver bullet: Perkins, raising questions of fraud in arena bond sale, asks Paterson to put Atlantic Yards on hold

Atlantic Yards Report

Did the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC) slip up in authorizing bonds for a proposed Nets arena? State Senator Bill Perkins thinks so and is calling on Governor Paterson to take action.

Suggesting that bonds for the Brooklyn arena were issued improperly, state Senator Bill Perkins yesterday asked Governor David Paterson to halt the "master closing" for the project scheduled for Wednesday and to stay condemnation proceedings until "serious questions... are addressed."

Had the bonds been issued by an Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) subsidiary, they could be repaid via for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), but the issuance would have had to have been approved by the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB), Perkins wrote in a letter. However, in an apparent effort to avoid the PACB, the ESDC created the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC), and that murky entity--which issued $511 million in bonds--should not possess a property tax exemption, the letter said.

Perkins, speaking at a public meeting in Harlem this morning, said that last night he spoke to the governor's counsel, Peter Kiernan, who was taking the matter seriously.

Paterson, interviewed this afternoon at a separate event, did not seem aware of the controversy.

...

The bond issuance, Perkins said, "prevents it really from going forward," adding that "we consider [it] an illegal action."

Perkins, who has stood out as the legislator most interested in reforming the state's much-criticized eminent domain laws, said he expects to hold hearings on the Columbia case, the Willets Point plan, and even another hearing on Atlantic Yards, in light of the bond issue.

"Essentially what we have here is a situation in which it unfortunately it appears that the government is in cahoots with the developers, that the best interests of the community are not being represented but rather the best interests of, let's say, the elite," he said.

...

The "spectre of fraud"

The letter, citing a unanimous Court of Appeals decision from June, suggests that the arena does not deserve a tax exemption:

In light of this analysis, the BALDC property is not tax exempt if used for arena purposes. Consequently, payments-in-lieu of taxes cannot be used to secure the bonds, and they are effectively worthless. If ESDC knowingly misrepresented the legitimacy of these bonds, this raises the spectre of fraud.

The letter was also sent to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

What next?

I asked Perkins (off camera) what happens now.

"We sent that out yesterday; I spoke with the governor's counsel," he responded. "He seemed to acknowledge that he needs to take a look at it. He indicated that he would get back to me."

And if they don't?

"I'm going to reach out to them again this week," he said. "But in the event that they have a different point of view, we'll see some legal measures we can take."

"As I said to him, the murkiness of this situation flies in the face of the [public authorities reform] legislation we just passed," Perkins said. "This is a representation of the old way of doing business."

Read the rest of this blog entry to get an explanation from Amy Lavine, a staff attorney at the Albany Law School's Government Law Center, who first discovered this issue.

link

Posted by steve at 3:06 PM

December 18, 2009

On Brian Lehrer Show, DDDB's Goldstein points to Paterson, but the governor hasn't spoken out on his AY pledge

Atlantic Yards Report

So, maybe it's up to Gov. David Paterson now.

At about 16:30 of yesterday's Brian Lehrer segment, Recent Developments, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel Goldstein was the guest. He said that, while legal strategies remain, only Paterson can stop the planned "master closing" of contracts regarding Atlantic Yards scheduled for next week.

And Paterson, who on December 1 made a public pledge to conduct a further inquiry into Atlantic Yards, has not made a statement since, with queries to his aides coming up blank.

Click through for some highlights from the show, and Norman Oder's commentary.

link

Posted by eric at 9:36 AM

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz purchases $1.45 million home in Windsor Terrace

NY Daily News
by Erin Einhorn and Erin Durkin

Lifelong tenant Marty Markowitz is trading his Park Slope rental for a home of his own - a two-story, three-bedroom brick house in Windsor Terrace.

The borough president and his wife, Jamie, dropped $1.45million on the new house - a semidetached home nestled on a tree-lined street a block from Prospect Park - on Nov. 30 with a $417,000 mortgage.

"I've always been a tenant, all my life. This is the first time I'm a property owner," Markowitz said.

Ah, the irony! As the Empire State Development Corporation and Forest City Ratner get ready to seize the properties of the remaining homeowners in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project — for which Markowitz has played chief cheerleader for the past six years — Markowitz himself is becoming a first-time homeowner.

Markowitz wouldn't give details about the purchase, initially refusing to say where he got the money for his $1 million-plus down payment.
...

Later, an aide said about $750,000 of the down payment came from the sale of a Manhattan Beach home his wife inherited from her parents when they died.

The rest came from savings and from a settlement paid to Markowitz in a slip-and-fall case [NLG: Say what?!], his spokesman Mark Zustovich said.
...

Still, the sale comes with controversy.

Markowitz used his chief of staff, Carlo Scissura, as a lawyer for the property deal. City law says city lawyers can't represent their public official bosses in private legal matters.

Markowitz initially denied Scissura was involved. "I do not believe he was the attorney of record," he said.

When the Daily News noted that Scissura is listed as the lawyer in property records, Zustovich argued that the law applies only to lawyers working for the city as attorneys, not as chiefs of staff.

article


Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, When Markowitz played poor at the affordable housing information session, he and his wife had a down payment in hand

But the purchase, and the funds behind it, also undermine one very conspicuous "man of the people" claim Markowitz made in the midst of the Atlantic Yards debate.

At a 7/11/06 affordable housing information session sponsored by Forest City Ratner, Markowitz declared, as I reported, that “this is an exciting time to live in Brooklyn,” but, regarding new developments, “Sadly, almost all are beyond our reach—yours and mine.”

I noted that Markowitz earned $135,000, and eats a lot of free meals.

Now the Daily News tells us that about $750,000 of the down payment for the $1.45 million house came from the sale of a Manhattan Beach home Markowitz's wife Jamie Snow inherited from her parents.

And a check of records suggests that Markowitz and Snow had that money in hand when the BP appeared at that affordable housing information session.

Snow's mother died on 7/7/04. The family house was sold on 2/7/05 for $1.4 million, with Jamie Snow Markowitz, her brother, and her mother's estate listed as the sellers. The affordable housing information session came 17 months later.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, BEEP Markowitz's New Home Is Blighted

Congratulations to the BEEP on his new home!

There is only one problem. It seems to be underutlized. It also looks like there are a few sidewalk cracks, and we can't be sure but that bush looks more like a big patch of weeds. And it looks like the mortar is cracking in some spots.

In other words, we're sorry to inform the Borough President that his new home is blighted and must be taken by eminent domain. Because, it really could serve a better purpose than housing him and his wife.

Them's the breaks.

Posted by eric at 12:29 AM

December 13, 2009

Public authorities reform bill signed; why is Assemblyman Brodsky not mentioning the BALDC?

Atlantic Yards Report

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky has sponsored legislation to rein in New York's Public Authorities. Although he has been critical of public financing of the new Yankees and Mets stadiums, he has held back in his criticism of the proposed Atlantic Yards project and its associated Nets arena.

From a New York Times article headlined Paterson Signs Bill to Rein in State’s Free-Spending Public Authorities:

Mr. Brodsky, who spent months battling New York City officials over the legality of public financing for the new Yankee Stadium, said that if the law had been in effect, it would have forced far more transparency on city officials as they negotiated the Yankees deal.

“Three billion dollars in taxpayer-backed debt was issued by 12 anonymous people who were essentially doing the bidding of the mayor,” Mr. Brodsky said, referring to the board of the New York City Industrial Development Agency, which issued the bonds on behalf of the Yankees, the wealthiest team in baseball.

Well, it might have forced more transparency, but it's a questionable whether it's taxpayer-backed debt. Formally, it's not; the bonds for Yankee Stadium are non-recourse bonds, backed only by the revenue or property behind it.

What about the BALDC?

So too are the $500 million in tax-exempt bonds issued--and being sold right now--by the Brooklyn Arena Local Development Corporation (BALDC).

Except BALDC officials wouldn't rule out a state bailout, only saying that it was speculation. Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute has written:

Ahead of any bond sale, Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg should make it crystal-clear, publicly and to potential investors, that no New York State or City entity will step in to make up for any shortfall in Atlantic Yards’s revenues, even if it means a bond default.

Brodsky, however, has remained far more quiet about Atlantic Yards.

link

Posted by steve at 6:05 AM

December 12, 2009

Paterson Signs Bill to Rein in State’s Free-Spending Public Authorities

The New York Times
By Nicholas Confessore

Governor David Paterson signs into law legislation to force public authorities, like the ESDC and the MTA, to act more responsibly. The sponsors of the bill were Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and State Senator Bill Perkins.

For the first time, board members of those authorities will have a legal obligation, known as a fiduciary duty, to protect the interests and mission of the authorities they supervise, rather than being beholden to the mayors, governors and legislative leaders who appoint them. The new law will require authorities to seek approval from the state comptroller for most contracts of over $1 million that are not competitively bid.

The Governor notes the incredible amount of debt being run up by authorities. Will he step up and do the promised review of the proposed Atlantic Yards project before it becomes an albatross for Brooklyn and the rest of New York State?

Mr. Paterson said that passing the law this year was crucial because of the state’s perilous fiscal condition, which the public authorities have added to with the enormous amount of debt they have taken on. Taxpayers have almost no say over that debt, but are ultimately responsible for it. Public authorities have between $140 billion and $150 billion in debt — significantly more than the state’s entire annual budget.

“Public authorities play a tremendous role in government,” Mr. Paterson said. “But for a very long period of time, they have operated really without any oversight and operated very much in the dark, and often have amassed crippling back-door financing that has threatened the stability of our economy.”

The MTA's part in delivering a sweetheart deal to developer Bruce Ratner is shown as an example of reckless behavior.

Under the new law, authorities, some of which have acquired significant and, in some cases, secret real estate holdings, will also face limits on the sale of real property. With some exceptions, authorities will no longer be allowed to sell real estate for below-market value, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did when it sold rights to build over railyards in Brooklyn to the developers of the Atlantic Yards project.

link

Posted by steve at 6:43 AM

December 9, 2009

Pol says Columbia case should halt Atlantic Yards

The Brooklyn Blog [NY Post]
by Rich Calder

Is this the last hope for Atlantic Yards opponents?

State Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) is asking Gov. Paterson not to appeal a recent court ruling blocking the use of eminent domain for Columbia University’s expansion and to order "a statewide moratorium" on the use of the controversial land-grabbing procedure.

Such a move would obviously affect developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, which the Paterson-controlled Empire State Development Corp. is expected to begin seizing private land for through eminent domain in the coming weeks.

But the ESDC isn’t caving in. A spokeswoman said the ESDC plans to appeal the Columbia ruling, which it believes "doesn’t impact" Atlantic Yards.

article

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Perkins asks Paterson for moratorium on eminent domain, not to appeal Columbia case

State Senator Bill Perkins, who represents West Harlem and in September 2008 held a hearing on reform of emiment domain, has asked Governor David Paterson "to forego an appeal" of the Appellate Division decision blocking the use of eminent domain for the Columbia University expansion, "and to order a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain within the State of New York pending legislative action."

That would include eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project.
...

It would be more difficult for Paterson to reverse course on Atlantic Yards; for example, the MTA, which he controls, argues that the Atlantic Yards deal was too far along to consider seeking another bidder for the Vanderbilt Yard.

Perkins' letter draws significantly on the decision in the Columbia case, known in shorthand as Kaur. It says little about the Court of Appeals' decision in the Atlantic Yards case, but does make a fundamental point: For one, no one knows what 'blight' is—the crucial and fundamental issue in both the Columbia and Atlantic Yards cases.

NY Observer, Perkins to Paterson: Don’t Appeal Columbia Decision, Reform Eminent Domain

In a letter to the governor dated Tuesday, Mr. Perkins called for "a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain," and said he was preparing "a bill to reform how eminent domain is exercised."

He also tries to invoke the issue on a more personal level with the governor, bringing up a 2005 rally the two of them attended, protesting the use of eminent domain:

You may recall that back in 2005 you and I stood on the steps of City Hall together with several members of the City Council to protest the United States Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London which affirmed the use of eminent domain for private development that entails a so-called "public use." That decision contained language encouraging states to review their own eminent domain statutes. Some states have done just that. It is now New York's turn.

Mr. Perkins has established himself as one of few loud voices in the Legislature to protest eminent domain.

Posted by eric at 8:38 PM

DDDB PRESS RELEASE: Sen Perkins: Gov, Stop Eminent Domain for Atlantic Yards

New York/December 9, 2009—Senator Bill Perkins (30th Senate District, D-Harlem, Manhattanville) has sent a letter to Governor Paterson calling on the Empire State Development Corporation not to appeal the court ruling barring it from using eminent domain for Columbia University's expansion.

The letter also supports the Governor in his recent public comments that he would convene an objective review of the Atlantic Yards project.

In light of the confusion in the courts regarding eminent domain and blight, Senator Perkins calls on the Governor to stop the Empire State Development Corporation from proceeding with taking properties by eminent domain for the Atlantic Yards project and reminds the Governor of his 2005 call for a moratorium on eminent domain, even more urgent now.

Excerpted from letter:

...At the time of the Kelo decision, as a State Senator and Minority Leader you understood that the current process is flawed and called for a blanket moratorium on the use of eminent domain. The same reasons for instituting a moratorium back then still exist. In fact they are even more urgent given the Kaur decision, and the recent decision by the Court of Appeals affirming the taking in the case involving Atlantic Yards. It is my understanding you recently and publicly committed to a full objective review of that project and its financing.

...The Columbia decision has intolerably heightened the confusion and uncertainty over what, if anything, constrains the ESDC from taking anyone’s property whenever it suits its fancy. For one, no one knows what “blight” is—the crucial and fundamental issue in both the Columbia and Atlantic Yards cases....

[The full text of Perkins's letter can be found after the jump, as well as at http://www.nysenate.gov/report/letter-governor-paterson-eminent-domain.

December 8, 2009

Hon. David A. Paterson
Governor, State of New York
State Capitol
Albany, New York 12224

Dear Governor Paterson:

I write with a great sense of urgency in respectfully calling upon you to forego an appeal of last week’s decision in Kaur v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, and to order a statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain within the State of New York pending legislative action.

As you are aware, last week’s court decision struck down as unconstitutional the taking of property by the Urban Development Corporation d/b/a“ESDC” for the benefit of Columbia University.

The court found ESDC violated both state and federal due process clauses in an effort to prevent affected property owners from obtaining information, and that ESDC’s finding of blight was “bereft of facts which established the neighborhood in question was blighted.” Furthermore, ESDC’s determination that the project even has a public use, benefit or civic purpose is wholly unsupported by the record. The court also noted the glaring conflict of interest, which reeks of bad faith, that existed as a result of ESDC and Columbia using the exact same consultant to review the project and determine blight.

You may recall that back in 2005 you and I stood on the steps of City Hall together with several members of the City Council to protest the United States Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London which affirmed the use of eminent domain for private development that entails a so-called “public use.” That decision contained language encouraging states to review their own eminent domain statutes. Some states have done just that. It is now New York’s turn.

At the time of the Kelo decision, as a State Senator and Minority Leader you understood that the current process is flawed and called for a blanket moratorium on the use of eminent domain. The same reasons for instituting a moratorium back then still exist. In fact they are even more urgent given the Kaur decision, and the recent decision by the Court of Appeals affirming the taking in the case involving Atlantic Yards. It is my understanding you recently and publicly committed to a full objective review of that project and its financing.

As Chair of the Senate’s Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, I held hearings involving the topic of eminent domain. I have gone on record on numerous occasions against what I perceive to be the abuse of eminent domain in this state, particularly as it relates to private development projects. I have often described that abuse as a “mugging”, and one equal to “placing a gun to the community’s head”.

The Columbia decision has intolerably heightened the confusion and uncertainty over what, if anything, constrains the ESDC from taking anyone’s property whenever it suits its fancy. For one, no one knows what “blight” is—the crucial and fundamental issue in both the Columbia and Atlantic Yards cases. What is clear, however, are the signals that the ESDC was not acting in good faith. This I would suggest, is evidenced by the court’s statement that “the record before ESDC contains no evidence whatsoever that Manhattanville was blighted prior to Columbia gaining control over the vast majority of property therein.” The opinion also makes a strong case that the blight determination in that case was severely flawed, and in large part the product of the ESDC’s desire to transfer property to a “private elite education institution”. As a result, I am left with my own opinion, and that of others in my community, that these type of actions on the part of the ESDC are part of an insidious form of discrimination and civil rights violations that must not stand. As the Kaur decision reads, “‘few policies have done more to destroy community and opportunity for minorities than eminent domain.’” In fact, the Court found that the ESDC’s actions in the Columbia expansion is, “clear evidence of that reality. The unbridled use of eminent domain not only disproportionately affects minority communities, but threatens basic principles of property contained in the Fifth Amendment.”

For these and other reasons I request that you urge the ESDC not to appeal the Kaur decision. Please impose a statewide moratorium on further eminent domain actions and then let us work together on a legislative solution. I am currently working on a bill to reform how eminent domain is exercised in the State of New York. The purpose is not to hamper development, but to make the process more transparent and provide stakeholders with substantive due process. This will result in development that reflects community input and serves community needs. Your participation will be critical. An enlightened eminent domain procedure will be a significant victory for all involved.

I respectfully request your support on these issues and am ready to stand with you publicly again, this time for the purpose of announcing actions that will lead to genuine reform. Please feel free to contact me for any further discussion at 212-222-7315, or in my Albany office at 518-455-2441. I look forward to hearing from you at the earliest convenience, and I thank you in advance for your attention to this very important matter.

Very truly yours,

Senator Bill Perkins
30th District

cc: Dennis M. Mullen, President & CEO, Empire State Development Corp.

Posted by eric at 3:55 PM

December 2, 2009

Paterson meets with Atlantic Yards opponents, promises "objective and fair hearing" (but what does that mean now?)

Atlantic Yards Report

So, as the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) moves forward with Atlantic Yards, can the man in charge of the agency, Governor David Paterson--once a public opponent of eminent domain (as DDDB's Daniel Goldstein reminds us), now a tacit supporter of Atlantic Yards--do anything?

Well, at least he's listening. Last night, before a "community conversation" at the First A.M.E. Zion Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, organized by local elected officials. Paterson held a hastily-called meeting with a small group of Atlantic Yards opponents.

He promised them "an objective and fair hearing"--seemingly meaningless (and too late) boilerplate given that state agencies like the ESDC and Metropolitan Transportation Authority have already been charged to do so and have vigorously defended their actions in court after being sued.

Also, with a bond sale in the works, surely others in the administration would tell Paterson that the horse is about to leave the barn and stopping the project would lead to a huge legal mess. Then again, there's a serious argument--as per Nicole Gelinas--that the bond sale is risky, thus giving Paterson some cover, should he invoke his maverick streak.

(What could he do? Tell the ESDC not to pursue eminent domain? Stall the bond sale?)

article

Posted by lumi at 7:50 AM

December 1, 2009

In Bloomberg statement on AY, inflated jobs figures come from FCR; by contrast, ESDC projections are more conservative

Atlantic Yards Report

If Atlantic Yards is such a great project, why do the politicians need to repeat developer Forest City Ratner's lies about the benefits?

From Mayor Bloomberg's radio address last Friday:

All told, Atlantic Yards is expected to create some 8,000 new permanent jobs in Brooklyn. More immediately, building it is also going to produce nearly 17,000 of the new union construction jobs that New Yorkers need.

Norman Oder explains:

Well, not exactly. Those figures--17,000 "construction jobs" and 8000 permanent jobs--come directly from Forest City Ratner's press release rather than a governmental source.

By constrast, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), in its 2009 Modified General Project Plan, projects 12,568 new direct job-years and 21,976 total job-years (direct, indirect, and induced) for project construction and 4,538 new jobs in New York City (direct, indirect, and induced).

Keep in mind that the 17,000 jobs--overstated--would be in job-years, and that all figure presume a project buildout over a decade, which is highly doubtful. For example, a good portion of those new permanent jobs would be in an office tower, but there's no market for office space right now, as Bruce Ratner recently told Crain's.

article

NoLandGrab: By the same logic, Bloomberg has been elected to "four more jobs."

Posted by lumi at 5:15 AM

November 25, 2009

OFFICIAL STATEMENT: NY State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

"I am extremely disappointed with the decision of the Court. The power of eminent domain is extraordinary and should only be authorized in limited circumstances where, unlike in this case, there is a clear and robust public benefit. The use of eminent domain to benefit a private developer to build a basketball arena for a team owned by a foreign billionaire is an abuse of this extraordinary power, and I hope that Governor Paterson will choose not to exercise it."

— Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries

Posted by lumi at 4:33 AM

November 19, 2009

Given no 2009 feasibility study of AY after changes, DDDB calls for new PACB review of project financing

Atlantic Yards Report

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) has sent a letter to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, State Senator Bill Perkins, and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (chairs of the respective committees on public authorities) arguing that the Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) needs to convene and vote on whether to approve the Atlantic Yards project’s financing.

Crucially, the letter points out that, before project approval in 2006, the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) hired KPMG to do a report about the feasibility of the project, no such analysis was conducted before the ESDC passed the 2009 Modified General Project Plan (MGPP) in September.

Unmentioned in the letter is that the ESDC did ask KPMG for an update, but only on the feasibility of the housing market over a ten-year buildout--a market study that was highly dubious.

article

Posted by eric at 10:52 PM

November 16, 2009

No answers to tough questions for NYC EDC's Pinsky on sweet deals on stadiums

Atlantic Yards Report

Last week, Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC), answered questions from readers of the New York Times's CityRoom blog about citywide entrepreneurship.

Given the circumscribed topic, it's unsurprising that, in his answers (Round 1, Round 2), Pinksy bypassed hard questions on development issues. Still, it's notable--and further evidence for Mayor Mike Bloomberg's tougher-than-predicted re-election bid--how much anger there is about the city's willingness to push stadium deals. (The state, of course, is in charge of Atlantic Yards, with the city's agreement and Pinsky's support.)

Click through for a sampling of some of the questions Pinsky didn't answer.

article

Posted by eric at 12:06 PM

November 12, 2009

Meeting with Roger Green

Battle of Brooklyn via Kickstarter

In the winter of 2004/2005 Roger Green, state assemblyman for part of the project site, addressed the community in regards to his position on the project. This scene has become part of a montage in the film.

link

More than 100 people have pledged more than $7,500 to help fund the production of Battle of Brooklyn. Click here to add your support.

Posted by eric at 12:12 PM

November 11, 2009

Borough President Marty Markowitz still has a few tricks up his sleeve, woos big companies

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

After eight years in office, Marty Markowitz knows Brooklynites might be getting "tired" of him.
...

While acknowledging he may be old hat - or shoe - Markowitz, who won reelection with 85% of the vote, said he's got some tricks up his sleeve to ward off the third-term blues.

At the top of his agenda is luring big corporations to Brooklyn to combat the borough's whopping 11% unemployment rate.
...

That's not all that's on his wish list: Markowitz is pushing a groundbreaking for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, and last but not least, a bigger Nathan's hot dog.

article

Additional coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, The Markowitz wish list: Atlantic Yards groundbreaking and bigger Nathan's hot dog

Well, it wasn't Markowitz who yoked the clearly frivolous--the bigger hot dog--with the highly deceptive--the groundbreaking--but the sentence does sketch the BP's rather curious universe of duties.

Should there be a groundbreaking, assuming a victory for the state in the eminent domain case and the sale of some $700 million in arena bonds--it almost surely would involve only the arena (with perhaps one tower in tow), not the project at large.

And it most likely would occur before footprint residents, owners, and commercial tenants have been removed via eminent domain.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

November 6, 2009

New York City's Comptroller: John Liu

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show]

New York City Comptroller-elect John Liu gets asked by "Lenore in Brooklyn" about the Atlantic Yards project, beginning at about the 10:20 mark. Says Liu:

"Large developments like Atlantic Yards... have used up quite a bit of taxpayer subsidy in exchange for promises; the promises have been slow to materialize. I will use the full audit powers of the Comptroller's office to take a look at what in fact has transpired and set each one of these projects on a timetable to actually deliver those promises."

link

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, On Brian Lehrer, caller asks about "enormous" AY subsidies; Liu says he will ensure benefits; why not look into PILOTs and naming rights?

Better yet, he should take a look at the Department of Finance's arena block assessments and gauge whether the agency has, as with Yankee Stadium, stretched credulity with its numbers.

And why can't he recommend a city policy regarding the selling of sports facility naming rights, which most jurisdictions simply give away (but shouldn't)?

Posted by eric at 12:38 PM

Paterson calls special session, will include public authority reform

Atlantic Yards Report

NY Governor David Paterson has called a special legislative session for this month, and the reform of Public Authorities (i.e. Atlantic Yards sponsor the Empire State Development Corporation) is on the agenda. However, since the Public Authorities-reform standardbearer, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, would rather rail at the Yankee Stadium deal after the fact than unwind an equally twisted boondoggle yet in the works, don't hold your breath for any reforms that could get in the way of Bruce Ratner's megaproject.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

November 4, 2009

Atlantic Yards Report post-election posts

Times columnist sees how Bloomberg alienated Stuy Town residents; could a Thompson focus on AY have had an impact?

Had [NY Times columnist Jim] Dwyer come to Brooklyn, he would've found voters angry about Atlantic Yards divided about whether Thompson represented a viable alternative. And Thompson's posture toward AY was a sign of (take your pick) the challenger's ineptitude or the difficulty of taking on a project that still retains some powerful backers.

Does Marty Markowitz consider the Atlantic Yards arena his legacy? He says no, others say yes

Posted by lumi at 7:21 PM

Markowitz celebrates borough president re-election

Courier Life Publications, via YourNabe.com
By Stephen Witt

He isn’t often referred to as “Party Marty” for nothing.
...
In his victory speech, [Borough President Marty] Markowitz thanked Mayor Michael Bloomberg for overturning the term limit law allowing him to run for a third term.

NoLandGrab: Because Markowitz knows in his heart that he's not qualified to run for anything other than "Party Marty?"

Looking ahead to his third term, Markowitz said he can’t wait to get the shovel in the ground for the $4 billion-plus Atlantic Yards project that will see the NBA’s Nets move to Brooklyn into a newly built arena at the Flatbush/Atlantic avenues intersection.

article

NLG: Maybe Markowitz ran for a third term in order to hang around for an Atlantic Yards groundbreaking. Bruce Ratner's megaproject was announced in the middle of Markowitz's first(!) term.

Posted by lumi at 6:36 PM

Bloomberg's third term seen as challenge

amNY
By Jason Fink

With Mayor Michael Bloomberg winning another term, New Yorkers can expect him to continue pushing two of his biggest goals: improving school test scores and redeveloping large areas of the city.

But experts caution that the unexpected closeness of his victory and the city’s fiscal problem will blunt his agenda.
...
“Whatever policy initiatives the mayor has are going to be very much compromised by the city budget,” said Bruce Berg, a Fordham University political science professor.
...
Still, Berg and others point to several projects on which Bloomberg will likely spend political capital, including Coney Island and Atlantic Yards.

article

Atlantic Yards Report, Three papers, two views of reality: Bloomberg's narrow victory in the Post, Times, and Daily News online

The results are in and Bloomberg either steamrolled over or squeaked by the competition, depending on which daily newspaper you read.

Posted by lumi at 5:14 AM

November 3, 2009

Election Day Triangles

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White urges a vote for Bill Thompson.

The fact is that while Thompson’s errant support for some version of Atlantic Yards is a problem (he has occasionally said he doesn’t know "what" the mega-project is at this point), there is hope that with a Thompson city administration support for Atlantic Yards will ultimately (and logically) fade. There is no such hope with the stubborn Bloomberg administration, irrespective of the way Bloomberg may try to hide, misrepresent or deny his administration’s support.

article

NoLandGrab: We wish we could share White's hopefulness for a different Atlantic Yards outcome if Bill Thompson somehow managed an upset, but given every chance to differentiate himself from Bloomberg on development issues — seemingly his best chance to win — he's instead presented himself as Bloomberg light, a recipe , no doubt, for runner-up status.

Posted by eric at 7:07 PM

On Election Day, a Bloomberg story: the mayor disavows influence on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Peter Krashes, former president of the Dean Street Block Association, encountered Mayor Mike Bloomberg on the campaign trail two Saturdays ago at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers Market.

Krashes told the mayor that neighbors near the Atlantic Yards footprint had problems with ongoing construction activities. Bloomberg responded that there wasn't much the city could do.

"He specifically said it's a state project and the city doesn't have much sway or influence," Krashes recalled. "I told him I didn't think that was true. From what I hear, you are pushing quite hard on the project."

(After all, didn't his MTA appointees lead the charge for the revision of the Vanderbilt Yard deal?)

"I said I didn't believe the project had a public benefit." Krashes recalled, "and I asked him what he thought it was." The conversation ended, however, as campaign aides stepped in and moved Bloomberg along to another appointment.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:36 AM

November 2, 2009

It came from the Blogosphere... (election eve edition)

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill], Challenger TKO’d by Technicality

Tish James dispatched Forest City Ratner's hand-picked candidate in the Democratic primary; one of her general election opponents just dispatched himself.

City Council Member Letitia James has one challenger fewer to worry about in tomorrow’s election: Osaretin Ighile, an independent, who was kicked off the ballot last week.
...

His failure to write in one number — 35, the district he is running in — made all the difference, the appellate division of State Supreme Court ruled last week.

We'd be sympathetic about his being removed from the ballot on a technicality, except for this:

He supports the Atlantic Yards project and is critical of Ms. James’s opposition to it.

“Anything that will create jobs for our community, I’m for that,” he said. “I want to make life less bothersome to the working class.”

NoLandGrab: And you can be sure that two or three decades of massive surface parking lots won't be bothersome at all.

Lucid Culture, The Brooklyn What Runs for Brooklyn Borough President

Local punk rockers The Brooklyn What have officially launched a write-in campaign for the Brooklyn Borough Presidency, an effort that actually got started a couple years back.

The local, Brooklyn raised punk rock band has been running informally since summer 2007, when lead singer Jamie Frey and guitarist Evan O’Donnell encountered current Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz at a concert in Coney Island, and informed him that they were not interested in the planned Nets arena in Prospect Heights. “Marty took one look at our shirtless, sweaty, hairy bodies and told us to ‘move out’,” Recalls O’Donnell. “From then on, it was war.”
...

The Brooklyn What’s Top Five Reasons not to vote for Marty:

  • The Proposed Atlantic Yards Project, which illegally uses eminent domain to give land to a private developer for a fraction of its valu, in order to build a basketball arena and several high rise condo buildings in the middle of prospect heights.

  • Marty is Corrupt. The New York Post reported that Markowitz has steered nearly $700,000 in no bid contracts to his personal non-profit, which has also been recipient of $1 million in contributions from who else? Bruce Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer

  • Marty knocked his only democratic challenger off the ballot. Thanks for the democracy, Marty!

  • Marty Endorses Bloomberg. Bloomberg has made living in this city without a million dollar salary nearly impossible.

  • Marty is Manhattan-izing Brooklyn. Skyscrapers, exorbitant rents, local treasures (Coney Island) turned into tourist traps, sound familiar?

Washington Square Park, Why you should not vote for Mike Bloomberg for Mayor Tomorrow Election Day NYC!

Tomorrow, Tuesday November 3rd, is Election Day for Mayor, City Council, and other races in New York City. The Mayoral election is very important. Please vote! — for anyone but Mike Bloomberg.

Here are some reasons why:

* The Bloomberg Administration has shown no regard – or use for – community input, planning, and participation. In fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg does not care about maintaining the character and uniqueness of our city. That’s been evident throughout the “process” of the redesign of Washington Square Park and many other places – Yankee Stadium (destroyed parkland and corporation giveaways), Union Square, Willets Point, Atlantic Yards, etc. etc.

Found in Brooklyn, Don't Forget to VOTE Bloomberg OUT TOMORROW!!

Atlantic Yards, Coney Island, Gowanus, Williamsburg, Long Island City, the lower east side, all uglified or on their way to become uglified. Get this man O-U-T!

Posted by eric at 9:14 PM

On Your To Way Vote, We Quizzically Ask: How “Green” Is Our Bloomberg?

Noticing New York

Michael D.D. White offers up a little election eve quiz.

True or False: Bloomberg uses his environmental PlaNYC as a justification for promoting more city real estate development.
...

But the question with the Bloomberg administration is which came first: A love of the environment or the promotion of big development? By 2007, long before PlaNYC the Bloomberg administration was well on its away to promoting megadevelopments and most of the 100 upzonings covering a fifth of the city were in place. We have also seen, in other situations, how prone the Bloomberg administration is to the cynical use of beneficial things, for instance “affordable housing” as excuses to justify otherwise indefensible mega-monopolies like Atlantic Yards.

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Posted by eric at 8:47 PM

AY opponents James, Owens endorse AY supporter Vann in the 36th CD, neglect AY opponent Griffith

Atlantic Yards Report

It's not every day that we disagree with Tish James and Chris Owens, and agree with Errol Louis, but hey, it's election day eve.

In the race between incumbent 36th District Council Member Al Vann, who won an eight-person Democratic primary by a slim margin, and challenger Mark Winston Griffith, who came in second and is running on the Working Families Party line, you'd think 35th District Council Member Letitia James might endorse the challenger.

After all, Vann voted to overturn and extend term limits, while James was a fierce opponent of that effort. And Vann is a supporter of Atlantic Yards, attending the MetroTech tree-lighting last December, while James is the project's leading political opponent--and Griffith opposes the project.

You'd also think that Chris Owens, who ran for the 11th Congressional District in 2006 as the only candidate opposing Atlantic Yards, also might endorse Griffith.

But James and Owens are endorsing Vann, as the New York Times reports today. Along with their citation of his very long track record as a patriarch of black politics in Brooklyn, I'd have to suspect that mutual crusades and mutual favors go a long way. (James used to work for Vann. And Atlantic Yards is hardly the major issue in the district.)

article

NoLandGrab: Al Vann's vote in favor of overturning term limits, and his support for Atlantic Yards, automatically disqualify him; Mark Winston Griffith, despite having to run on the Working Families/ACORN line, has been outspoken about his opposition to Bruce Ratner's boondoggle.

Posted by eric at 8:28 PM

Markowitz campaign mailer touts "Marty's Brooklyn Story," omits Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklynites this weekend got a mailer reminding us to vote for [Marty] Markowitz, with the essential argument that the job of Borough President is to increase pride and happiness, rather than, say, to weigh in on things like land use.

...the mailer consists of endless photos of Markowitz meeting Brooklynites and presiding over things Brooklyn, including Dine in Brooklyn, the new cruise ship terminal, the Coney Island circus, and even a soccer team.

Atlantic Yards is conspicuously absent, just as Markowitz's promotional Brooklyn!! publication (1, 2, 3)--essentially, a cousin of the campaign mailer--omits or downplays the borough's most controversial project, the project on which Markowitz has staked his reputation.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:52 AM

October 31, 2009

Pechefsky challenges 39th CD frontrunner Lander on AY, but differences are small; will Council hold the AY hearing Lander seeks?

Atlantic Yards Report

In overwhelmingly-Democratic New York City, the winner of the primary normally wins in the general election as well. Brad Lander, the Democratic candidate for City Council in the 39th District, is being challenged by David Pechefsky of the Green Party. This blog entry compares/contrasts the two candidates who are both opposed to the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

David Pechefsky (right), the Green Party candidate for the 39th City Council District, may be a long-shot, but he's run a lively campaign, most notably challenging Democratic frontrunner Brad Lander (below, left) on the role of the Council and, secondarily, on Atlantic Yards.

Indeed, while Pechefsky critiques Lander for not having a plan to stop the project, neither does Pechefsky, though he contends that, should the City Council be able to block additional or approved-but-not-delivered funding, the project could be hampered.

Rather, Pechefsky's candidacy speaks more to reforming the City Council budget process (including member items), thus challenging a candidate like Lander who would represent a mostly progressive constituency but must also play nice with the power structure.

link

Posted by steve at 7:19 AM

October 29, 2009

The Gamble

Weighing the risks and rewards of a Bloomberg third term

City Hall News
by Edward-Isaac Dovere

"Our view is that if we do everything conceivable to get our message out and turn our voters out, we’ll win—and the better a job we do, the more votes we get,” explained Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk. “I’m paraphrasing it, but LBJ said something along the lines of ‘If you do everything you possibly, humanly can and then a little more, you should win.’ That’s how I see it too.”

Um, doesn't he mean "if we spend everything conceivable" and "if you spend everything you possibly, humanly can?"

Many people have called for Bloomberg to seek and get control of development at Ground Zero, but to date, he has given no indication that he wants that particular albatross. Still, his frustrations at past failures simmering just below the surface, he does not seem content to have his biggest contributions to the skyline be whatever has grown out of his administration’s comprehensive rezonings over the last two terms and the new Bloomberg LP headquarters on the Upper East Side.

“We have to do the big projects,” he said at a recent press conference, his face scrunched in a grimace as he addressed the current condition of Atlantic Yards.
...

“Once you make a decision that you’re not facing any future elections, does it give you a greater sense of independence? It does,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who this year endorsed the mayor for the second time.

article

NoLandGrab: OK, one, how does Marty Markowitz, who refuses to go gracefully into the night, know what it feels like to decide one is not going to face any future elections? And two, what's preventing Emperor Mike from overriding term limits again in the future, should NYC voters be so foolish as to give him the third term he covets?

Posted by eric at 12:31 PM

Rev. Billy: Brooklyn’s Third-Party Candidate

Anti-Consumerism Is Windsor Resident’s Theme

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

The Rev. Billy, whose real name is Bill Talen, grew up in the Midwest but has lived in Brooklyn for quite a few years. He has lived for six years in quiet Windsor Terrace and lived in Fort Greene beforehand. He has often gotten involved in Brooklyn issues such as the Atlantic Yards project and the Coney Island development plan – both of which he opposes.

The Rev. Billy’s main theme is anti-consumerism – his organization is known as the “Church of Stop Shopping.” He opposes the “mono-culture” of shopping malls, gentrification and large-scale development in favor of mom-and-pop shops and neighborhood-based cooperation.
...

On the subject of his two much-better-known rivals, he says, “Mayor Bloomberg and Thompson are both proponents of an attack on neighborhoods, almost like a military assault, of chain stores [although he does like Fairway], gentrification and skyrocketing rents. There is a partnership between the city and landlords and developers, and that partnership is corrupt.

article

Posted by eric at 10:02 AM

Down to the wire with Dave

YourNabe.com

Green Party candidate David Pechefsky may or may not be victorious in his bid for the 39th District’s New York City Council seat next week, but he’s sure injected some sorely-needed adrenaline into an otherwise anemic election cycle.
...

Among the latest, his contention that the New York City Council, through the power of the purse, has the ability to scrap earmarks for Atlantic Yards and thus slay the controversial project once and for all - if only members of the city council had the political will.

In recent weeks, Pechefsky has also gone after all-important member items - those tantalizing monies allotted to city council members for disbursement to non-profits in their districts.

“As it now stands, members who are loyal to the speaker or have a constituency that the speaker cannot alienate get the most money, and those who oppose the speaker get the least,” Pechefsky says. “The only way to compensate is by horse-trading votes for money.”

article

Posted by eric at 9:58 AM

October 28, 2009

Press release: "DE BLASIO PROTECTS RESIDENTIAL BROOKLYN FROM HIGH RISE DEVELOPMENT‏"

Atlantic Yards Report

Shocker! From a press release from City Council Member (and presumptive Public Advocate) Bill de Blasio:

DE BLASIO PROTECTS RESIDENTIAL BROOKLYN FROM HIGH RISE DEVELOPMENT

CITY COUNCIL IS EXPECTED TO PASS DOWN-ZONING IMPOSING STRICT HEIGHT LIMITS ON BUILDINGS IN CARROLL GARDENS
...

Atlantic Yards, and the transition between a border zone and a historic district, has not gotten the same attention from de Blasio.

article

Posted by eric at 11:18 PM

Thompson criticizes Bloomberg on MTA, ignores AY

Atlantic Yards Report

From a press release from Democratic Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson regarding remarks today on the MTA:

Thompson said, “Our City’s economic health and quality of life depend on leadership at City Hall that speaks up for transit riders. Unfortunately, New Yorkers haven’t had that advocacy under Mayor Bloomberg. The Mayor’s top-down decision-making approach has led to two fare hikes in 15 months, service cuts, and crumbling subway stations. As fares have gone up, the Mayor and his MTA appointees have been largely silent.”
...
Addressing the MTA’s mismanagement, Thompson said, “I will appoint MTA Board members who are transit activists and more representatives of the riding public—unlike the Bloomberg Administration’s loyalists who have no special knowledge or even prior familiarity with transit. And my appointees will be instructed that raising fares will not be the silver bullet solution to the MTA’s mismanagement and bloated budget.”

Unmentioned: the leadership of Bloomberg's MTA appointees in revising the deal for the Vanderbilt Yard at Forest City Ratner's request--now the subject of a lawsuit.

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Posted by lumi at 4:01 AM

October 26, 2009

Gotham Gazette and Endorsements

The Wonkster [Gotham Gazette]

Gotham Gazette does not now and never, ever has endorsed candidates. It would be a violation of our tax status and even if we could endorse candidates, we wouldn’t want to.

Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation (it says so on the site!). Citizen’s Union Foundation does not endorse candidates either.

Citizens Union Foundation’s sister organization is Citizens Union, which does endorse candidates. But those preferences play no role — none ! — in Gotham Gazette’s coverage.

In fact, Gotham Gazette does not take official stands on any of the weighty issues facing our city. We are not for (or against ) the millionaire’s tax or slashing city services. We had no position on mayoral control of schools, Atlantic Yards or what to do with the city’s garbage. And we do not urge City Council to adopt or reject any particular piece of legislation.

Our only stand — if you can call it that — is to believe that citizens should be informed about their government.

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NoLandGrab: And one of the best ways to inform the citizenry is to call the government out when it intentionally misleads its citizens — which has clearly been the case with city and state support for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project. Unfortunately, Citizens Union, "an independent, nonpartisan, civic organization of members who promote good government and advance political reform in the city and state of New York," has declined to join other good government groups in legal action to stop Atlantic Yards — and has endorsed third-term powergrabber Mike Bloomberg for re-re-election.

Posted by eric at 4:01 PM

Another Look at the Dinkins Administration, and Not by Giuliani

The New York Times
by Michael Powell

In the wake of Rudy Giuliani's none-too-subtle invocation of race politics last week, The Times's "Political Memo" column looks back at the last time New York City had an African American mayor.

Mr. Dinkins also negotiated a stadium deal that still draws applause. His administration gave the United States Tennis Association a 99-year lease on city parkland; in exchange, the tennis association built a stadium and tennis complex in Flushing Meadows, Queens, and shares the courts with the public.

The tennis deal, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed several years ago, was “the only good athletic sports stadium deal, not just in New York but in the country.”

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NoLandGrab: And after two Bloomberg-championed baseball stadiums, and a full-court press to build Bruce Ratner's basketball palace, it's still true.

Posted by eric at 10:07 AM

October 23, 2009

Atlantic Yards critic turns conciliatory

Boro Politics
by Stephen Witt

Hakeem Jeffries has of course clarified his position, but that didn't make it into the story until the seventh paragraph, nor, obviously, into the headline. Meanwhile...

[Assemblyman Nick] Perry, who represents East Flatbush, Canarsie and Brownsville, said he remains mostly supportive with some reservations about the project.

“If we can get this project off the ground it would benefit all of Brooklyn in tough economic times,” said Perry of the letter. “We just want to make sure our expectations abide to it [the CBA] and even go beyond it. We have an obligation to keep their feet to the fire.”

Perry said he does not turn a deaf ear to Atlantic Yards critics, but feels their concerns can be worked out.

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NoLandGrab: We admire Perry's altruism when it comes to the CBA, since the community he represents is about two-and-a-half miles from the Atlantic Yards footprint at its nearest point. As for working out our concerns, sure, we expect that to happen any day now.

Posted by eric at 11:51 AM

At PHNDC meeting, Jeffries says meeting with governor needed, ombudsman not empowered; Adams invokes security (and Jeffries says feds should weigh in)

Atlantic Yards Report

Three local elected officials appeared last night at a meeting of the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council (PHNDC), and the Atlantic Yards news came not from City Council Member Letitia James (speaking at left), who barely mentioned the project, noting that her position was well-known.

Rather, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and state Senator Eric Adams, two elected officials somewhat critical of AY but--unlike James--have not stood with project opponents in protests and lawsuits, offered some clarification of their positions.

Notably, Jeffries said he and other local elected officials seek a meeting with the state's leaders to discuss Atlantic Yards; that he didn't have editorial control of a seemingly pro-AY letter he signed; that the federal Department of Homeland Security, not just the New York Police Department, should advise on security issues; and that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) had not empowered its own AY ombudsman to do the job.

Adams added that the history of a failed terrorist attack at the Atlantic Avenue terminal made a careful security review imperative, which means he can't endorse the project at this time.

(Adams and Jeffries, among others, have called for a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, which was rejected.)

Click thru for much more detail, including video clips of the meeting.

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Posted by eric at 11:34 AM

October 22, 2009

Your 2 Cents: Daniel Goldstein Of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

NY1 News

DanielGoldsteinNY1TwoCents.jpg

NY1 VIDEO: Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn offers his take on the mayor's urban development policy in "Your 2 Cents," a series of on-camera, unedited guest editorials delivered by prominent New Yorkers.

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Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

October 21, 2009

An update from Jeffries: "I remain highly critical" of Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the subject of criticism for signing a letter with a very positive posture toward Atlantic Yards, has issued the following statement backing away from the tone of the letter:

"My colleagues in the legislature, including Sen. John Sampson, the leader of the democratic majority of the New York State Senate, requested a meeting with the principal developer of the proposed Atlantic Yards project, and invited me to participate. I remain highly critical of the project and the direction it has taken in recent years. I continue to believe that the extraordinary measure of eminent domain should not be used for the purpose of building a basketball arena."

So I'm guessing he didn't write the letter he signed along with Sampson and Assemblyman Nick Perry. The question, which I suspect will be raised at tomorrow's PHNDC meeting, is why he signed it.

Jeffries added, in response to my question, "Yes, I did not draft the letter, and to the extent there is any additional uncertainty about my views toward the project, I would of course be delighted to address the issue at tomorrow's town hall meeting."

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Posted by eric at 6:10 PM

Assemblyman Jeffries' Evolution on Atlantic Yards and His Co-signed Letter to Ratner and Prokhorov

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn

DDDB looks at the history of Prospect Heights Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries' stance on Atlantic Yards, and wonders what his recent letter to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov portends.

link

Posted by eric at 11:48 AM

Rawyal — Issues

Atlantic Yards makes a cameo (around the 1:50 mark) in Hip Hop artist Rief Rawyal's get-out-the-(anti-Bloomberg)-vote rap.

link

Posted by eric at 11:38 AM

Republican Seeks To Replace De Blasio

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
By Harold Egeln

Joe Nardiello, the Republican candidate for City Council in the 39th:

On Atlantic Yards and development, he said he is “a proponent of bringing the Nets to Brooklyn,” creating manufacturing in Central Brooklyn and “making Brooklyn the epicenter of solar power usage.”

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NoLandGrab: Idiocracy — the candidate for "reining in high transit fares and preventing East River bridge tolls by reforming the MTA" is in favor of the MTA's sweetheart deal with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner.

Posted by lumi at 6:24 AM

October 20, 2009

Jeffries changes tune, calls AY "vital to the economy," wants meeting with Prokhorov; also, PHNDC Town Hall with electeds on Thursday

Atlantic Yards Report

Once upon a time (actually 5/3/08) Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries said publicly, "Let's give Governor Paterson a chance to say no to eminent domain."

Now, along with legislative leaders John Sampson (beneficiary of a fundraiser held at Forest City Ratner offices) and Nick Perry, he's calling for a meeting with Bruce Ratner and prospective Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

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Posted by eric at 11:03 PM

Dear Messrs. Ratner and Prokhorov...

091019-SampsonPerry.gif

Are one or more of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefit Agreement signatories getting nervous, or are a couple of local legislators trying to hop on the gravy train before it leaves the Vanderbilt Yard?

State Senator John Sampson and Assemblymen Nick Perry and Hakeem Jeffries sent a letter to Bruce Ratner and Mikhail Prokhorov yesterday, praising the basketball impresarios for their "recent efforts to propose new business arrangements to sustain" Atlantic Yards "in these challenging economic times," while expressing concern that "all covenants previously executed" in the CBA "remain in force, and are fully executed."

NoLandGrab: ROTFLMAO. The Atlantic Yards CBA is about as firm as a bowl of Jello.

They're also seeking "a meeting with [Bruce and Proko] at the earliest opportunity to review... this vital economic development project."

NLG: We're not sure what angle Sampson (who recently held a fundraiser in Forest City Ratner's Metrotech offices) and Perry are playing, but we would've expected the normally cagey Jeffries to take pains to appear a bit more savvy.

Related coverage...

NY Observer, Sampson, Jeffries to Russian Billionaire, Ratner: Please Meet With Us

Posted by eric at 9:32 PM

October 19, 2009

What Bloomberg and Stuckey have in common: the Detroit dodge

Atlantic Yards Report

Rudy Giuliani says that if we don't reelect Mike Bloomberg, then New York City will turn into Detroit.

Jim Stuckey said that if we don't build Atlantic Yards, then New York City will turn into Detroit.

Norman Oder says not so fast:

As I responded:

Actually, New York has no chance of becoming the next Detroit, a city based on one industry, with no public transportation, and which is not exactly the country’s cultural and financial capital.

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NoLandGrab: Actually, if we do build Atlantic Yards, we will become Detroit.

Posted by eric at 11:21 PM

As the Times says "Stop the sewer money" in Albany, a prime exhibit could be Ratner's $58K check to a Silver-controlled committee

Atlantic Yards Report

The New York Times is Fed Up With Albany.

Several commenters noted that the editorial, which covered several issues, failed to mention all-powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who, among other things, has refused to reveal the identities of his legal clients.

Also, consider that, in January 2008, Forest City Ratner apparently reversed a pledge to refrain from campaign contributions, giving $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account. That's part of the mutual closeness between the developer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

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Posted by eric at 11:16 PM

Calling it, for Thompson

Columbia Spectator
by Al Benninghoff

Adventures in phone banking.

Phone banking for Thompson, however, is quite a different experience.

No one that answered the phones hadn’t heard of Bloomberg. It would be hard not to. He’s spent $60 million on his campaign so far, with plans to spend another $60 million in these final weeks. He’s bought so many advertisements that people are beginning to complain that it’s overkill, but when you call voters, you can tell that the commercials’ contents are beginning to sink in. The people I was calling were spouting rhetoric found not only in his commercials and on his fliers, but in the articles that have churned out weekly covering the campaign. There are a few constant themes.
...

#3. Bloomberg is a businessman who has brought huge economic development projects to New York.

He’s made some big promises, but most of the big ideas Bloomberg touts never get off the ground. Ground Zero is still just a hole, the West Side Stadium project was a dud, and the Atlantic Yards project seems to have stalled.

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Posted by eric at 11:54 AM

October 16, 2009

Jeffries: MTA has breached fiduciary duty, but joining new lawsuit would compromise his advocacy

Atlantic Yards Report

Continuing down the well worn path, which for the past five years has tediously led nowhere, NY State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries tells Norman Oder that he chose not to join other elected officials in the lawsuit challenging the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) re-sweetened sweetheart deal with Bruce Ratner because his "ability to forcefully and candidly advocate on behalf of the community, with the Governor and the MTA on the other side of the negotiating table, would be compromised if [he] were to be a named plaintiff in the litigation at this point in time."

Oder's analysis:

I can only speculate at the additional motives behind Jeffries' decision.
...
Perhaps Jeffries has calculated that Atlantic Yards is more likely than not, and that, should the project move forward, he wants to make sure that Forest City Ratner, and government agencies that could provide housing subsidies, deliver on the 200 affordable homeowner units the developer promised in December 2006 but which have never been incorporated into government documentation.

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Posted by lumi at 6:20 AM

October 15, 2009

Thompson lays out an economic agenda

Mayoral candidate City Comptroller Bill Thompson is light on specifics as he offers an economic plan for the city at a Crain's forum.

Crain's NY Business
by Erik Engquist

He was more forceful in attacking the mayor’s record on development. Mr. Thompson focused on three projects that have not moved forward as quickly as the administration had hoped. “Hudson Yards, Atlantic Yards, Willets Point and on and on and on,” the comptroller said. “I don’t think we’ve seen much growth there.”

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NoLandGrab: Bill Thompson just doesn't get it, does he? Let us offer up some free political advice — criticizing Bloomberg for being an underdeveloper, no matter the audience, is not a recipe for a November 3rd upset.

Posted by eric at 10:16 PM

October 13, 2009

Mayoral battle for the city’s skyline

Thompson up against most ambitious real estate planner in decades

MetroNY
By Carly Baldwin

So where do mayoral rivals Michael Bloomberg and William Thompson stand on building the city?

Bloomberg embraces development to increase economic growth and tax revenue. He supports the controversial Atlantic Yards project, gave tax breaks to Yankee Stadium, and changed zoning in Greenpoint-Williamsburg and Coney Island to increase residential development.
...
Thompson paints himself as an advocate for tempered growth, who will protect neighborhoods from overdevelopment and demand good jobs in exchange for public financing.

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NoLandGrab: Somewhere along the line, we believe that Bruce Ratner's overdevelopment was renamed "the controversial Atlantic Yards project."

FYI: Thompson is for the controversial project, though he's believes that his support represents "a very different position" from the Mayor's support.

Posted by lumi at 5:33 AM

October 12, 2009

Bloomberg wants to get rid of Public Advocate position, says "we have an aggressive enough press"

Atlantic Yards Report

Mayor Mike Bloomberg says that the Public Advocate position should be abandoned:
"You should get rid of the public advocate," he said. "It's a total waste of everybody's money. Nobody needs another gadfly and we have an aggressive enough press," he said.

Well, incumbent Betsy Gotbaum hasn't exactly distinguished herself. But Bloomberg thinks the press is aggressive enough. How about the publishers who agreed to support his effort to overturn and extend term limits?

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NoLandGrab: Norman Oder is too kind. The mainstream press in NYC has more or less rolled over and played dead for the Mayor.

Posted by eric at 4:55 PM

October 8, 2009

Thompson claims major development projects require cost-benefit analyses, but ignores Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

From Democratic Mayoral nominee Bill Thompson's speech yesterday on the economy:
Enormous staff resources and time were wasted planning a West Side Jets Stadium that was never built. Huge subsidies went to the New York Yankees for a stadium project with little local economic impact.

As Mayor, I will require that decisions to invest taxpayer dollars in major development projects undergo rigorous cost, jobs, and community-benefit analyses.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg's campaign responded that Thompson "flip-flopped"--as opposed to, maybe, changed his mind--on Yankee Stadium.

Thompson ignored the Independent Budget Office's analysis that the Atlantic Yards arena would be a money-loser for the city.

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NoLandGrab: We'll give Thompson the benefit of the doubt and say he "came to his senses" on Yankee Stadium.

Posted by eric at 11:15 AM

The speaker? A squeaker!

The Brooklyn Paper
by Gersh Kuntzman

The City Council is a big fish that stinks from the head down — or so says would-be Councilman David Pechefsky, a Green Party candidate challenging Democratic front-runner Brad Lander to represent Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens and parts of Cobble Hill and Gowanus.
...

David Pechefsky, Green
I will not support a Speaker who voted to overturn term limits. But regardless of who is Speaker, without the reforms I have advocated, including reform of the committee structure, reform in the hiring and retention of staff, and reform of the member item system and budget process as a whole, the Council will continue to inadequately fulfill its responsibility as a counterweight to the mayor. A councilmember who votes for Speaker Quinn has little credibility on the term limits issue and therefore on commitment to reform more generally. It would also call into question that Councilmember’s commitment and ability to stand up to the mayor on such issues as Atlantic Yards and the Gowanus Canal.

Click thru to see what the other candidates speak about the Speaker.

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Posted by eric at 8:57 AM

October 6, 2009

Lobbying firm hosts $1000 (minimum) fundraiser for Senator Sampson at FCR's MetroTech offices

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Ratner makes an in-kind contribution.

Forest City Ratner offices at MetroTech are the site tonight for a fundraiser (minimum contribution: $1000) supporting Senator John Sampson, leader of the New York State Democratic Conference.

The evening is sponsored by the Albany-based lobbying firm of State & Broadway. (Click on graphics to enlarge.)

Forest City Ratner for years avoided direct political contributions, preferring to rely on lobbying. However, in January 2008, the company gave $58,420 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee's Housekeeping account.

So this indirect support might be seen as a way of maintaining influence, given the need for future tax breaks and other governmental goodies for projects like Atlantic Yards.

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NoLandGrab: We guess that $1,000 a plate buys Sampson's ignorance of the rude treatment — orchestrated by Forest City operatives — heaped on his colleague, Sen. Bill Perkins, at the May 29th State Senate hearing on Atlantic Yards.

Posted by eric at 6:57 PM

Bloomberg's biographer offers gentle treatment of development issues, and barely a mention of the Nets arena (but no AY)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder critiques Joyce Purnick's bio of NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, where, through the lense of rezoning and development shortcomings, Atlantic Yards is the 800-lb. gorilla.

For Purnick's verdict on development issues, consider this summary paragraph (p. 4):

And in every rundown corner of the city he aggressively cleared the way for renovation and real estate development, to the chagrin of serious city planners and devotees of city landmarks, to the delight of builders, construction unions and pragmatists who share his preference for imperfect development over neglect.

A reader might conclude that casual city planners and those who care partially about landmarks are fine with Bloomberg's record. But Purnick sets up a false dichotomy between imperfect development and neglect, fails to look into project like Atlantic Yards, and does not even hold Bloomberg to his own standards, as I point out below.

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Posted by lumi at 5:56 AM

BORO PRESIDENTS' FIGHT

CityLimits.org
By Jarret Murphy

Brooklyn's Marty Markowitz, who was elected in 2001 and considered a run for mayor before term limits were extended, faces a long-shot Republican opponent, businessman Marc D'Ottavio. A libertarian candidate, Michael Sanchez, is also in the race.

D'Ottavio says his campaign is about listening to needs that don't get much attention. "You hear about Atlantic Yards, you hear about Coney Island, the Gowanus Canal. You don’t hear about these parking garages in residential areas," or about a failing pedestrian bridge near the New York Aquarium on Coney Island, he says.

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NoLandGrab: Frankly, it's pretty amazing that you hear about Atlantic Yards — it takes a lot of jumping up and down to get folks to pay attention to the largest private development project in NYC history.

D'Ottavio makes the case for the need for better outer-borough coverage.

Posted by lumi at 4:36 AM

October 3, 2009

Deal could give New York State power over hundreds of public authorities

Daily News
By Juan Gonzalez

Here is word that Governor David Paterson may be on his way to signing legislation that would make state authorities like the ESDC, tool of developer Bruce Ratner, more accountable. This change in law probably comes too late to correct the lack of accountability of state support for the proposed Atlantic Yards project. The prime sponsors of this legislation are Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Harlem state Sen. William Perkins.

It's hard to believe that any meaningful reform could come out of the Legislature these days, but this could be the exception, thanks to the dogged work of Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Harlem state Sen. William Perkins, the prime sponsors of the legislation.

The new law would:

  • Require appointees to authority boards to act in the interest of that authority and not simply follow instructions from the local mayor or the governor who appointed them.

  • Give the state Senate the power to confirm the chief executives of some of those authorities.

  • Set up an independent Authority Budget Office with subpoena power. That office would set operating rules and monitor the finances of the agencies.

  • Forbid agencies from selling public assets at below market prices unless there is a clear public purpose.

  • Require the state controller to review all major contracts issued by the authorities.

...

"These authorities have been Soviet-style bureaucracies for too long," Brodsky said. "We're bringing them back under the rules of American democracy."

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Posted by steve at 9:20 AM

October 2, 2009

Thompson claims his AY support is "a very different position" than Bloomberg's AY support

Atlantic Yards Report

On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Democratic Mayoral candidate Comptroller Bill Thompson, eschewing the opportunity to criticize Atlantic Yards as a "boondoggle" as did 2005 Democratic candidate Freddy Ferrer, instead stuck to calling for the affordable housing to be built.

And that, he asserted, showed how he differed with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has supported the project to the hilt.

The action begins at about 22:20

BL: Do you differ with the mayor at all on this point on what should happen next at Atlantic Yards?

BT: I supported, maybe not the mayor's original plan at Atlantic Yards, but I had supported Atlantic Yards based on two reasons. The large number of affordable units that were supposed to happen there, and the Community Benefits Agreement that also was happening at Atlantic Yards. Over a period of time, I'm not going to say that I haven't been concerned at the constant changes in Atlantic Yards. I still have a number of questions and continue to pay attention and monitor that. Because that project continues to change and morph. And I have to tell you, it continues to raise concern with me.

He's not monitoring it much. (The statement sounded as convincing as the statement July 22, by the Empire State Development Corporation Steve Matlin, that "We're constantly updating" the fiscal analysis of Atlantic Yards.). Otherwise Thompson would have noticed the mayor's criticism of CBAs, the lack of guarantees and doubts whether enough subsidies would be available, and the unenforceability of the CBA.

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NoLandGrab: For an actually different position on Atlantic Yards, we suggest voters pull the lever for the unbought and unbowed (and well-coifed) Green Party candidate, Rev. Billy Talen.

Related coverage...

WNYC Radio [The Brian Lehrer Show], 30 Issues: Thompson on Development

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Markowitz Endorses Bloomberg for Mayor

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Raanan Geberer

Two term-limit abusing politicians have a lovefest.

These tough times, however, call for someone extraordinary, said Markowitz. The Democratic borough president compared Bloomberg, an independent and former Republican, to Chelsey [sic] “Sully” Sullenberger, the airline pilot responsible for the successful emergency landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. He stressed that in his opinion, the mayor and he share many of the same goals and support many of the same projects. These include “a 24/7 Downtown Brooklyn, the City Point project, Atlantic Yards, the continuing development of the Navy Yard, the Weeksville historic museum, the redevelopment of Coney Island” and more.

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NoLandGrab: Captain Chesley Sullenberger should sue for defamation.

Posted by eric at 10:00 AM

October 1, 2009

CHatter: With Win, James Shrugs Off Forest City Ratner

City Hall News

The race between Council Member Letitia James and Delia Hunley-Adossa centered on Atlantic Yards.

Hunley-Adossa, head of the local precinct’s community council, hit James on her opposition to the Atlantic Yards project, saying the new amenities will create jobs and needed housing. But James and her supporters saw Hunley-Adossa as a mouthpiece for developer Forest City Ratner.
...
Taking more than 80 percent of 9,214 votes, James said the results sent a message to the Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner that the community is against the mega-project.

“Sorry, Forest City Ratner,” James said. “You got to deal with me for another term.”

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NoLandGrab: The way Ratner played it, the election turned into a referendum on Atlantic Yards with the developer losing. If the aim was to unseat Letitia James or make her break a sweat, why did the normally politically savvy developer back a candidate who was so blatantly for the project, and lacked public polish?

Posted by lumi at 6:52 AM

September 30, 2009

On Brian Lehrer, Mayor (in clip) disses IBO; Schuerman explains why it’s tough for Thompson; Council candidate Griffith gets a say

Atlantic Yards Report

AYR analyzes today's two Atlantic Yards-related segments on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show.

The Atlantic Yards segment on today’s Brian Lehrer show concentrated mainly on the minor differences between full-throated project support Mayor Mike Bloomberg and supporter-with-concerns Comptroller Bill Thompson, the Democratic candidate.

The most valuable moment in the segment came at about 13:45, when Lehrer brought up the fact that New York City Independent Budget Office Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in full voice, disses the cost-benefit analysis of the Atlantic Yards arena: “I don’t know what the IBO studies would have shown back when they tried to establish the value of Central Park or Prospect Park or anything else. These are the kinds of projects you have to do because without that we don’t have a future, and we’re going to get this one done.”

As Schuerman pointed out, “The funny thing is, he applauded the IBO study when it came out four years ago, showing it was a slight positive net gain for the city.” Schuerman noted that the effort to analyze costs and benefits is “murky,” given that the IBO was able to look only at the arena.

Has the Comptroller reacted to the IBO study? “More than anything, I don’t think Thompson has taken a position on Atlantic Yards,” Schuerman added, noting that Thompson has not chosen to audit the project.
...

Caller Daniel Goldstein of Develop Don’t Destroy suggested that Thompson could challenge Bloomberg on Atlantic Yards, given that it’s “a poster child of all the mayor has done wrong, when it comes to megadevelopments.”

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Posted by eric at 7:54 PM

Our pick: Mike Bloomberg for mayor

The Brooklyn Paper

The Community Newspaper Group's endorsement of incumbent Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who orchestrated the overturning of term limits to clear the way so he could run again, is not totally outlandish, since it's well nigh impossible to get excited about his Democratic challenger, Bill Thompson. But someone must have spiked the coffee down at the CNG's Metrotech offices, because some of the reasons they give for supporting Bloomberg are downright nutty.

Protecting neighborhoods: To his ill-informed critics, the mayor is a tool of developers who want to pillage our communities. But on the ground in the neighborhoods we cover, the mayor has moved ahead with zoning changes to preserve neighborhoods or revitalize commercial areas, such as Carroll Gardens and Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, Jamaica in Queens or along the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. In such cases, we’ve seen the benefits of the mayor’s big-picture approach.

First off, we've never called Bloomberg a "tool" of developers, since he's richer than all of them. More like a BFF.

But seriously, the "benefits" of the Fourth Avenue rezoning? You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who praises that ill-conceived effort. Here's a shining example of that "big-picture approach."

Concerning the sprawling Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the mayor’s team admitted long ago that it didn’t handle the development properly and has since done a much better job. That improvement deserves praise.

WTF? We'll defer to Norman Oder's critique, below, but suffice it to say, the "mayor's team" in this instance was one ex-staffer, former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, who admitted the project should have gone through the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, rather than have short-circuited that process with a state-level zoning override. As for the "much better job" since, well, that's pure fantasy. And "praise?" Sorry, not here.

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More coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, CNG editorial claims Bloomberg's "not a politician" and has "done a much better job" on Atlantic Yards

Here's Norman Oder on the Mayor's alleged Atlantic Yards improvement:

A much better job? Do they mean the accelerated transfer of subsidies or the dissing of the Independent Budget Office?

Term limits

Remember, the Community Newspaper Group is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who agreed to have his New York Post support Bloomberg's effort to overturn and extend term limits.
...

The endorsement claims:
And best of all, he’s not a politician.
...

I'll point people to Tom Robbins in the Village Voice, critiquing Bloomberg's claim of "Progress. Not Politics":
The first word is a debate worth having. The next two are simply lies.

Not politics? Whatever you think of Bill Thompson's erratic campaign, at least he was being nominated that very night by his own party in an open primary. Mike Bloomberg? His GOP endorsement came courtesy of a classic, old-school political deal in which five Republican county leaders sat down in a room and agreed to give the mayor their ballot line.

He cut the same insiders' pact with the cultish local chapter of the Independence Party. The party's nominating convention this spring featured all the democracy of a Chinese Politburo meeting, including a ruling clique that fawned over the visiting mayor. A few weeks later, Bloomberg sealed the deal with a $250,000 down-payment to the party's coffers, with presumably a great deal more to come.

Not politics? Bloomberg continues to scorn the city's campaign finance system, the hard-won reform designed to curb the influence of big money in elections. He spends as much as he wants—the same way the hacks used to do before limits were adopted.

Then there's the bare-bones political scheming that won the mayor the very right to even appear on the ballot this year. That's the one topic Mike Bloomberg still refuses to talk about. He gets an electric-like jolt whenever the topic is raised. Just when and why Mike Bloomberg decided to overturn the city's term limits laws is shrouded in mystery. He's done his best to keep it that way.

Posted by eric at 5:13 PM

Proposed Supermarket Divides Bronx Community

The New York Times
by Terry Pristin

An article about a Bronx supermarket project and a related Community Benefits Agreement highlights the Mayor's flip-flop.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who in the past has supported the efforts of community groups to forge their own pacts with developers for projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, is now adamantly opposed to so-called community benefits agreements. City officials say that benefits to local residents should be considered as part of the public approval process, not in separate agreements.

Seth W. Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corporation, said the split over the supermarket illustrated the flaws inherent in these pacts. “On the one hand you have groups that are claiming to represent the communities saying no to grocery stores,” he said, “while on the other hand there are community groups saying we desperately need more grocery stores.”

article

NoLandGrab: The truth is probably that the Bloomberg Administration will embrace CBAs when they suit their goals, and oppose them when they don't.

Posted by eric at 10:29 AM

September 29, 2009

Two Runoff Elections: Your Votes Sure Could Make a Difference, Or Is That Really So?

Noticing New York

With both candidates for Public Advocate in favor of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards megaproject and both candidates for Comptroller tepidly against the project, blogger Michael D.D. White recommends that you cast your ballot today.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

September 28, 2009

Opportunity for Thompson? Looking at Bloomberg's support for the West Side Stadium, reflexive backing for AY, and how AY was reframed in polls

Atlantic Yards Report

Underdog Democratic mayoral nominee Bill Thompson's an Atlantic Yards supporter. Indeed, he signed a boilerplate letter (left) in July 2005 to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in support of the project.

Should Thompson somehow challenge Mayor Mike Bloomberg on his support for the project, the challenger might gain some headway--only if he looked back in history and framed the issue appropriately. (Right now the only AY critic in the race is Green Party candidate Rev. Billy Talen.)

Click here for Norman Oder's look back at the political history of Atlantic Yards.

Posted by lumi at 6:41 AM

September 23, 2009

Answers About Michael R. Bloomberg

City Room [NYTimes.com]

Joyce Purnick, the author of “Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics,” plays oracle to SteveFtGreene's question about Atlantic Yards:

Question: Why does Mayor Bloomberg continue to support Atlantic Yards when the supposed public benefits, especially the affordable housing will not be available until decades in the future, or never?

Answer: His argument: Economic development is good for the economy. It puts people to work, it generates tax revenues so the city can build more moderately priced housing and spend on other services. That is what he would say if you asked him. Others, and not only opponents of the Atlantic Yards project, don’t see it that way, to put it mildly.

link

Posted by lumi at 7:44 PM

September 20, 2009

Really Wylde? New NY Federal Reserve Bank Director Supported Major NYC Net Loss ($220 Million) Megadevelopment

Noticing New York

This blog entry focuses on Kathy Wylde, who was recently appointed to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Wylde has been a supporter of Michael Bloomberg, helping to overturn voter wishes on term limits, and also a supporter of the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Here is a description of much of what is so wrong about Atlantic Yards:

A spectacularly flawed project in almost all respects, New York City’s Independent Budget Office has concluded that the Atlantic Yards arena, the only part of the Atlantic Yards project currently designed or for which any kind of enforceable, documented deal exists will be a net money loser for the city to the tune of $220 million($39.5 million in direct losses and $180.5 million in opportunity losses). The megadevelopment’s guaranteed inadequacies flow principally from the fact that it was set up and concocted by the developer, Forest City Ratner, as a subsidy-infusion system intended to deliver maximum benefit to the developer at the expense of the public. The IBO has conservatively calculated that on the arena alone the city will be giving the developer$726 million in no-bid giveaways.

The as yet undesigned rest of the megadevelopment has been formulated as a multi-decade no-obligation developer monopoly on a swath of valuable Brooklyn real estate that will allow the developer to blackmail the public into deeper subsidies, redoubling its net losses. In fact, just this week the developer caused New York Governor Paterson’s Empire State Development Corporation to casually shake the advance of another $25 million out of its sleeve. (See: Thursday, September 17, 2009, Noticing New York Comment on and at Today’s ESDC Board Meeting.) Since the project is unlikely ever to return the accelerated advance of that money, this extra $25 million could well bring the calculated net loss on the project up from $220 million to $245 million.

...

The mega-project, containing the seeds for its own demise from the get-go, has been foundering embarrassingly for the five years since it was proposed. The developer could quite likely go under financially. There have thus been ample and repeated opportunities for responsible organizations to call for pulling the plug on the degenerating deal. We have written before about how Ms. Wylde has, instead, errantly recommitted her support to it no matter how far it degrades. (See: Monday, July 6, 2009, Wylde Ideas, Making For a Wrong Partnership.) Most recently, despite a change in the economic environment which should have made it possible to get a much better deal for the public, Ms. Wylde endorsed a far worse one on behalf of the Partnership (see the article just linked to) where hundreds of millions of extra giveaways are being lavished on the project without quid pro quo.

Wylde will join Lee C. Bollinger, President of Columbia University, and eminent domain abuser on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York board. The entry ends with this warning:

So, if you are wondering about what kind of biases might govern the Federal Reserve in conducting federal policy to protect the public and ensure soundness of the economy, just remember that two of its board members who are there to set policy and direction are Atlantic Yards, Bloomberg and eminent domain supporter Kathy Wylde and eminent domain abuser Lee Bollinger from Columbia.

And there is this. According to Crain’s:

The New York Fed also has the ear of Washington, D.C.—U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was president of the New York Fed until his White House appointment.

Worried?

link

Posted by steve at 10:43 AM

September 19, 2009

Congratulations, Councilman Levin…Now What?

Real Reform Brooklyn: Eye on the 33rd

Steven Levin won the Democratic primary this week for a seat on the City Council. This open letter is a suggestion list. One of the asks is that Levin fix the proposed Atlantic Yards project.

Dear Councilman Levin:

We know that it is premature to call you that. You still need to go through the general election and get sworn in. But we all know those are mere formalities. You won. Vito Lopez hooked you up every which way from Tuesday: the Zalmanite faction with Rabbi Niederman and UJO, the union endorsements, the Bushwick United Democratic Club. But it would be unfair to say that Lopez won the election for you. The other candidates sliced and diced themselves up to a fair-thee-well. All that, and good honest campaigning on your behalf, won the day. You are to be personally credited with running an honorable campaign. You never went negative. You never took a shot below the belt. That is why we said “we really want to like you.”

The question is, now what? We thought that we would give you a few suggestions for your new office:

...

  1. Don’t Fold On Atlantic Yards. You have the real opportunity to curb the excesses of Atlantic Yards. You should work with Lopez to make this happen. On December 31st, Ratner’s tax-free financing is going to go “poof.” You need to use that opportunity to force a re-orienting of the proposed arena so that eminent domain is not needed. You also need to bring about a contextual re-working of the plan to integrate it into the surrounding communities.

This appears in this item's comments section:

“You need to use that opportunity to force a re-orienting of the proposed arena so that eminent domain is not needed.”

the arena doesn’t fit at that location without eminent domain. so better: you need to denounce the use of eminent domain to build an arena.

link

Posted by steve at 7:31 AM

September 17, 2009

More primary election wrap-up in Ratnerville

The Local, Crunching, and Chewing on, Some Numbers

And we can confirm commenter harriet’s report that Letitia James won by the biggest margin of any council candidate in the city — 67 percentage points over Delia Hunley-Adossa. But we need to correct her statement that Ms. James got the most votes. That honor goes to Inez Dickens of Harlem’s 9th District.

Can the results in other districts be analyzed through the rubric of the "Atlantic Yards effect?"

This morning we linked to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s post stating that all three council districts surrounding and including Atlantic Yards were carried by anti-AY candidates.

But Atlantic Yards Report says it’s a bit more complicated than that, calling one of the winners, Steve Levin in the 33rd, a “fence-sitter” and the other, Brad Lander in the 39th, a “latecomer to opposition,” at least compared to Josh Skaller, whom he defeated.

In the citywide races for public advocate and comptroller, which will take runoffs to decide, Atlantic Yards Report notes that while the next comptroller will be less kindly disposed towards AY than the present one, Bill Thompson, the next public advocate will be a supporter, like the current one.

Do you think that yesterday’s results augur anything in particular for the political fortunes of Atlantic Yards, which seems likely to need as much political support as it can possibly get in order to get off the ground? Please share.

The Brooklyn Paper, Tuesday’s primary results are in!

Democratic voters in the 35th District, which covers Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, resounding backed their incumbent, Letitia James against the better-funded challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, whose campaign benefitted financially from her support of the Atlantic Yards project.

James won with 81.2 percent of the vote to Hunley-Adossa’s 14 percent.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Lander and Levin Sweep To City Council Victories

Atlantic Yards opponent Councilwoman Letitia James easily trounced project supporter Delia Hunley-Adossa with 7, 479 votes, a landslide of 81.2 of the vote, to Hunley-Adossa’s 1,275, or 13.9 percent.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Little-Known Mayoral Candidate Represents Conservative Party

What kind of world is it when the Conservative Party mayoral candidate takes a wait-and-see approach to ham-fisted-pork-barrel-top-down overdevelopment?

On developments such as Atlantic Yards and Coney Island, [Conservative Party candidate Rev. Stephen] Christopher wants to see what lessons may be learned from these controversial proposals. “Everything in the city is made excessively complicated. Agencies play a huge role and developers’ deep pockets take precedent, and the middle class is squeezed out,” he said.

NoLandGrab: Ironically, deep-pocketed developer Bruce Ratner probably believes that things started off pretty simple and only became "excessively complicated" when the neighbors in around the footprint of his Atlantic Yards scheme didn't roll over.

Posted by lumi at 5:38 AM

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 10:48 AM

September 15, 2009

Hunley-Adossa palm card claims alliance with anti-AY candidate Norman "Siegal"

Atlantic Yards Report

Hey, if you can't win by running for Atlantic Yards, try running against it!

It's not clear if Atlantic Yards booster Delia Hunley-Adossa, challenging Council Member Letitia James in the 35th District, has any significant endorsements. (You can't find any on her web site. No newspaper has endorsed her.)

But on the palm card her camp distributed today, she's shown in alliance with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who surely shares her views on Atlantic Yards.

The rest of the poorly proofed document says she's "working along side our trusted leaders," including Comptroller Bill Thompson, Markowitz, Council Member (and Comptroller candidate) David Yassky, and Public Advocate candidate "Norman Siegal."

That would be news to Siegel, who's a vehement opponent of Atlantic Yards and has brought up eminent domain abuse regularly during Public Advocate debates.

And Yassky has stayed out of the race.

link

NoLandGrab: Perhaps it should be called a greased-palm card.

Posted by eric at 2:48 PM

Our Endorsements for Tuesday's Primaries

Atlantic Yards Voter Guide

These endorsements are based on one thing only: true blue, principled, consistent and active opposition to Atlantic Yards. And if you think that is too "single-issue" keep in mind that Atlantic Yards involves nearly every single important issue to New York City in the 21st century (we said nearly, not all).

With that in mind, our choices for the primaries on September 15

33rd Council Race (soon to be former Yassky seat)
-- Vote for Ken Baer or Ken Diamondstone

35th Council District (Absolute no brainer)
-- Vote for Letitia James
(Delia Hunley-Adossa should be investigated, not on a ballot.)

36th Council District (Absolute no brainer)
-- Vote for Mark Winston Griffith

39th Council District (soon to be former de Blasio seat, also a no brainer)
-- Vote for Josh Skaller

Public Advocate (Absolute no brainer)
-- Vote for Norman Siegel

Comptroller
Sorry, but they all stink when it comes to Atlantic Yards, but if you must hold your nose, and hold it hard and tight, David Yassky is the only one of the four who has at times, over the years, been critical of Atlantic Yards, though he does support it. But we repeat, they all stink when it comes to Atlantic Yards. (Note well that Melinda Katz never saw a real estate developer she couldn't embrace.)

Mayor
-- Vote for Tony Avella

link

NoLandGrab's endorsements are here.

Posted by eric at 9:57 AM

Voting booth

We've already put up the NoLandGrab slate of candidates for today's primary elections. Here are some others.

Noticing New York, Our thoughts on Navigating the Voter Minefields When All the Candidates Know the Words to Mouth on Development

This will provide our good government, good real estate development oriented, Noticing New York thoughts on who to vote for in a number of tomorrow’s most important primary elections and why: Tony Avella for Mayor. Norman Siegel for Public Advocate. John Liu (or David Yassky?) for Comptroller. Josh Skaller in the 39th City Council District. Jo Ann Simon (or Evan Thies?) for the 33rd. Tish James for the 35th. Yetta Kurland in the 3rd to defeat Christine Quinn and unseat her as speaker of the City Council.

Michael D. D. White explains how he came up with his slate, including the Marty and WFP anti-endorsement.

Atlantic Yards Report, Thinking about the 33rd Council District (Part 2): why I'm voting (gingerly) for Simon

Though it is a little uncharacteristic for Norman Oder to share his personal views on his blog, he explains that his tepid vote for Jo Anne Simon has more to do with casting a vote against Stephen Levin.

Posted by lumi at 5:19 AM

September 14, 2009

The NoLandGrab Primary Slate

The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow. If you don't know your polling location, click here.

NoLandGrab offers the following candidate endorsements for your consideration.

For Mayor

Tony Avella has been a staunch opponent of Atlantic Yards and eminent domain abuse. From Prospect Heights to Willets Point to Columbia, he has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with property owners and residents and against publicly subsidized, land-grabbing boondoggles.

His democratic opponent, City Comptroller Bill Thompson, says he's a "late supporter" of Atlantic Yards, has collected tons of developer money, and has done nothing — remember, he's the city's CFO — to investigate or even evaluate the hundreds of millions of dollars the city is throwing at project developer Bruce Ratner.

The choice is clear: Tony Avella will pull the plug on the city's support for Atlantic Yards on his first day in office.

For Public Advocate

This is another race in which the choice is crystal-clear. Norman Siegel has made a career of fighting for just causes, and has been a fierce critic of eminent domain abuse. He represented DDDB in the early days of the fight against Atlantic Yards, and is the attorney for Nick Sprayregen, the Manhattanville business owner fighting the Columbia University land grab. Siegel has been New York City's de facto public advocate for years — he deserves to have his name on the office officially.

For Comptroller

None of the four candidates for Comptroller has expressed clear opposition to Atlantic Yards. Melinda Katz has taken more developer money than any candidate in the city. David Weprin says he's against eminent domain for private projects, but has voted in favor of such projects in the City Council. David Yassky has been for and against Atlantic Yards on numerous occasions; he's more in the anti camp now, but it's too little, too late. John Liu perhaps shows the most promise on land-use issues, and he's drawn the support of some prominent Atlantic Yards opponents, but his failure to stake out a concrete position on the project keeps us on the sidelines in the Comptroller's race.

For City Council, 33rd District

All seven candidates in this race have at least claimed some degree of opposition to Atlantic Yards, but two stand apart from the rest. Ken Baer and Ken Diamondstone were early, vocal opponents of the project; Baer led the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter when it signed on as a plaintiff to the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards environmental review, and Diamondstone had to fight to keep his Community Board seat after speaking out early and often against the project.

While some critics of Atlantic Yards have spent time trying to handicap the race in the 33rd in order to cast a defensive vote (trying to prevent the election of machine candidate Steve Levin), we're more interested in who should win rather than playing the complicated game of who can win. With that in mind, we endorse the Kens, Baer and Diamondstone.

For City Council, 35th District

Incumbent Letitia James is running for re-election. 'Nuff said. The staunchest, most outspoken opponent of Atlantic Yards holding elective office, she is highly deserving of another term. It's hardly worth mentioning that her chief opponent, Delia Hunley-Adossa, is a signatory of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, heads an organization that has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Forest City Ratner, and is an unquestioned proxy for Bruce Ratner. Brooklyn needs Tish James in City Hall.

For City Council, 36th District

There are a host of candidates challenging Atlantic Yards-supporting incumbent Councilmember Al Vann (who voted to overturn term limits), but nearly all of them support the project, too. Except one: Mark Winston Griffith. He's been a community activist for two decades, and currently serves as Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute, in which position he has repeatedly criticized Atlantic Yards and developer Forest City Ratner. Mark Winston Griffith is the obvious choice in the 36th.

For City Council, 39th District

Four of the five candidates in the 39th District race have been at a minimum deeply critical of the Atlantic Yards project, but only one has earned the widespread support of the most dedicated opponents of Bruce Ratner's boondoggle. Josh Skaller, who as president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats led the organization to join the lawsuit challenging the Atlantic Yards EIS, has been unwavering in his opposition to the project, and he pledged from the start of his campaign to take no money from developers — a position that some of his opponents were later forced to adopt. We have no doubt that, if elected, Josh Skaller will be a feisty, principled Tish James-like independent in the City Council, and we endorse him wholeheartedly.

Posted by eric at 4:34 PM

Candidate Profile: Ken Baer

YourNabe.com
by Aaron Short

Park Slope resident Ken Baer is a one-man show.

He has no staff, no vehicle, and no cell phone, but he is running an ambitious do-it-yourself City Council campaign in the 33rd District, which he believes he can win on September 15.
...

Baer moved to Park Slope in 1979, and promptly joined the Park Slope Food Co-op.His 21 years as a Sierra Club activist have shaped his political views considerably, from opposing the Atlantic Yards project and the proposal to construct high-rise residential buildings in Brooklyn Bridge Park to urging the EPA to designate the Gowanus Canal as a superfund site and urging the MTA to find a long-term solution to its financial situation.

“Development is an environmental issue. Atlantic Yards, if constructed, would lead to a considerable amount more traffic, noise and air pollution. It would put shadows on Fort Greene which would preclude the installation of solar panels and affect people’s gardens,” he said.

article

Posted by eric at 4:27 PM

Real Estate's Last Stand

Gotham Gazette
by Courtney Gross

Who are big real estate developers supporting in tomorrow's primary?

KatzThompsonGioiaWeprin.jpg

Wielding the city's most lucrative resource -- land -- developers have long used their purse strings to try to influence City Hall. And this year is no different.

The most viable citywide candidates have collected more than $2.5 million from real estate interests for the 2009 election, according to an analysis by Gotham Gazette. None have collected more than comptroller candidate and Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz, who took in more than 30 percent of that figure. Thompson and public advocate candidate and Councilmember Eric Gioia have also pulled in considerable sums, at $393,000 and $314,807, respectively.

At the same time, some of the city's most well known or active developers have increased their donations by more than 30 percent since 2001 -- and we haven't even passed the primary.
...

On stage at New York Law School earlier this summer, public advocate candidate and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel gave the audience a warning for this year's election.

"Developers are out of control," he cautioned, wearing his trademark tan suit. "You should ask every candidate here whether they get money from developers. They should disclose what developers they get money from, where they stand on these issues of eminent domain. I, for one, don't get any money from developers."

But no one, not even Siegel or Avella, is immune from the development industry.

Some are more immune than others, however.

Of the citywide candidates, both Avella and Siegel have been the most critical of developers. Nearly all of Siegel's contributions associated with the industry -- which total $8,405 -- come from low-level realtors. He has one $4,950 contribution from a West Harlem developer that fought against the expansion of Columbia University -- a position Siegel also took.
...

In Fort Greene, Councilmember Letitia James is facing off against Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is an ally of Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner. Even though Hunley-Adossa has not received funds from Ratner directly, her ties to the project have caused controversy.
...

"If you look at the amount of money [the industry] spends, you find they are one of the biggest contributor blocks as a profession," said Josh Skaller, who is running for City Council in the 39th district in Brooklyn and has pledged to not take developer money. "There is a direct correlation, in my opinion, in how our neighborhoods are being overbuilt right now."

Click thru for lists of the top recipients of developer money — and its sources.

article

NoLandGrab: Two things to note. Mayor Bloomberg, were he not already New York's richest person (and self-financed candidate), loves developers too, even if he doesn't need their money. And Forest City, which appears to give next to nothing to candidates, actually funnels significant contributions through relatives of CEO Bruce Ratner, including his brother, constitutional rights attorney Michael Ratner, and college-student cousins.

Posted by eric at 3:50 PM

Atlantic Yards Report's Primary Colors

The Daily News's non-endorsement in the 35th District

In August I wrote that I doubted that the Atlantic Yards-loving Daily News could legitimately endorse challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa in the 35th Council District after her unwillingness to subject herself to public scrutiny.

Indeed, today's endorsements for "those City Council candidates whose primary victories tomorrow hold the greatest promise of raising the low quality of the municipal legislature" ignores the 35th District.

Thinking about the 39th: why Dov Hikind causes Brad Lander to sound curiously like Charles Barkley

[Josh] Skaller's been a longtime opponent of Atlantic Yards--hence the support connected to DDDB.

[Brad] Lander has been a longtime critic, though not unsympathetic to the potential benefits, who now says the project should be scrapped; in other words, he didn't oppose the fundamental decision by the Empire State Development Corporation to declare the site blighted and to pursue eminent domain, but he's now gotten much tougher.

(The WFP has close ties to ACORN, Forest City Ratner's partner on AY. In the 33rd District, the WFP has endorsed the most pro-AY candidate, Steve Levin. Then again, the WFP also supports Mark Winston Griffith, the candidate in the 36th District who's most critical of Atlantic Yards, as well as project opponent Letitia James in the 35th District.)

Still, Lander's supported by Ron Shiffman, a DDDB board member who has a professional tie as his predecessor at the Pratt Center for Community Development.

Thinking about the 33rd Council District (Part 1)

At the debate, [Steve] Levin came off with unctuous insincerity, claiming, for example, that "I am not in favor of Atlantic Yards." (Actually, he's more of a fence-sitter.)

Perhaps the most telling answer came in response to the (very good) question about which Council Members the candidates would feel closest to. Levin said he'd built relationships with Council Members Lew Fidler, Dominic Recchia, and Erik Dilan--all reliable allies of the clubhouse and Forest City Ratner, with the first two from deep southern Brooklyn, far from Levin's base in north Brooklyn.

Posted by eric at 1:07 PM

Political developerments in the 35th

Gotham Gazette, Real Estate's Last Stand

Courtney Gross examines the role real estate developers are playing in this week's elections. Atlantic Yards makes a cameo in Ft. Greene:

In Fort Greene, Councilmember Letitia James is facing off against Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is an ally of Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner. Even though Hunley-Adossa has not received funds from Ratner directly, her ties to the project have caused controversy.

The Local, Newcomer in Council Race Argues for Change

Medhanie Estiphanos is running for City Council against incumbent Letitia James and Atlantic Yards ally Delia Hunley-Adossa:

Third on his list of concerns is the lack of affordable housing and the high cost of apartments, driven in part by the many new luxury developments — like Atlantic Yards — coming into the area.

Posted by lumi at 5:12 AM

September 13, 2009

Jo Anne Simon Endorsement Update: Veterans and Atlantic Yards

Mole 333 makes an endorsement in the City Council District 33 race. Simon's position on the proposed Atlantic Yards project is a factor.

Now the other clarification regarding endorsements in the 33rd race. Three of the other candidates in the race have as their main strategy negative campaigning against Jo Anne Simon. Among their attacks have been trying to portray her as pro-Ratner. This is very much not the case. I want to emphsize that Jo Anne Simon is THE candidate endorsed by many of the core anti-Ratner activists. I have highlighted some of them in the past, but let me give a more comprehensive list (with a reminder of some I have forgotten before thanks to the Simon campaign).

Jo Anne Simon has been endorsed by:

Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Councilwoman Tish James
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
State Senator Eric Adams
Candace Carpenter (head of the DDDB legal team fighting Ratner)
Isabel Hill (film maker who made Brooklyn Matters, an award winning documentary about the fight against Ratner)

All of these have been champions in the fight against Ratner and they have ALL endorsed Jo Anne Simon. Believe me that Tish James, CBID, the head of the DDDB legal team and the maker of Brooklyn Matters would NOT endorse a pro-Ratner candidate! So don't believe misleading negative campaigning. A vote for Jo Anne Simon is a vote against not just the Vito Lopez machine but a vote against Bruce Ratner.

link

Posted by steve at 7:58 AM

September 12, 2009

Three profiles of the 35th District City Council candidates

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
By Sarah Maslin Nir

These are rather lengthy profiles of three City Council candidates. Only brief excepts having to do with the proposed Atlantic Yards project are being quoted here.

In Council Race, James Banks on AY Opposition

But the battle that has ended up defining Ms. James’s tenure on the council was only beginning to take shape in 2003 — Atlantic Yards, the $4.9 billion development proposed for a western swath of her district, which Ms. James has fought against for years.

Ms. James, who also heads the council’s contracts committee and is co-chairwoman of its infrastructure task force, is counting on popular opposition to the project to carry her to victory over her main challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, one of Atlantic Yards’ most prominent supporters.

Hunley-Adossa: FCR Alliance for the Community’s Good

It’s the elephant in the room, so let’s say it right up front: The non-profit organization run by Delia Hunley-Adossa, the leading primary challenger to City Councilwoman Letitia James, has accepted somewhere in the area of $400,000 from Forest City Ratner, the developer behind the Atlantic Yards project.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa, 52, whose friends call her “Dee,” makes no apologies for her nonprofit group, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience — an entity distinct from herself and from her campaign — accepting the money.

“Yes, I have taken and I have gotten money on behalf of the developer to give back to the community,” said Ms. Hunley-Adossa, a first-time contender for public office. “I could be cited for that, and I will do it again and again.”

Newcomer in Council Race Argues for Change

Third on his list of concerns is the lack of affordable housing and the high cost of apartments, driven in part by the many new luxury developments — like Atlantic Yards –coming into the area.

Whether it’s “Myrtle Avenue or Park Avenue,” Mr. Estiphanos said, all new developments must be required to have a portion of their units allocated as affordable housing, a move that he said will foster “economic, racial, ethnic” and even sexual orientation diversity, and improve New Yorkers’ lives.

Posted by steve at 6:16 AM

The Day: Politics and More Politics

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
By Andy Newman

As the race for the City Council seat for 35th District City Council comes down the wire, candidate and Ratner beneficiary Delia Hunley-Adossa has gone negative against incumbent and pro-UNITY stalwart, Tish James.

As if you needed to be reminded, there are just four more shopping days until Tuesday’s primaries. Stand by for mini-profiles of all three council candidates, plus the last three installments of our virtual debate, the candidates’ schedules for the next few days if we can get them, as well as any other campaign news that crosses the transom.

Speaking of which, the Delia Hunley-Adossa brochure we characterized yesterday as “feel-good” (compared to a flier accusing Letitia James of buying her way into office) was not entirely so, as commenter Mike pointed out. It claims, among other things, that Ms. James moved to the district in order to run for office and is “too weak to negotiate” with big developers — presumably Forest City Ratner.

Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s supporters also inflated a union rat yesterday outside Ms. James’s council office on Hanson Place, an allusion to the construction jobs Ms. James is accused of chasing away by opposing Atlantic Yards.

link

NoLandGrab: It's a safe bet that the inflatable rat was courtesy of construction unions that have contributed to Hunley-Adossa's campaign, but whose members live outside of the council district.

Posted by steve at 5:33 AM

September 11, 2009

Friday Politics Watch

Here's a round-up of the latest Atlantic Yards-related campaign news. It'll be mostly all over on Tuesday, which'll save a lot of trees.

Atlantic Yards Report, Public Advocate candidate Siegel: public hearings should be called on development process

What can the Public Advocate do to question the Department of Finance's questionable assessments in the Atlantic Yards footprint? I got an answer from candidate Norman Siegel: public hearings and even judicial inquiries.
...

Siegel responded:
My answer to your question is yes, the Department of Finance’s assessment of the Atlantic Yards footprint is a matter of great concern to me. As many readers of your blog know, I opposed the Atlantic Yards project from the beginning and served as counsel to Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn in the effort to stop the project. I am also involved with community groups opposing the New York Yankees’ broken promises to replace park space in the South Bronx that was taken over by their new stadium. The favorability of the Department of Finance’s assessments to the developers in both these cases is extremely troubling. It highlights a primary reason that the abuse of eminent domain in the case of Atlantic Yards is unconstitutional – the negotiations have not been undertaken in good faith, and they have been completely developer-driven from the get go.

There is a lot that the Public Advocate can do to hold the Department of Finance accountable, because the Public Advocate has the responsibility to oversee all city agencies. While I hope that other elected officials would support me in this effort, there has not been enough focus on the Administration or Department of Finance from the more powerful, citywide office holders. One of the most important features of the Public Advocate’s office is its authority to hold public hearings. When dealing with City agencies accused of wrongdoing, one can be assured that holding hearings is a tool I will use liberally. If I were Public Advocate, I would have already called for multiple public hearings into the city’s most roiling development projects, such as Atlantic Yards, the new Yankee Stadium, Columbia University’s expansion, and the Willets Point plan. In many of these cases public hearings aren’t sufficient to discern what discussions really occurred between government officials and developers and whether they indeed constituted bad-faith negotiating; New York law also allows the Public Advocate to petition for judicial public hearings when there has been any showing of government impropriety, which allows the public to hear the acts in a court of law.

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Greetings from Scott Turner: ST's Personal Guide for Voters

Fans for Fair Play's Scott Turner offers his primary endorsements via OTBKB. Here's a sampling.

Brooklyn's 33rd City Council District: Ken Diamondstone, Ken Baer, or anyone else named Ken. Diamondstone and Baer are straightshooters, excellent AY stance, and environmentally sound

Brooklyn's 35th City Council District: Letitia James. The bravest politician in NYC these past five years, speaking the truth to power. Her chief opponent is bankrolled by Forest City Ratner.

Brooklyn's 39th City Council District: Josh Skaller. Hands down. When you say "why can't we ever get somebody good into office?", it's Josh that you're wishing for. Smart, brash, compassionate and uncompromisingly principled, Josh is it. Also, an elected official whose name sounds like a scrubbing pad is nothing to sneeze at.

Atlantic Yards Report, As Hunley-Adossa goes negative and avoids questions, her top campaign promise is... more CBAs

Delia Hunley-Adossa, challenging incumbent Letitia James in the 35th Council District, previously agreed to answer written questions posed by the New York Times blog, The Local, but has backed off, her campaign manager claiming she's too busy.
...

Hunley-Adossa has not shown a deep knowledge of policy, as evinced in her performance in two debates (sponsored by CNG and News12).

But she did respond, at least in part, to a questionnaire from the Citizens Union (CU). In the questionnaire, Hunley-Adossa reveals that her number one campaign promise, despite its absence on her web site, is "Community Benefits Agreements for all development projects."

NoLandGrab: Ka-ching! With the Atlantic Yards CBA funneling several hundred thousand dollars to Hunley-Adossa's Brooklyn Endeavor Experience — which spends a good chunk of it on Hunley-Adossa's salary — her enthusiasm for more CBAs is no surprise.

City Hall News, Beneath Atlantic Yards Dispute, Complaints About Funding, Politicking In James’ Race

Delia Hunley-Adossa, a well-funded community fixture, has made a name for herself as a candidate, both for her support of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project and her campaign strategy of shunning the spotlight for several months before attempting to come out strong in the final weeks before the primary.

“You can’t show all your hands at the beginning,” Hunley-Adossa said, by way of explaining her seemingly counter-intuitive election strategy. “So we’ve been playing our cards close to the chest.”

NLG: That's also a good strategy for not revealing how utterly devoid of ideas one's campaign might be. Coincidence?

YourNabe.com, Thompson talks Bronx at CNG candidate Q&A

Here's another fan of CBAs.

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson huddled with reporters at the downtown Brooklyn headquarters of the Community Newspaper Group on Monday, September [NLG: we think he means August] 31 to discuss his five-borough plan.
...

Thompson is a proponent of community benefits agreements linked to development, granted that the city formulate a benefits agreement blueprint. Benefits agreements should be negotiated as part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, he said.

Bloomberg has attempted to shut out neighborhood stakeholders at the Atlantic Yards and Kingsbridge Armory developments.

The Brooklyn Paper, And from the mailbag...

To the editor,

It is disappointing, to say the least, that The Brooklyn Paper based so much of its endorsement for the 39th District Council seat on its position in favor of the arena at Atlantic Yards (“Dems should pick Heyer in the 39th District,” Sept. 4).

The arena would produce few good, long-term jobs, but plenty of congestion and even urban blight. And you gave short shrift to an impressive group of other candidates, in particular Gary Reilly, who has articulated very well-thought-out positions on this and other issues.

All in all, a baffling endorsement from a paper that should know better.

Michael Cairl, Park Slope

mole333's blog [The Daily Gotham], An Updated Rundown of the 39th City Council Candidates

Via Room Eight, Simon’s Atlantic Yards Fence-Sitting Buys Her Another Endorsement; Biviano Leads Groundswell Urging End to Business As Usual

Posted by eric at 9:44 AM

September 10, 2009

Ask the Candidates: If Atlantic Yards Is Built

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]

But if the project does move forward in one form or another, the district’s city council member will have to figure out how to deal with the developer — the subject of this installment in our reader-driven ask-the-candidates forum. Here are thoughts on the subject from challenger Medhanie Estiphanos and incumbent Letitia James, cut and pasted, without editing.

Though the other Democratic challenger, Delia Hunley-Adossa, had said she would participate in this forum, she has not answered any of the questions yet, and her campaign manager, Musa Moore, told us yesterday she has been too busy. “We’re trying to win a campaign against a seven-year incumbent,” Mr. Moore said. “The luxury of incumbency gives you that power. I have to keep my candidate in the street from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

article

However, Moore's candidate has apparently had time to print up a glossy attack flyer, 'cause when you've got nothing to say, attack your opponent.

The Local, When Candidates Attack

Some residents of the 35th City Council district received two mailers today from the Friends of Delia M. Hunley-Adossa.

The other one was different. It featured a photo of the incumbent, Councilwoman Letitia James, above the headline “Convicted Brooklyn County Organization Leaders Sold Political Offices to the Highest Bidder.” The next line says, “So just how much did Letitia James have to pay?”
...

Ms. James said that she did not buy her council seat from the party organization, and that moreover, the flier is factually incorrect — when she ran successfully in 2003, she was no longer the machine candidate.

“It’s basically desperation,” she said of the flier. “That’s all that it is.”

Click thru to see the reverse side.

NoLandGrab: Now who would've expected Bruce Ratner's hand-picked Council candidate to start slinging mud? Desperate times apparently call for desperate measures, and speaking of time, the clock's running out on Ms. Hunley-Adossa's candidacy.

Posted by eric at 5:22 PM

Atlantic Yards Report React-o-matic

Some analysis of press releases we already posted yesterday from Norman Oder's Atlantic Yards Report:

ESDC announces second public information session, focused on arena design, but after public comment period has closed

Well, the Empire State Development Corporation won't renege completely on the promise, made publicly by former CEO Marisa Lago, to hold two community information sessions.

However, the second session, to be held in conjunction with Forest City Ratner and the Center for Architecture, will be "focused on the new arena design," the ESDC said in a press release issued today.

The meeting will be held at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday, September 14 from 6 pm to 7:30 pm.

While the meeting might be intriguing, it's fairly meaningless. There are far more questions about the project than the arena itself and, given that the public comment period has closed, any issues raised in the session Monday can't be brought up before the ESDC board meets on September 17 to approve the plan.

Yes, Markowitz is on board (just as he was in June)

Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a statement regarding the new arena design:

“As I have said all along, Brooklyn is the greatest city in America. We’re ready to get back into professional sports’ big leagues, and this arena is going to make it happen. I am thrilled that the new design delivers not only a luminous, iconic structure that celebrates Brooklyn’s industrial heritage with its steel and glass exterior, but one that harmonizes with the architecture of the surrounding neighborhoods and creates a welcoming environment for the public at street-level.
...
In June, after the original architect, Frank Gehry, had been dropped for arena designer Ellerbe Becket, Markowitz declared that the new design, derided as a "hangar," was "actually better for Brooklyn."

DDDB statement on arena design: "lipstick on a corrupt pig"

Posted by lumi at 7:14 AM

Politics as unusual

The Local, Ask the Candidates: Atlantic Yards

The NY Times local blog querried the City Council candidates from the 35th District about their opinions on what should happen if Bruce Ratner is unable to build Atlantic Yards and the alternative UNITY plan. Two candidates support the UNITY plan, and "the other Democratic challenger" (aka, "the Ratner candidate") is MIA (again).

Atlantic Yards Report, In Public Advocate debate, Siegel again returns to eminent domain issue

Norman Oder reviews this week's Public Advocate debate. Candidates Norman Siegel and Eric Gioia scored points against their opponents on eminent domain.

Posted by lumi at 6:55 AM

September 8, 2009

Thompson vs. Avella on Atlantic Yards, affordable housing, and CBAs

Atlantic Yards Report

While the Community Newspaper Group's interviews with the Democratic Mayoral candidates, Comptroller Bill Thompson and Queens City Council Member Tony Avella, have already been summarized in the CNG's reports, the video is worth watching for an extended look at their analyses of Atlantic Yards.

Notably, Thompson showed himself to be a supporter of affordable housing and Community Benefits Agreements... while Avella addressed both issues with more criticism and more detail.

Unlike many candidates, who rely on funds from the real estate industry, Avella said his game plan was to tell the industry they no longer control the city's land use agenda.
...

Look for Atlantic Yards to come up again during an hour-long debate between the two on Wednesday, September 9, to be broadcast live on WABC television (Channel 7) and 1010 WINS.

article

Posted by lumi at 5:20 AM

September 6, 2009

NY Times City Council Endorsements (Or Lack Thereof) In Districts Most Affected by Atlantic Yards

Two blog entries concern themselves with endorsements from the New York Times in city council races taking place in districts most directly affected by the proposed Atlantic Yards development. The New York Times is a business partner with developer Bruce Ratner.

Atlantic Yards Voter Guide - Old Gray Lady Dare Not Mention Atlantic Yards, Even When It Would Be Enlightening

In the 39th District, the Times has endorsed Brad Lander. For those who have been fighting the proposed Atlantic Yards development, Josh Skaller is the obvious choice. Skaller has been strictly opposed to Bruce Ratner's land grab early on.

However, the Times can't even bring itself to mention the despised project, instead, saying that Skaller "made a name fighting big development in the area."

Only The Times, with its conflicted relationship with Forest City Ratner, could turn "Atlantic Yards" into the generic "big development in the area." Had the paper actually used the name of the big development Skaller has been fighting it would have alerted readers who care about Atlantic Yards who their candidate is; by diluting it thoroughly the editorial has underinformed its readers and done a solid for Lander. (And that's not to mention the fact that Skaller is well-known for many other reasons including being the former president of the area's most active and reformist political club.)

Atlantic Yards Report - Was AY a factor? The Times's endorsements: Simon in the 33rd; Lander in the 39th; and silence in the 35th

Norman Oder looks at additional City Council races.

There is no endorsement in the 35 Council District seat which is occupied by encumbent and anty-AY stalward Tish James.

Notably, the Times, which said it was weighing in on "several of the most competitive districts," chose not to opine regarding the 35th Council District.

That essentially suggests that the newspaper considers incumbent Letitia James, an AY opponent, and challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa, an AY supporter, equally qualified (or non-qualified)--despite, for example, Hunley-Adossa's curious explanation for her inaccessibility.

The endorsement for Joanne Simon the 33rd District manages to avoid her opposition to Atlantic Yards.

The anonymous Thies partisans at Real Reform Brooklyn (RRB) called it "a pretty naked nod to its development partner" and said "the Times endorsed the one candidate who has done more to undermine unified community opposition to Atlantic Yards than any other."

Well, I wouldn't go that far, but it's notable that the Times didn't see fit to mention AY in any part of the editorial. As I've written, though BrooklynSpeaks's stated position is "mend it, don't end it," I think (contra RRB) the group's record is more mixed, and that it engaged people, such as elected officials, who were never going to join Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and other opponents filing lawsuits

I also note that Thies, though he is a strong opponent of the project now, has not played such a longtime role (given his position as an aide to Council Member David Yassky). And surely the Times doesn't endorse Simon's criticism of the project.

But I would agree with RRB that the endorsement is "pretty lukewarm," given that Simon's legal background and work with the disabled are less relevant than her positions on development issues and independence from the county party.

Brad Lander is endorsed over stronger and long-time Atlantic Yards opponent Josh Skaller in the 39th District. In this case the Times can only mention Atlantic Yards as "big development in the area"

Regarding Skaller, the Times could not see fit to translate "big development" into "Atlantic Yards. Lander has been more associated with BrooklynSpeaks than Atlantic Yards opponents, though he now says the project should be scrapped--another position that the Times surely doesn't support.

The 36th District race doesn't even get a mention.

Also, bizarrely enough, the Times ignored the highly competitive 36th District, where incumbent Al Vann faces seven challengers, with AY critic Mark Winston Griffith one of the best-qualified.

Posted by steve at 4:30 AM

September 5, 2009

Hunley-Adossa campaigners said to be rude in front of incumbent James's office

Atlantic Yards Report

Is Delia Hunley-Adossa, who is running for the City Council seat held by incumbent Tish James, sending young campaign workers to harass Tish's campaign workers at their headquarters? One correspondent thinks so, and Norman Oder wants to know if this is the case.

I and others got an email from a Frank Lavergneau, pointing to apparent rude behavior by teenage campaigners for Delia Hunley-Adossa, who's challenging incumbent Letitia (Tish) James in the 35th Council District:

My name is Frank, I'm a Clinton Hill resident, and I'm somewhat interested/involved in local politics. Today, I was enjoying some coffee along Fulton Street, and I didn't believe what I saw. Around 3:00pm, I saw around 10-12 young women carrying Delia Hunnly signs in front of Tish James' campaign office. None of these girls could have been over 16 years of age, and they were a loud, rude, gyrating crew. I didn't see from which direction they arrived, but they were walking back and forth maybe 2 blocks of Fulton (that included Tish's campaign office), so I couldn't imagine they were there for any other reason but to heckle Tish's campaign people.

It seems really disrespectful, unprofessional, and a bit sad that Delia has to resort to sending children to taunt her opponent [and they did taunt, I overheard them saying, "You should work for Dee! She pays gooood!" to the office, who as far as I could tell ignored the entire event]. Furthermore, this is really disrespectful to the neighbors and businesses to send these loud children into our community for this foolishness. Delia should be thoroughly embarrassed, because I am embarrassed for her. I am not a hard "Tish supporter", but this has made the choice for me. I have attached photos I took on my cell phone as proof, and I am sending this email to all the media I could find online or had already, because this kind of behavior needs to be exposed.

More here on Room 8, which means it was posted by someone with some political/media savvy, likely not the original source.

I have a question in to Hunley-Adossa's campaign.

link

Posted by steve at 9:22 PM

A Check and a Balance? JOHN LIU with Theodore Hamm

The Brooklyn Rail
By Theodore Hamm

This interview with candidate for Comptroller, John Liu, touches on the proposed Atlantic Yards development. It's not clear exactly where he stands regarding the project and if he believes that developer Bruce Ratner can eventually deliver on promises of jobs and housing.

Rail: What about oversight of large development projects? For example, consider the Atlantic Yards. It’s almost impossible that the initial projections will be realized. How can you play a role in seeing that future promises come true?

Liu: I’m the only one in the race talking about these issues. Over the last several years the Bloomberg administration has announced several mega-development projects, including Atlantic Yards, and a number in the Bronx and in Queens. And all these projects promise thousands of jobs and thousands of affordable housing units—and several years later, today, what do we see? Nada, zilch. As comptroller, I will be able to use the audit powers immediately to look at what was announced, and how much progress has been made to see how short we are. Because I’m sure that in every single one of these cases they are significantly short of their goals. And I do that not to say “I got you,” but to put every one of these deals on a timetable with milestones for deliverables on the promises. Right now there is no timetable for any of these major projects.

link

Posted by steve at 6:14 PM

September 4, 2009

Also on News 12: the 33rd, 34th, 36th, and 39th District candidates on Atlantic Yards

Atlantic Yards Report

Politics, always politics. Just 11 days to go until the September 15th primary election.

Along with the feisty 35th District debate held recently on News 12, some other News12 debates for Council seats are worth a look, especially for the Atlantic Yards discussion.

article

Posted by eric at 10:14 AM

Looking at the weekly newspaper endorsements: James, Thies, Skaller, plus some contradictions

Atlantic Yards Report

Well, the endorsements from Brooklyn's major weeklies (Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life, plus Ledger/Star and Caribbean Life) are out and there are some (relative) surprises:

  • three endorsements for incumbent Letitia James in the 35th District and none for challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa
  • two endorsements for Even Thies in the 33rd District and one for Steve Levin
  • two endorsements for Josh Skaller in the 39th District and one for John Heyer (and none for Brad Lander).

Clearly, the Atlantic Yards issue isn't dispositive; otherwise the Brooklyn Paper would not have endorsed AY opponent James as well as proponent Heyer.

Clearly, the issue of independence from the county Democratic Party isn't dispositive; otherwise, the Courier-Life wouldn't have endorsed reformer Skaller as well as Levin, chief of staff to party boss Vito Lopez. (Skaller's an AY opponent, Levin a fence-sitting supporter.)

article

Posted by eric at 9:46 AM

The Brooklyn Paper's Schizophrenic Endorsements

The Brooklyn Paper can't seem to make up its mind about Atlantic Yards as a campaign issue.

Incumbent James deserves re-election

No one in elected office has been a more outspoken opponent of Atlantic Yards, and especially its planned basketball arena, than Tish James.

She is a talented community leader who has shown gutsy independence by breaking with the city’s power elite when appropriate.
...

But above all, Letitia James has consistently been ahead of her colleagues in criticizing much-hyped development projects that don’t create as much affordable housing or community benefits as promised.

As a reward for her various fights, James finds herself in a tough struggle for re-election. Her opponent, Delia Hunley-Adossa, is a strong supporter of the Atlantic Yards project, which has allowed her to raise enough money from the construction trades and other allies of the development to wage a serious campaign.

James has had to raise her money the old-fashioned way: by hitting up members of her community for small donations.

Despite her large war-chest, Hunley-Adossa offers little else but her support for Atlantic Yards.
...

For all these reasons, we heartily endorse Letitia James for the Democratic nomination in the 35th District.

Dems should pick Heyer for the 39th District

Democratic voters in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens and other parts of the 39th Council District have four extremely qualified candidates for the nomination to succeed Councilman Bill DeBlasio.
...

But the candidate we are endorsing for the Democratic nomination is John Heyer.
...

And he’s the only candidate in the race who is not ashamed to say that he wants the Atlantic Yards basketball arena built at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, a position that we share.

The Brooklyn Paper also endorsed long-time Atlantic Yards opponent Norman Siegel in the race for Public Advocate, and Evan Thies, who has become a very outspoken opponent of the project, in the 33rd District City Council primary.

Posted by eric at 9:33 AM

Jo Anne Simon & More Questionable $$$

Real Reform Brooklyn

RRB's anonymous blogger (or bloggers) raises (raise) more questions about fundraising and perceived conflicts of interest in the 33rd District City Council race, and seeks the counsel of DDDB and Norman Oder.

Following up on our earlier report of Jo Anne Simon’s real estate related campaign contributions, we are deeply troubled because she has also taken money from three board members of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (“BBPDC”). BBPDC is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation (“ESDC”). ESDC is the state agency that has been approving Atlantic Yards through by-passing the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Process.
...

We would be interested in the opinion of Norman Oder and DDDB regarding Simon taking funds from board members approving ESDC development in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

article

Posted by eric at 9:20 AM

September 3, 2009

Brooklyn For Barack Hosts Comptroller Debate

Our Time Press
by Mary Alice Miller

Comptroller candidates David Weprin and John Liu were asked about their views on Atlantic Yards.

Regarding the Atlantic Yards development, Weprin said he “supports some form of development. It is very important the community have input. Regarding I know there was a Community Benefits Agreement. There were commitments that were supposed to provide housing. From what I understand, there is some disagreement whether that commitment is being fulfilled. I have questions about where the project is going. I have reservations about the project’s size and scope and a situation where we throw good money after bad money. It happened after ground zero. Nothing there is happening sufficiently after 8 years. I would hate to see that kind of situation happen at Atlantic Yards. As a citywide official, the Comptroller can use the bully pulpit, but the Comptroller does not have direct control in that particular development, per se.”
...

[Liu] would use the powers of audit to review huge development deals. Regarding Atlantic Yards, that have announced promises of thousands of jobs, affordable housing and years later “I don’t see where all those promises are materializing. I would use the powers of audit to see how far short they are and put these projects on a strict timetable to make sure those promises are delivered to the people.”

article

Posted by eric at 10:38 PM

Atlantic Yards Report political watch

In a second debate, Hunley-Adossa and James clash; challenger says that half the money from FCR to BEE went to her building

Council Member Tish James and challenger Delia "Dee" Hunley-Adossa face off in another debate.

A News 12 debate taped last Thursday between 35th District Council incumbent Letitia James and challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa shows both candidates going at each other, unlike in their previous debate, when James tangled with third candidate Medhanie Estiphanos.

Hunley-Adossa spoke somewhat more effectively than she did in the previous debate. Despite lobbying the same charge against James, she showed her focus was essentially Atlantic Yards, which she repeatedly pronounced herself in agreement with.

She also claimed--for the first time publicly--that half the money received by her nonprofit, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience (BEE), went to air conditioners for her building--a curious example of Forest City Ratner routing money through a third party rather than simply doing the job itself, as it has done for other residents of the area around the AY footprint. It's a reminder that the pleasantly-named BEE, whose board members are Hunley-Adossa's family and neighbors, was originally called the First Atlantic Terminal Housing Committee.

NoLandGrab: Since Brooklyn Endeavor Experience's biggest expense is Dee Hunley-Adossa's salary, and half the money received from Forest City was spent in her own building, maybe "BEE" should be renamed "DEE."

What the 33rd District race is about: Vito Lopez, and the circular firing squad favoring Steve Levin

In the Village Voice, Tom Robbins lays out Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez's role in the 33rd and 34th Council District races, but doesn't quite point out how infighting favors his candidate, Steve Levin, in the 33rd.

And yes, this year, Lopez is pushing the envelope even further, promoting not one, not two, but three of Ridgewood Bushwick's allies into elective office. He is seeking nothing less than a sweep, a kind of Vito-fecta that will further extend his political influence.
...

I wrote earlier about Lopez's power base, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC). And more on Lopez's connections, notably judicial appointments and support for Atlantic Yards, from the anonymous blog Real Reform Brooklyn.

See how RBSCC received nearly $800,000 in the current (FY 10) budget in discretionary funding from the City Council, notably a $350,000 grant attributed to Council Member Lew Fidler and the Brooklyn delegation.

In the FY 09 budget, it received more than $900,000. Note that nearly $280,000 in grants attributed to 34th District City Council Member Diana Reyna were not renewed, as Reyna has split with Lopez and he now backs challenger Maritza Davila. Now 37th District Council Member Erik Martin Dilan has picked up the slack. A victory by Levin in the 33rd would certainly help Lopez and his organization.

NLG: Levin has ducked at least half of the 33rd District candidates' debates — not a promising sign for constituent service and accessibility should he win the primary election.

Posted by eric at 10:41 AM

Atlantic Yards political watch

If it doesn't actually make your stomach turn, then it's kinda fun watching citywide candidates trying to get their stories straight on Bruce Ratner's controversial Brooklyn boondoggle:

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Thompson "Late Supporter" of Atlantic Yards. Says Urban Planning Not About "Developer Accommodation"

Whoopsie! Despite what Mayoral hopeful and current City Comptroller William Thopmson says, he seems to have forgotten that he publicly supports Bruce Ratner's controversial Atlantic Yards boondoggle, at least since 2005.

Comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson says he is a "late supporter" of Atlantic Yards. Late supporter? Support has moved away from the project over the years due to more and more coming to light about what a boondoggle it is. Becoming a late supporter means one is moving towards a boondoggle.

Anyway, it is hardly true. Thompson was an early supporter. Thompson's letter of support was part of the development proposal package submitted to the MTA by Forest City Ratner in 2005. Download his letter here [pdf].

Atlantic Yards Report, At the Comptroller debate, Yassky's contradiction on AY

In all fairness, it can be hard to keep the facts and figures straight on Atlantic Yards, especially since some of them are such moving targets. However after seriously lowballing some of the figures for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards, City Councilmember and candidate for City Comptroller David Yassky declares, "The project should not be built with taxpayer money."

Norman Oder points out:

[T]he only way Forest City Ratner would build it is with taxpayer money, and a "right-sized project" might require more subsidies. Still, Yassky thinks it's a "good project," so he's been unwilling to challenge such things as the state's dubious finding of blight.

Check out the rest of the article to learn more about how the other candidates bungle the issue.

NoLandGrab: In classic Yassky fashion, he's managed to confuse his position on Atlantic Yards. At this point, we have to assume that he's for the project, if only it could be a different project, and will occasionally speak out against it, but won't do anything about it.

Atlantic Yards Report, On Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio wants "original interpretation" of AY

City Councilmember and Public Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio wants you to know that when it comes to Atlantic Yards he's a strict constructionist:

[WNYC Radio host Brian] Lehrer asked, "Do you have a position on Atlantic Yards and what should happen next?"

"I have said from the beginning I believe in the affordable housing, the hiring of local residents and living wage levels," de Blasio said. "This vision has not been fulfilled so far. I think there should be no more subsidies. I think there should be no more demolitions. I think the company involved has to prove that they will keep to the original interpretation or we should pull the plug."

No more demolitions? De Blasio is repeating talking points from April 2008.

The original interpretation? Forest City Ratner has changed its plans in numerous ways, but the single biggest one, about which de Blasio was noticeably silent, was the revision in June of the deal for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Vanderbilt Yard, saving developer Forest City Ratner more than $100 million and leading to a smaller, rather than larger (as promised), permanent railyard.

NoLandGrab: No more demolitions?? Sorry Bill — Ratner has already taken down every building he can, except for the Spalding building, which at this point is worth more standing, should Atlantic Yards not get built. Plus, de Blasio was nowhere near the footprint when the wrecking balls were flying.

Posted by lumi at 7:19 AM

September 2, 2009

Brooklyn elections for borough Council districts pit incumbents against upstart challengers

NY Daily News
by Erin Durkin

It's a battle over Atlantic Yards in the race for the 35th District seat.

Incumbent Letitia James is one of the most vocal opponents of developer Bruce Ratner's plan for a Nets arena and 16 towers in Prospect Heights. She faces challenge from Delia Hunley-Adossa, a project backer whose nonprofit, Brooklyn Endeavor Experience, is funded by Ratner under a community benefits agreement.

"Being in opposition and not sitting at the table or attempting to negotiate with the developer on behalf of the community is unacceptable," said Hunley-Adossa, who is also president of the 88th Precinct Community Council.

"Her position is one way: 'I'm against it. I don't care who's for it. I don't care what everybody's saying that needs jobs, that needs housing,'" she said.

Hunley-Adossa said her group got about $400,000 from Forest City Ratner. Its biggest single expenditure has been her salary - $51,000 over six years, she said.

"I'm not ashamed," she said, adding the money has gone to pay for air conditioners and rat abatement for homes near the construction site, environmental awareness classes, and sending kids to summer camp.

article

NoLandGrab: We're not surprised that Ms. Hunley-Adossa is "not ashamed." We would be surprised if she produced receipts for all those claimed expenses, however.

Related coverage...

Atlantic Yards Report, Parsing the Daily News story on the 35th District; Hunley-Adossa, treated unskeptically, says Ratner gave $400,000

Norman Oder is a bit skeptical, too.

While Delia Hunley-Adossa mostly steers clear of Atlantic Yards on her campaign web site, and has disingenuously claimed that her candidacy for the 35th Council District has nothing to do with the project she supports, the Daily News today places the project front and center--and does an inadequate job by not looking closely enough at her statements regarding the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA).
...

Also, she'd never before said that the money went to rat abatement or air conditioners--both the responsibility of Forest City Ratner under the Memorandum of Environmental Commitments, with no mention of its CBA partners. Nor does the BEE web site claim such spending.

Posted by eric at 11:13 AM

September 1, 2009

Green, de Blasio support AY without considering balance between costs and benefits

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder goes to the heart of the matter in the recent Community Newspaper Group debate among candidates vying in the Democratic primary for NYC Public Advocate.

I wrote earlier about the divide on Atlantic Yards in the Public Advocate race, as shown in a recent WABC debate, but a previous debate, sponsored by the Community Newspaper Group, and Brooklyn Community Access Television, also is instructive.

Not only does it show candidate Bill de Blasio supporting affordable housing and jobs without any reflection on the cost of those benefits, it shows former Public Advocate (and frontrunner) Mark Green deferring to the mayor and economic development agencies to determine the benefits, without any acknowledgment that such analyses are absent or deeply flawed.

The issue of AY came up at about 13:03. (Previous coverage in the Courier-Life described the AY issue, but not in as much detail as below.)

Click thru for the Atlantic Yards blow-by-blow.

article

NoLandGrab: "Public" advocate? De Blasio and Green seem to define "public" quite narrowly.

Posted by eric at 8:42 PM

Bill de Blasio's evasiveness on Atlantic Yards (and opposition from Public Advocate candidates Siegel and Gioia)

Atlantic Yards Report

DDDB's unofficial transcript of the Atlantic Yards portion of the recent Public Advocate debate shows Brooklyn City Council Member Bill de Blasio, currently second in the polls to former Public Advocate Mark Green (and gaining thanks to a New York Times endorsement), continuing his ignorance and obfuscation on Atlantic Yards.

Meanwhile, candidates Norman Siegel and Eric Gioia expressed opposition to the project, while frontrunner Mark Green, a former Public Advocate, wouldn't criticize it. Even the supporters, de Blasio and Green, agreed there should be no more subsidies for the project, but they haven't exactly criticized increased subsidies in the past two months.

The AY piece somehow didn't make the print coverage in the Times, which called the debate "light on policy" even though there was a lively discussion about the City Council "slush fund" scandal, with Siegel and Green landing some blows. For those who remember, the Times in 2005 ignored Siegel's challenge on AY to incumbent Betsy Gotbaum.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:34 AM

August 30, 2009

Watch our public advocate debate now!

The Brooklyn Paper
By Jeremy Walsh

A debate between four candidates for Public Advocate included a discussion of eminent domain abuse.

Last week, the candidates — Councilmembers Bill DeBlasio (D–Park Slope) and Eric Gioia (D-Queens), civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel and former Public Advocate Mark Green — clashed in a spirited debate held by The Brooklyn Paper in conjunction with Brooklyn Independent Television.

The debate aired on the BCAT TV Network last week, but it’s available to watch whenever you want both on this Web site and on BoroPolitics.com, a new site set up by the Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of this newspaper.

...

Indeed, some of the most-heated exchanges came during a question about the city’s use of eminent domain in its Willets Point redevelopment.

DeBlasio said he supported eminent domain in “very certain circumstances,” including the Queens project, while Gioia called the practice “absolutely wrong” for economic development.

“Often the city says it will only use eminent domain if it has to, but that’s like negotiating with Al Capone, who walks in, puts a gun on the table, and says, ‘Pay no attention to the gun. I’ll only use it if I have to.’”

Siegel agreed that there has been “abuse” of eminent domain, not just at Willets Point, but at Atlantic Yards, too. He cited the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo verdict, which allowed such use of eminent domain to seize privately owned land under many circumstances, but not if there is a closed process or if there is bad faith.

Green, who supports the Willets Point redevelopment, challenged Siegel’s reading of the law, but Siegel’s reiterated that his interpretation of the 5-4 verdict was correct because there had been both bad faith and a closed process at Willets Point.

link

Posted by steve at 9:28 AM

August 29, 2009

Mr. Mayor comes to Metrotech

A Short Story

In this account of going-ons at the Community Newspaper Group's (CNG) headquarters in the Ratner-built Metrotech development, Courier Life reporter Aaron Short ends with an oddly breezy mention of the debate sponsored by the CNG between candidates of the 35th council district, one of whom is the incumbent and anti-Ratner stalwart, Tish James.

Finally, Letitia James, Delia-Hunley Adossa, and Medhanie Estiphanos (35th District, Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill) dropped by late afternoon to settle some scores. First off, Hunley-Adossa her unreachability, saying that the reason why she didn't return reporters' phone calls was because they were calling her cell and her home number, and she won't return calls on private lines until after the election. But enough about that. From the reports, it sounds like Tish mopped the floor with the others.
It's all fun. Afterwards, we tried to see how many candidates we could stuff into an elevator. The answer? Three candidates. Plus Gersh.

link

Posted by steve at 9:21 AM

August 28, 2009

Looking at the 35th District debate: Delia Hunley-Adossa surfaces (and shows why she's been inaccessible)

Atlantic Yards Report

Norman Oder watched the debate so you wouldn't have to, though his report on it may be longer than the debate itself. Still, it's well worth a read, especially for insight into Forest City Ratner-backed challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa.

While the Brooklyn Paper’s coverage (headlined Our debate is a brawl! Candidates for Fort Greene seat get testy) of the 35th Council District debate focused on the clash between Council Member Letitia James and longshot challenger Medhanie Estiphanos, perhaps the real news came from watching challenger (and Atlantic Yards supporter) Delia Hunley-Adossa, who currently leads AY opponent James in cash on hand, in action.

Now we know why Hunley-Adossa has been so inaccessible. She relies on platitudes and her speaking style is peppered with malapropisms.

Yes, people speaking extemporaneously shouldn’t be expected to speak perfectly, but Hunley-Adossa was well below the bar for political candidates.

James spent most of her time clashing with Estiphanos, an energetic neophyte who lobbed criticims both off-base and cogent, leaving Hunley-Adossa mostly unscathed--not a wise tactic for the incumbent. The toughest questions for Hunley-Adossa came from Brooklyn Paper staffers, and she didn’t handle them too well.

(Note that the video, which lasts nearly 49 minutes, often cuts off the heads of the participants. The Democratic primary is September 15, and a victory then is tantamount to victory in November.)

article

Posted by eric at 9:32 AM

Politics: Candidate Baer Seeks ‘Leadership by Example’

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
by Howard Egeln

City Council candidate Ken Baer has been a stalwart opponent of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards boondoggle from early on.

It’s green thumbs up for a sustainable city from Ken Baer, one of seven candidates in the 33rd Council District Democratic Party primary election campaign, with an action plan growing from a “grassroots democratic vision” rooted in his civic, environmental and finance work.

“I am the only candidate among seven who does not use a car, so I won’t need a special parking permit. I travel by mass transit and favor bicycling,” said Baer. His background includes being the New York State Sierra Club leader, filing eminent domain lawsuits for “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” on Atlantic Yards and being an accountant.

Egeln mixes up his facts. Baer didn't file eminent domain lawsuits for DDDB; rather, the Sierra Club's Atlantic Chapter joined the suit challenging the environmental review of the Atlantic Yards project under his leadership.

Changing the way community board members are chosen and giving boards more clout is a major goal for Baer. “We may need some way to elect members. At Community Board 6, Borough President Marty Markowitz did not reappoint nine members he chose because they opposed him on supporting Atlantic Yards.”

article

Posted by eric at 9:07 AM

August 27, 2009

Our debate is a brawl! Candidates for Fort Greene seat get testy

Boro Politics

The Community Newspaper Group hosted a debate among the candidates for the 35th City Council district, incumbent Letitia James and challengers Delia Hunley-Adossa and Medhanie Estiphanos.

Forest City Ratner's anointed candidate didn't exactly shine.

Hunley-Adossa, who had not taken questions from The Brooklyn Paper until this debate, said far less than her opponents, often not even taking the 30-second allotment for her answers and referring to a binder full of newspaper articles, notes and other study aides.
...

Later, Hunley-Adossa explained her close connections to Ratner, who pumped — in her words, “a little over a couple of hundred-thousand dollars” — into her group Brooklyn Endeavor Experience through a “community benefits agreement” that Hunley-Adossa and others signed in 2005. (Coincidentally, Bloomberg, in a separate interview this week with editors and reporters from The Brooklyn Paper and other outlets in the Community Newspaper Group, said he’s “violently opposed” to such agreements.)

Hunley-Adossa said her group, whose board is filled with many of her family members, helped “downsize” Ratner’s initial plan, though it is actually larger than when it was first unveiled in 2003, and negotiate high environmental standards for the buildings.

"Downsize?"

It also has an educational component, she claimed.

“We have attempted to educate young people on how to be little green people,” Hunley-Adossa said, but its work has been suspended while the construction project is stalled, showing its reliance on Ratner.

article

Posted by eric at 10:26 AM

Markowitz, endorsing Levin in the 33rd, joins Lopez (and Moses) in prioritizing results over process

Atlantic Yards Report

Process be damned.

The issue re-emerges in a Brooklyn Paper article regarding Borough President Marty Markowitz's endorsement of machine candidate Steve Levin, chief of staff to Assemblyman (and Brooklyn Democratic Party head) Vito Lopez in the crowded 33rd District Council race.

Levin is the only candidate to support the Lopez-backed Broadway Triangle rezoning, which Markowitz supports:
“I know Steve’s opponents think process is more important than results … but he understands that results are the most important thing,” said Markowitz.

“By working closely with Vito Lopez, Steve Levin understands the necessity of delivering affordable housing to his community,” the Beep added.
...

And, of course, Markowitz has long supported Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan, erroneously claiming, "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years."

He hadn't suggested that the Vanderbilt Yard--or the privately-owned (and generally occupied) properties around it--be put out for bid or declared blighted.

article

Posted by eric at 10:18 AM

Bloomberg "violently opposed to community benefits agreements"

A couple of days ago, NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ranted against critics of Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, while in the same interview he whined about Community Benefits Agreements... yes, the very same type of agreement that he supports (and pretended to sign) for Atlantic Yards.

The Brooklyn Paper, Bloomy still wants Gehry — plus other tidbits from the mayor in our endorsement sit-down

...[Bloomberg] also blasted the kinds of community benefits agreement that Ratner signed with several groups, some of which did not exist before they signed an agreement to support the project in exchange for some financial backing.

“I’m violently opposed to community benefits agreements,” he said. “A small group of people, to feather their own nests, extort money from the developer? That’s just not good government.”

NoLandGrab: It sorta makes you wonder if Bloomberg just forgets things, or isn't detail-oriented, or will take any side on an issue, as long as it serves his desired outcome.

[Photo: Mayor Bloomberg signing something at the ceremony for the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement, from The Brooklyn Papers, by Tom Callan, July 2005]

DDDB.net, Doubletake: Bloomberg "Violently" Opposes CBAs but Loves Atlantic Yards CBA

Yup, that is Mayor Bloomberg right next to Bruce Ratner signing the Atlantic Yards Nest-feathering Developer Extortion Agreement Community Benefits Agreement (BUILD President James Caldwell on the right who, by the way, appeared in a Bloomberg campaign television ad last time he ran).

No, the Mayor didn't sign the Nest-feathering Developer Extortion Agreement Community Benefits Agreement but he and his friends sure have hyped it to the hilt.

I guess we'd call that bad government.

Atlantic Yards Report, AY CBA witness Bloomberg blasts CBAs as extortion; signatory Nimmons brushes off questions from The Local

...it's unclear whether Bloomberg specifically targeted the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement. As reported in the Times, he began criticizing CBAs in April 2006, less than a year after he presided over the ceremony for the AY CBA.

(Despite the headline on the mayor's site, he was a witness, not a signatory. Moreover, the press release was incoherent, having the mayor declare, "This Community Benefits Agreement is the largest private sector investment in Brooklyn's history.")

So much for the "modern blueprint" to harvest community support for AY, as discerned by a Times reporter in October 2006, during his first weeks on the AY beat.

Posted by lumi at 6:48 AM

Bloomberg Opines on Atantic Yards, Coney Island

Brownstoner

Mayor Bloomberg spoke with reporters from the Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of The Brooklyn Paper, on Monday as part of his campaign tour, where they discussed everything from overzealous ticketing agents to Atlantic Yards. Concerning the latter, he hopes that developer Forest City Ratner can use the Frank Gehry designs for the arena and skyscrapers, as originally planned but later abandoned due to cost. It would make the arena—and Brooklyn—even more of an international draw, he reasoned: "Simon and Garfunkel on their tour would go to Brooklyn in a second before they go to Madison Square Garden. They’re New Yorkers." (Has MSG been airlifted out of NYC recently?) Concerning the epic legal battles and financial concerns behind the massive development, the mayor sided with Ratner. "One of the great sins here is this small group of people stalled it so long [that] the economy is different," he said.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:49 AM

August 26, 2009

A Near-Brush with Information

The Local [Fort Greene/Clinton Hill]
by Andy Newman

Back in March, we noted with interest an Atlantic Yards Report piece about the treasurer of Delia Hunley-Adossa’s City Council campaign, Charlene Nimmons.

The AYR post included a vain attempt to find out where Ms. Nimmons’s nonprofit, Public Housing Communtities, gets its money. That inquiry was in the service of the broader question (which several contributors to our growing list of questions for the candidates have echoed), “To what extent, if any, is Ms. Hunley-Adossa’s campaign bankrolled, directly or indirectly, by Forest City Ratner, the developer of the Atlantic Yards?”

Both Ms. Hunley-Adossa and Ms. Nimmons strongly support the project and, as heads of their respective nonprofits, are signatories of a community benefits agreement with Forest City. Ms. Hunley-Adossa has acknowledged that Forest City supported one of her nonprofit’s programs and Ms. Nimmons has cited a Forest-City-supported event sponsored by her organization.

But Ms. Hunley-Adossa has refused so far to answer questions on the subject, and in March, Ms. Nimmons would not even take calls from The Local or Atlantic Yards Report.

Well. (If you’re hoping for an answer to the big question, you might as well stop reading now.)

Actually, it's worth it to keep reading.

article

NoLandGrab: If Atlantic Yards is so great, why are some of its most ardent supporters so reluctant to talk about the developer's support for them?

Posted by eric at 5:48 PM

Bloomy still wants Gehry — plus other tidbits from the mayor in our endorsement sit-down

The Brooklyn Paper

In an interview with the Community Newspaper Group, Mayor Bloomberg whined about the loss of architect Frank Gehry and ragged on Atlantic Yards critics:

Mayor Bloomberg said on Monday that Atlantic Yards would be a better project if Bruce Ratner would bring back Frank Gehry’s much-hyped designs for the stalled and increasingly costly arena and 16 skyscrapers.

BloombergCNG.jpg

“If there’s any way Ratner can possibly do it, he should use the Gehry design, because he will get great events from around the world going directly to Brooklyn,” the mayor told a team of reporters and editors from the Community Newspaper Group, the parent company of The Brooklyn Paper. “Simon and Garfunkel on their tour would go to Brooklyn in a second before they go to Madison Square Garden. They’re New Yorkers.”
...
Like the developer himself — and the borough president he admires — Bloomberg argued that Ratner’s opponents, who have waged numerous court battles against Ratner and his government allies, were largely responsible for depriving Brooklyn of the vaunted architect’s vision.

“One of the great sins here is this small group of people stalled it so long [that] the economy is different,” Bloomberg said.

“I tried to get Ratner to go ahead and do the Gehry design. I thought it would have been an icon, but the economy is just not there.”

But the mayor conceded that Ratner probably would have faltered during the real-estate bust, even without relentless opposition from groups like Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn.

“He might have been in trouble halfway through, but at least he would have a project in the ground, going up.”

article

Atlantic Yards Report, Bloomberg blames AY opponents for loss of Gehry, fails to analyze 50% leap in arena cost

For the Mayor's benefit, Norman Oder explains why Gehry is out:

The cost of the Gehry arena went up from $637.2 million in December 2006 to $950 million in March 2008, well beyond the cost of inflation, and in part because of the cost of security. Did AY opponents have anything to do with that?

Now the arena would cost $772 million. Maybe Bloomberg should be asking for a cost breakdown.

Moreover, given the longstanding slowdown in Downtown Brooklyn office space--well before the economic downturn--it would've been impossible to build Building 1 (once "Miss Brooklyn") in tandem with the arena and impossible to build the four towers integrated into the arena block as Gehry planned.

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, Bloomberg Maintains Out of Touch Stance on Atlantic Yards

Who is the Mayor callin' small?

Would a financial wizard have a problem understanding that Ratner can't afford Frank Gehry any more (if he ever could, which is doubtful)? Would a financial wizard miss a bait and switch if it bit him in the rear?

And would a master handler of the City's business really think that a "small group of people" could stop a $4.9 billion development project?

Some news for the Mayor: The opposition to Atlantic Yards is very big, the small group is the one including you that has tried to foist Ratner's boondoggle on Brooklyn.

Posted by lumi at 5:46 AM

Submit Questions to Council Candidates for the 35th District - Home to the Atlantic Yards Proposal

Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn is encouraging Atlantic Yards critics to submit questions for the "virtual town hall" for candidates in the 35th District:

The three candidates running in the Democratic primary (Sept. 15th) for the 35th City Council District are incumbent Letitia James, Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement chair Delia Hunley-Adossa, and financial consultant Medhanie Estiphanos.

The Times "The Local" blog is asking you for tough questions to ask the candidates for the blog's "virtual town hall."

Go here to submit your questions in the comments section.

link

Posted by lumi at 5:34 AM

August 24, 2009

Looking again at the New Yorker's Bloomberg profile--what's missing?

Atlantic Yards Report

I took a second read of the past week's New Yorker profile of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, headlined THE UNTOUCHABLE: Can a good mayor amass too much power? and was struck by the absence of a significant critique.

Yes, as I wrote, had the profile encompassed public authorities reform and delved into Atlantic Yards, it could've been much tougher. But writer Ben McGrath gave Bloomberg too much of a bye.

article

Posted by lumi at 4:56 AM

August 23, 2009

De Blasio, Why Start Now?

Atlantic Yards Voter Guide

City Council member, Bill de Blasio , is now running for Public Advocate. He could never quite bring himself to say he was against the proposed Atlantic Yards project. For example, this month, he did request a Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement for the project, but at the same time he says he supports the project, but just doesn't like the process moving it forward.

The Atlantic Yards Voter Guide wants to know why de Blasio now wants to portray himself as a stalwart against over-development when he never opposed Atlantic Yards.

Here is the front of one of Public Advocate candidate Bill de Blasio's (why is he running for this office?) recent literature:

...

The highlighted passage reads:

Fighting Overdevelopment in Brooklyn
All too often, development in our city is pro-big business and anti-neighborhood. As Public Adovcate, Bill will fight overdevelopment, making sure Brooklyn's development projects reflect community values. And he will always push for more truly affordable housing for hardworking New Yorkers.

It's a good use of buzzwords by the Councilman. But why would he start doing all of this now?

Let's look at...Atlantic Yards, the consensus poster child for overdevelopment, the consensus poster child for "pro-big business" development, and the consensus poster child for "anti-neighborhood" development. Atlantic Yards is the consensus poster child for ignoring "community values" entirely. And Atlantic Yards would have barely any "truly affordable housing" even under the best case outcome.

Atlantic Yards has been controversial since 2003 and would be built right in de Blasio's backyard. Yet h has never gone past the most tepid criticism of small aspects of the project and when he has, he has done nothing beyond press statements or not-so-strongly-worded letters.

He supports Atlantic Yards, which demonstrates everything his literature says he "will fight." Or to be more accurate let's look at what de Blasio said about the Ratner project most recently at Public Advocate debate according to YourNabe.com:

...De Blasio said in the past he has supported the project for the jobs and affordable housing it would create, and that while he still supports it, he is against the way the process is moving forward.

De Blasio added he is against the project receiving more subsidies, and said there should be a new EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) and a full disclosure of the current project plan.

Upon being pressed on the issue, de Blasio said the neighborhood around Atlantic Yards is rapidly gentrifying and without affordable housing it would be further gentrified.

So there you have it, more buzz words, more non sequitur and new improved gobbleydeegook.

He supports it and is against it.

So why, Mr. Councilman, would you start doing now (or, god forbid, in the Public Advocate office) what your campaign lit imagines you to have done in the past?

Or perhaps we misread. Perhaps the literature, all in the future tense, is an admission that he has done none of this fighting of "big-business" and "overdevelopment" in the past.

But we doubt that.

link

Posted by steve at 7:46 AM

August 22, 2009

David Yassky's Ad: Complete Bullshit

The Daily Gotham

Daily Gotham author Mole333 is seeing red over a television ad for Comptroller candidate David Yassky. The ad suggests that Yassky would be a good watchdog over taxpayer money. Three different episodes from Yassky's time on the City Council show that he's not always been terribly responsible. One episode concerns how an endorsement of Yassky by James Caldwell, the head of BUILD, soon led to Yassky's efforts to further fund Bruce Ratner's astroturf organization.

Yassky is claiming he will close loopholes and watch every dollar the government spends, yet those of us who are actually in his district knows he has NEVER watched where dollars went unless they bought him endorsements. I think, in honor of Yassky's latest ad, I should remind people of a couple of sleazy moves Yassky has done that shows he either can't keep track of dollars at all or knows very well where dollars go and uses them to buy political favors...

An article from the Brooklyn Paper is used to fill in the background for Yassky's association with BUILD.

Yassky bill would push $3M to Ratner crony
By Ariella Cohen
The Brooklyn Papers

City Councilman David Yassky is under fire for asking city taxpayers to underwrite a promise that Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner made to a handful of community organizations.

Under the provisions of a "community benefits agreement" negotiated by Ratner and the groups, the developer and his supporters pledged to create a job-training program.

Thus far, Ratner has given $285,000 towards that worker-training program, which is being administered by Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development (BUILD).

Yassky (D-Brooklyn Heights) now proposes a city contribution of $3 million--more than 10 times what Ratner's given...

Experts on CBAs thought the Yassky bill was misguided.

"[Public funding] usually doesn't happen after the CBA is signed," said Roxanna Tynan, a spokeswoman for the LA Alliance for a New Economy, which was involved in a landmark CBA in that city...

Critics were quick to point out that Yassky submitted the budget request after BUILD President James Caldwell and other CBA signatories endorsed his bid to succeed retiring Rep. Major Owens (D-Crown Heights)...

So, BUILD President James Caldwell endorses Yassky and immediately afterwards Yassky proposes an unorthodox public funding (to the tune of $3 million of our taxpayer money) of BUILD. At about the same time, Steve DiBrienza endorses Yassky and right afterwards Yassky arranges $15,000 for DiBrienza's fake non-profit (which did nothing but paid salaries to DiBrienza and his cronies) even though it was out of Yassky's district. And Yassky wants to be the guy to keep an eye on the City's money???

...

To me this suggests three corrupt bargains Yassky has clearly been a part of. How many more such corrupt bargains are out there that Yassky was part of that we don't yet know