Thursday, September 07, 2006

Jeffries-Come-Lately's Liar Flier

Bruce Ratner's propaganda fliers broadcast to hundreds of thousand of Brooklynites 3 different times over the past three years have come to be known amongst those paying attention as Liar Fliers. These fliers are known for their deception, doublespeak, and misinformation. Their goal, of course, is to sell the developer's product to an under-informed public.

Hakeem Jeffries (57th Assembly District candidate) has just mailed out his version of a liar flier. Just arrived in our box today the fence-sitting corporate attorney has seemingly come to realize that the election is likely to hinge on the biggest issue in the district–"Atlantic Yards." We wonder if it was mailed throughout the district or targetted so as to confuse project opponents who provide the natural base for Bill Bastson--the only known project opponent running for the 57th. Before reading further, we'd like to remind the reader of what Hakeem Jeffries said in a July 3, 2006 (just two months ago!) NY Times article–Atlantic Yards, Still but a Plan, Shapes Politics in Brooklyn:
Pressed on whether he would support or oppose the project as it stands, Mr. Jeffries first said it was "an interesting question." After some prodding, he said he would "be more inclined to support it than not," in large part because the project includes a large component of below-market housing.
So we wonder: Which of the "principles" stated on his campaign literature will he violate because of his inclinations?

Below is one side of the Jeffries Liar Flier:

(Click to enlarge
note that the flier has been editorialized by us)

Let's take a look at it

It reads: "Hakeem Jeffires is standing up for our community.
Some people say building with no questions asked...
Others say don't build under any circumstances...

First off, "he's standing up for our community." He is? Saying so in a piece of campaign lit 6 days before the primary is NOT standing up for the community; it's more like, uhm, mailing it in. What we know is that until June 2006 Hakeem said nothing publicly about "Atlantic Yards." What we also know is that Bill Batson, who Jeffries is challenging for the Assembly seat, has actually stood up for the community when it comes to "Alantic Yards" (as well as a rash of arsons and eminent domain takings of an Underground Railroad site in Downtown Brooklyn). Batson led the Community Board 8 task force on "Atlantic Yards," has spoken out publicly against the project over a two year period, and has unequivocally stated that he is opposed to the project and its abuses.

Then the lit continues: "Some people say building with no questions asked"

Like one of his big endorsers City Comptroller William Thompson.

And this section finishes with: "Others say don't build under any circumstances..."

Really? We remember the opponents of the project supporting a development proposal for the rail yards which outbid Forest City Ratner for the property. Heck, the leading opponents of the project are called Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn. There is nobody on either side of the "Atlantic Yards" issue that says "don't build under any circumstances..."

Self-Quoting and Small Steppin'

Then Hakeem's lit goes on to state his three NO's with supposed quotes from newspaper articles:

1. NO Eminent Domain Abuse unfairly displacing our neighbors
"I don't support the use of eminent domain by a private developer to build a basketball arena."
Hakeem Jeffries, Brooklyn Downtown Star. May 25, 2006

This quote is not from a newspaper article. It's from an advertisement Hakeem placed in that Brooklyn weekly to better inform the voters of his views on "Atlantic Yards." It didn't work very well, as it left many scratching their heads about the tortured text. And the language is too cute in many ways. If Hakeem doesn't support eminent domain for the arena, then he has to oppose "Atlantic Yards" as it will use eminent domain for an arena. Yet in public, in the press and in his campaign literature he does not say he opposes the project. On his website he does not even mention anything about "Atlantic Yards." And why does Hakeem seemingly support, by its omission, the use of eminent domain by a private developer for primarily luxury housing? It's the second time this week our inbox has been clogged by this confusion.

2. NO Skyscraper City dimming our future

"Significantly scale down the size and scope of the project."

-Hakeem Jeffries, Daily News, August 25, 2006

What size and scope would Jeffries accept? A 50% reduction? 30? Does he mean 6-8% as reported in the Times this week or a bigger one reported here in the Slatin Report? What exactly would Hakeem accept? And what if the footprint remained the same, requiring eminent domain (see above). "Skscraper City"–that sounds familiar.

3. NO Backroom Deals drowning out our voices
"Jeffries called for a 'six-month extension' on reviewing the entire Atlantic Yards project."
-Hakeem Jeffries, Brooklyn Downtown Stars, August 10, 2006

First off, the backroom deal began about three years ago. Extending the environmental
review period would do NOTHING to reverse the secretive, non-transparent and
backroom process that has characterized Atlantic Yards from year zero. Everyone and his mother, on both sides of the issue, has called for a longer review period–including Christin Quinn, Roger Green, Joe Lentol, Eliot Spitzer, Hillary Clinton, Bill de Blasio, David Yassky etc. It's the politically-safe-least-one-could-ask-for step to take.

The campaign lit concludes on this side with a hatchet job recognizable to those who study non-contextual movie critic quotes:

"...yes to affordable housing, no to eminent domain abuse...and yes to an open process," Mr. Jeffries said.

–Hakeem Jeffries, The New York Times, July 3, 2006
Well, what actually appeared in the Times should sound familiar as we started this post out with it:

"I spent six hours at two meetings with him," said Daniel Goldstein,
the spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, an umbrella organization for community groups opposed to Atlantic Yards. "After six hours, it was unclear to us where he stood on the project."

In late May, Mr. Jeffries took out an advertisement in The Brooklyn Downtown Star, a local newspaper, in order to "make sure there was a clear position on where we stood," he said in an interview.

"Essentially, yes to affordable housing, no to eminent domain abuse, no to commercial skyscrapers, and yes to an open process," Mr. Jeffries said.

His critics found the explanation unilluminating, since the project as currently designed would involve both eminent domain and soaring commercial skyscrapers. Pressed on whether he would support or oppose the project as it stands, Mr. Jeffries first said it was "an interesting question." After some prodding, he said he would "be more inclined to support it than not," in large part because the project includes a large component of below-market housing.

Strange that the Liar Flier leaves out the "commercial skyscrapers" piece of the quote, not strange at all that it left out the last paragraph–the lit is to fool voters. Don't be.

Those Damn Rail Yards

The front side of the literature, (or is it back) shows a street level view of the rail yards which comprise about 1/3rd of the proposed project site. In big bold franklin gothic the header shouts:

Click to enlarge

"Our community needs sensible development not overdevelopment."

We do like the photo. It's one thing for the news media to over and over describe the Ratner project as being over the rail yards only, when most of it is not on the rail yards (thus that eminent domain controversy.) But why does a candidate running for local political office need to mislead his potential constituents, aka. voters? Is Hakeem trying to say that only the rail yards should be developed? Is he trying to suggest "blight?" Or simply placing the project with visual shorthand. Regardless, the screaming header is exactly what the opponents of the project have been saying for a long time. Much longer and much louder than Jeffries has. Yet on the flip side his literature reads: "Others say don't build under any circumstances..." So on one side he is co-opting the message of project opponents, and on the other side insulting their intelligence. That's no way to win voters.

The way to win voters has been lost a long time ago for Mr. Jeffries. We don't believe that his half-hearted and dishonest criticism of the project six days before the primary will impress project supporters or project opponents. We have to wonder if his ACORN allies approved of his message on this literature. And what will his supporter and Ratner ally Reverend Sharpton think of it? We're pretty sure what opponents will think of it, especially when they learn of Letitia James’ endorsement of Batson.Batson staked his ground years before even deciding to run. Hakeem takes a broken stake and sticks it in quicksand.

This mailer may be squeezing himself right out of the diminishing chances he has to win. It reeks of desperation of the "I'll say anything" kind.

It proves one thing, though, beyond Hakeem's refusal to be forthright about his views. It proves that "Atlantic Yards" is the bellwhether in the 57th District. The former odds-on favorite to win the race before Batson came along has made a last ditch effort to try to win the seat by parroting the opposition to "Atlantic Yards." Thats called a follower, not a leader.

Mr. Batson got it right in the same Times article Jeffries snips from for his liar flier:

Mr. Jeffries has drawn a challenger in Bill Batson, a member of Community Board 8 who strongly opposes the project. "We don't need another landmark to tell us what Brooklyn is," he said in an interview. He is supported by many neighborhood residents who share those views, and have helped him raise money and gather ballot petitions.

"If the campaign is a referendum on Atlantic Yards, that's not my doing," Mr. Batson said. "But if it is, then let it be so."

It already has become a referendum. The candidate who appears to be headed for victory is outright opposed to the project, and the one who wants to head towards victory is now pretending to oppose it as well.

Our suggestion? Don't take the bait.
Vote Batson


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