Friday, August 18, 2006

In the 11th It's 1 versus 3, and Not What You Think

No, it's not one white versus three black candidates, and it's not one woman versus three male candidates.

In the 11th Congressional District the one versus three is Chris Owens who has consistently opposed Ratner's plan for nearly three years while the others have been fence-riders at best (Yassky) and project supporters at worst. Carl Andrews even signed a sworn affidavit AGAINST the community and on behalf of Forest City Ratner in a recent lawsuit.

So Andrews, Clarke and Yassky all support the project and thus Ratner, while Owens has stood firmly against the project. Unsurprisingly Owens is the only candidate born and raised in Prospect Heights (where the project has been proposed) and most familiar with the neighbhorhoods and communities that would be most heavily impacted by the proposed project.

Yassky, of course, has been the most slippery as to his support. But remember this blog plays by the following rules, as offered up by an early commenter:
The question should always very clearly be stated as "Do you support THIS proposal as it CURRENTLY stands?"

Not "Do you support affordable housing?" or "Do you support FCR?" or "Do you support development of Atlantic Yards?"

Candidates can't equivocate on this question. There is no "on the other hand." You either support the project described in the DEIS and the process, or you don't.

There are no do-overs folks, and the only possible relief is in the courts if this thing goes through.

So Yassky's calls for scale downs with no teeth, and claims to have a traffic plan (which he doesn't) just don't cut it. Never mind the fact that over two years ago while Chris Owens was working with community activists who seemed to easily see the scam coming down the pike, Yassky was quoted in The Park Slope Reader saying that he unconditionally supported the project and didn't think traffic would be a problem. Yassky also claims to be the "environmentalist" candidate and recently got the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters. Owens has been endorsed by the Sierra Club.

The problem is that Yassky's staffer Evan Thies said, AFTER the release of the massive Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) revealed unmitigable environmental impact after unmitigable environmental impact, that "Atlantic Yards" is not the biggest issue in the District. When it comes to the environment, we don't think any reasonable person can argue that the Ratner Plan is not the biggest issue in the District. But that is precisely what the Yassky campaign has stated.

At The Atlantic Yards Report there is in-depth coverage of the August 9th Candidate debate at Medgar Evers. Some choice quotes from the report, Owens needles Yassky as 11th CD candidates take on AY, follow:
Carl Andrews: I support Forest City Ratner’s project. I believe that there are some very good things in the project.

Yvette Clarke: I believe we have an opportunity to help shape it in a way in which the benefits will outweigh the burdens.

Chris Owens: I’m opposed to the project. I’ve been opposed to the project. I don’t believe you jump on board a development that drops 18,000 people in an area—you jump on board and say, ‘Yes, it’s wonderful’--without asking the tough questions.

David Yassky: I want to see a way to make this project go forward so we can realize the benefits that it does promise--good jobs, affordable housing—but without destroying the neighborhoods around Atlantic Yards. I’m the only candidate here who’s put out a specific traffic plan for how to deal with the traffic that will be created by that project.*

* Note: Yassky's office has not made the "specific traffic plan" available to anyone. We don't think it exists. Andrews and Clarke talk a good game, but it's an exhibition game they are playing in. There are no teeth to their comments, and no comment on what their comments mean at this stage of the game.

We believe that no ELECTED official can or should support this project if only because of the subversion of the democratic process which has taken any genuine say out of their own hands. Only united political opposition would have the strength to politically overcome the barriers to a real voice in the development process.

Oh yes, the 3 bears all say that they are concerned about the use of eminent domain; but never go on to say that their concern translates to opposition. They can't have their porridge AND eat it too. So their comments show that they stand with the developer, will never stand in his way, and thus stand against the community.

But Chris Owens stands with the community. He is the only candidate who opposes Ratner's "Atlantic Yards."

We conclude with this volley between Owens and Yassky as reported in the rest of the Atlantic Yards Report coverage (along with running commentary):
Given the opportunity to ask a fellow candidate a questions, Owens, son of the retiring Congressman, pointed out that Yassky had announced support from the family of slain Council Member James Davis, which was later withdrawn, and a number of people who had signed the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement (CBA): Do you have any supporters in the African-American community who are not seeking a dollar from you or a major developer?

Yassky stayed cool: There are really good people, in every part of this district, people from one end to the other, people like the head of the residents’ association of Wyckoff Gardens—

I question her, Owens interjected. (She’s Charlene Nimmons, a signatory of the CBA.

—and the head of the residents’ association at the Van Dyke houses at the other.

I question her too, Owens continued, to laughter.

Yassky went on to cite support for his work on affordable housing and gun control, and how he attracts a range of volunteers.

In closing, Owens again took on Yassky:
We have people who talk about their commitment to stopping asthma, but they support a project that is going to increase the amounts of traffic in Brooklyn and is going to destroy air quality all across Eastern Brooklyn. We have people who say they want to support jobs, but I’m still the only person on this stage who wrote a piece demanding a specific assignment of jobs to people who live in Brooklyn, to people of color, but nobody is willing to support that, because they don’t want to set guidelines out for those businesses that might move into Forest City Ratner. So who’s standing up for the people? We talked about education, and we talk about how No Child Left Behind should be gutted. Well, that’s easy to say, but the reality is our education system is failing in large part because we support—we allow a war to continue to suck all of the life out of the education system….These guys in Washington play for blood. If you can’t stand up to a Ratner and some of the big donors, how can you stand up to Bush and the Republicans? [emphasis added]


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