Thursday, August 31, 2006

Boyland and Ratner. 'Nuff Said Part 2

click image to make bigger!

'Nuff Said, the Original

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More Detached Elitism from Times/Sulzberger

OnNYTurf is opinionating on the NY Times Real Estate Company's sop to Yassky and Bruce. The Paper of Wrecker, Bruce Ratner's development partner, claims that unlike Chris Owens in the 11th District race, David Yassky has "passion" (if passion is the will to please all while pleasing nobody, sure) and a "base" (we guess the Times is the last to know that Mr. Yassky JUST MOVED INTO THE DISTRICT TO RUN THIS RACE SO HOW ON EARTH CAN HE HAVE A BASE?!).

We've made it pretty clear that Chris Owens is our guy and the only 11th CD candidate opposed to Atlantic Yards. We have found Owens' passion to be his defining characteristic on the campaign trail. And his base is broad (admittedly tough for the Times board to recognize from over there as they anticipate moving into their new eminent domain enabled digs.) More and more the Times' endorsement is simply the imprimatur of an elitist real estate enthralled house organ to be ignored by the vast majority of New Yorkers who don't really give a damn about a developer's political opinions. (okay, we just took a deep breath).

Check out what OnNYTurf has to say in its blog post, Times Endorses Ratner for CD-11.

Anti-"Atlantic Yards" Candidates Coalescing Around Batson

With the race for the 57th Assembly District in the spotlight of the "Atlantic Yards" debate, in the past week we've seen two anti-"Atlantic Yards" Congressional candidates cross-endorse the only "Alantic Yards" opponent in that race–Bill Batson.

This week's Brooklyn Downtown Star discusses the endorsements that have come from Chris Owens and Charles Barron for Bill Batson:
"You just keep being you," City Councilman Charles Barron told State Assembly candidate Bill Batson on the steps of City Hall this past rainy Sunday afternoon. "If you do," continued Barron, who is running for a political promotion himself this fall - to federal Congress, "then you'll have nothing to worry about. Don't sell us out, but I know you won't."

The two candidates have known each other a long time, having protested together in the wake of the Amodou Diallo shooting over seven years ago. Since then, Barron, a former Black Panther, has taken his street militancy inside the halls of municipal power. He has represented east Brooklyn in the City Council since 2001.

"Charles knows," admired Batson, "that we have to fight on the streets and in Albany and Washington. A lot of politicians go off to the corridors of power and disappear. I want to be like Charles. I want my constituents to hear me and see me."...

...In Batson, Barron sees a kindred establishment-bucking spirit. "The two other candidates in his race," decried Barron, speaking of Freddie Hamilton and Hakeem Jeffries, "are tied to the machine. Bill is the only independent, real, progressive voice in this race for the assembly."

Barron then endorsed Batson in his quest to succeed Roger Green in the 57th Assembly District, and Batson returned the gesture by endorsing Barron against Green and incumbent Ed Towns in the 10th Congressional District.

"I like Charles," explained Batson, "because he was a leader before he was an elected official. Just because you're an elected official doesn't mean you're a leader, and for decades he has been a seasoned and skillful organizer."

Earlier in the week, Batson had held a similar cross-endorsement press conference with Chris Owens, a candidate for the 11th Congressional District. ...

...One thing Barron, Owens, and Batson all have in common - that Clarke definitely does not - is their opposition to the controversial Atlantic Yards development. "Atlantic Yards," reasoned Owens, "is an example of the conflict between the direction we all would like to see this city go in and the corporatized development approach that the other candidates in our races are beholden to."

Owens went on to clarify that, unlike his opponents, Batson's opponents - Jeffries and Hamilton - "are not corporate tools, but they also haven't distinguished themselves as leaders in the fight against them."

Mr. David Yassky, Yassky, Yassky.

Mr. David Yassky, Yassky, Yassky,
All dressed in Burberry, Burberry, Burberry,
With silver donations, donations, donations
All in his bank, bank, bank.

He asked the voters, voters, voters,
If he made any sense, sense, sense,
Despite the flippity, floppity, flippity,
He sat on the fence, fence, fence.

He jumped to one side, side, side.
He touched both sides, sides, sides,
Never making things clear, clear, clear,
'Til the 13th of September, -ember, -ember.

Councilman Yassky receives the endorsement of District Leader Freddie Hamilton, and B.U.I.L.D President James Caldwell. Both support Ratner's project, signed a "community benefits agreement" with Ratner and both have received large sums of money from Ratner. Councilman Yassky sought $3 million from the City Council for B.U.I.L.D.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Atlantic Yards": Jeffries' Mailer and Batson's Statement

We went to the "Atlantic Yards" hearing Wednesday night in search of some political clarity on the issue. Today we'll look at the 57th. The hearing went on for a long time and unfortunately neither Hakeem Jeffries nor Bill Batson was in the room when their names were called many hours after the hearing started. We think both names were called well after the scheduled ending of the scheduled 4:30-8:30 hearing which ended, in real life, at 11:30.

So, as we were most curious to hear these speakers, we went looking around the internets on the day after the hearing to see what we could find.

Over at Jeffries' very slick Flash (with music but slow loading) website we found no comment at all about "Atlantic Yards". Nothing at all. Nothing generic, nothing on the fence, nothing about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). (Though we did find that silly NY Times endorsement front and center).

So we went on over to the Batson website to see if there was any reference to the DEIS hearing. There was.

Batson had posted what we presume is the testimony he intended to read at the DEIS hearing. Here is a snippet:
My name is Bill Batson. I am a member of Community Board 8, where I serve as the Co-Chair of the Committee on the Environmental Impact of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards. I also stand here as a candidate for the Assembly from the 57th District. This is my second time appearing before the Empire State Development Corporation. As a volunteer, with hundreds of my neighbors, we spent the last year, including last summer, getting ready for this audience. We have held hearings and enlisted pro-bono experts to understand a proposal that was actually never really made available to us. But we worked. And we wrote your office on numerous occasions, as official community advisory council members. You ignored all of our letters. Last summer Mr. Gargano did not show his face here, as his consultants attempt to divide the largest real estate parcel in New York history.

I see that Mr. Gargano is not here today. If I were him, I would also avoid bearing witness to the attempted disenfranchisement of an entire borough of four million. To hold a hearing while all three affected advisory bodies are on vacation and to hold a dubious “forum” on primary day should draw the attention of the Justice Department. We are being disenfranchised.

After hundreds of hours of close examination of this project, with my neighbors and peers, I must condemn virtually every aspect of the Forest City Ratner (FCR) proposal for the following reasons:...

Click to find out the reasons...
The testimony concludes with some rather strong comments:
Brooklyn’s fate should be in Brooklyn’s hands. That is why our ancestors fought and died in Prospect Park, and at Gowanus and in Wallabout Bay. We are a city of four million who must not only have representation for our taxation, but must reject this vulgar and undemocratic effort to use our own tax dollars and our own government against us. You have no authority that we in Brooklyn recognize. Go home and take your mega-developments with you. We will rebuild our Navy Yards and our own homes and preserve our own history.

We turned back the British and their Hessians. We’ll turn back the billionaires and their political thugs and puppets. ESDC go home, Brooklyn will house and feed our own. Thank you.

Well, it's clear where that candidate stands on "Atlantic Yards."

Since we couldn't find any comment from Jeffries on his site, or elswhere, on the DEIS, we were fortunate that on the very same day we are writing this post, we received a Jeffries campaign mailer in our in-box. We figured we would surely find something about "Atlantic Yards." And while the mailer shows a wonderful history of Hakeem over the years, it is lacking in the topic at hand here. Here's the mailer below, click image to enlarge.

The biggest and most controversial issue in the district over the past three years, a huge and contentious public hearing on a 4,000 page impact document, and Jeffries' website and mailer is devoid of even the words "Atlantic Yards."

18 days until primary day. Perhaps there'll be another mailer?

Barron V. Towns on A. Yards

Incumbent Representative Ed Towns has an interesting take on "Atlantic Yards." It's one we've not really heard before. In a nutshell he is saying that Prospect Heights and Downtown Brooklyn are "dead" like Downtown Cleveland (an ironic comparison) and Washington, DC once were. That's odd: his co-supporters of the project say the area has gentrified and that's the reason for the project. While NY State and Ratner say the area is "blighted" and this is why the project is needed. But for Rep. Towns its all about the arena. And he, like many others who favor an arena but a downsized project don't seem to understand that the enormous cost of the arena is the cause of the over the top scale of the project. In other words: if you want an arena, you only get it with a mammoth project.

His challenger in the 12th District is Councilman Charles Barron an outspoken opponent of "Atlantic Yards." Roger Green, the third candidate in the race and key project supporter, apparently did not sit for an interview on the issue.

Here we go:

Towns, Barron speak on Yards
The Brooklyn Papers
Two candidates for the 10th congressional district stopped by the offices of The Brooklyn Papers this week. Here is what they said about Atlantic Yards.

Rep. Ed Towns: If it is this project, or no project, I’d go with it. I watched what happened with the downtown area of Cleveland, with the arena there. The downtown area was dead. The Washington, DC, area — they bought an arena, and now there are all these stores and restaurants as a result of the arena. Baltimore, as well. A lot of economic opportunities present themselves when you have an arena and you bring in people. I think that having the Nets and the arena in Brooklyn is a good thing. I support that. I do think the project should be downsized.

City Councilman Charles Barron (D–Canarsie): It’s environmentally disastrous for us, meaning the pollution, the congestion. The affordable housing is nonsense. Maybe 20 percent is low-income, but 50 percent is luxury, so it’s instant gentrification. There’s not enough open space, not enough schools, firehouses, to go with this new community. This project makes no sense for the community and 100 percent sense for the developer.

Apologies for sounding like a broken record, but please remember this blog's bottom lines:

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.

From the No Land Grab Blog

A report about some off target grandstanding at the "Atlantic Yards" DEIS hearing:

Pol parade — windbags and wonks
Yesterday's parade of politicians provided an opportunity to learn more about how some of their positions have evolved, though most used their (loosely regulated) three minutes to pontificate on the greatness of the Borough of Kings.
Read on...

Daily Gotham's Mole333 Reports from the DEIS Public Fracas

The Atlantic Yards Hearing: A View From the Outside

Our babysitter was sick today so my wife and I split childcare duties. So, I decided I would go over to the Atlantic Yard's hearing today...the ONLY public hearing on the project the state is deigning to allow.

Well a quick subway trip took us to Metrotech. It was immediately clear to me that one hearing really was not enough. The line to get in went around the corner and was still growing. Well, I was with a nearly 2-year old baby and my chances of getting through that line without risking a large tantrum was pretty low. But I decided to see if it was worth it. I went around to the front only to see that the crowd got so thick that no stroller would make it through. I am pretty certain that was also indicative of how crowded it was likely to be inside. So, the one and only public hearing pretty much excluded families with children. Typical. Now maybe if I had come back later it would have been better, but families have something called a routine. I had to get back home to cook dinner and after that are bedtime rituals. So, it seems like the one and only public hearing was hard for families to navagate.

But I did get a chance to poke around. Yassky, Suozzi and Diamondstone all had signs up. Well, at least Suozzi and Diamondstone have taken stands on the issue. Yassky has been a fence sitter, so not sure who he was playing to. Perhaps everyone. The only person more ambiguous on his stand has been Hakeem Jeffries. Yassky at least has the excuse that he is running for Congress, not a body that will have Atlantic Yards as one of its major issues (so why does he have signs up?). Jeffries does not have that excuse...
Mole333 goes on to reprimand the unions and ACORN for their behavior and a lively comments sections follows...Read on...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Some White Guys"

Reports have come in that the Ratner-fueled Tracy Boyland campaign (posters, posters everywhere and not a filing to be found) against staunch "Atlantic Yards" opponent State Senator Velmanette Montgomery has been up to some bizarre and highly offensive DIRTY TRICKS.

First there was word of a Ratner/Boyland push poll. But that is par for the course. The latest DIRTY TRICK is, well, just read this from the Atlantic Yards Report:
Mongomery reported evidence of some underhanded campaign tactics.“One of my constituents in Bed-Stuy told me some people came to her home and asked her to support Tracy Boyland," Montgomery recounted. "She asked who Boyland is running against and was told, ‘some white woman named Montgomery.'"
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery

Bizarre and DIRTY, but no big surprise from the gang that exploits race, pays anyone willing to be paid, and fabricates all sorts of nonsense to push forward a highly profitable real estate deal, to paraphrase, "for some white guys."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ink Spilled on the 57th AD

Today brought forth a Crain's article (Brooklyn referendum Big names support Yards; foes eye Sept. 12 primary) and a Times (In Brooklyn, a Fierce Contest to Be Assembly Successor) article on the 57th Assembly District race between Batson, Jeffries and Hamilton.

From Crain's:
All the most important names in New York politics support the $4.2 billion Atlantic Yards housing and sports arena project proposed by Forest City Ratner: Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki, Comptroller William Thompson, Borough President Marty Markowitz, even gubernatorial front-runner Eliot Spitzer.But opponents are working desperately to turn the Sept. 12 Democratic primary into a referendum on the development. They are hoping that strong showings for half a dozen candidates who are against it will make community opposition too obvious for government power brokers to ignore.

Their top priority is helping Bill Batson succeed Assemblyman Roger Green, a supporter who is leaving the Legislature to run for Congress. "It is the key race when it comes to Atlantic Yards," says opposition leader Daniel Goldstein. "The entire district is very politically charged and active right now because of that project." Several dozen Atlantic Yards opponents collected signatures to put Mr. Batson on the ballot. They are raising money for his campaign and will be distributing his literature throughout primary day. Without the controversy to drive his campaign, Mr. Batson would have an uphill battle against Hakeem Jeffries, who ran strong--though unsuccessful--races for the seat in 2000 and 2002 and has more campaign money and institutional support. Mr. Jeffries does not believe the issue will decide the election, but he was wary enough to advertise in local newspapers his objections to the project's size and proposed use of eminent domain. At the same time, he calls Atlantic Yards "a step in the right direction" toward more affordable housing.
Need we remind Jeffries of this blog's motto:
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.

(motto purloined from blogger and early commenter Dope on the Slope)
As for the article in the Times (whose editorial board endorsed Jeffries one day earlier because he is a "...rising political star...," but did not clarify that Batson opposes the project and Jeffries supports it) it does clarify where the candidates stand. Though it does leave out a small, but not unimportant fact about the third candidate Freddie Hamilton...
Ms. Hamilton is a staunch supporter of the project, saying that it will bring jobs, economic opportunity and affordable housing to residents of the area.

"It’s the kind of project that I feel strongly will do some good in
this community," she said.
The article forgets(?) that Hamilton received $350,000 from Forest City Ratner and signed the "Community Benefits Agreement." It sure will do some good in this....pocketbook.

The Times continues:
Mr. Batson is equally outspoken as a foe of the project. He said the project would strain public services and make traffic worse, and that the project includes too little housing for low-income residents.

Mr. Jeffries is in the middle. He criticized the scope of the project, saying that it was too big.

"We should encourage smart development," he said. "But it cannot be at the expense of the community. We should build something there that addresses the affordable-homeownership crisis in the community. But it should be scaled down."

Mr. Batson said that the Atlantic Yards project was only a symptom of a larger problem in Brooklyn regarding development.

"The problem is that the only economy is real estate, and people in Brooklyn are viewed as so many bison and buffalos," he said. "We need to freeze the clock. Anyone who comes should feel welcome, but no one who lives here should feel forced out."

Similarly, Mr. Jeffries said that he would push to make certain that "New York State gets back in the affordable housing business."

"People have to be able to purchase homes in the communities where, in many cases, they have lived all their lives," he said.
What Batson and Jeffries say is absolutely true. But, once again we need to remind Jeffries of our motto (see above). And if he doesn't think that the "Atlantic Yards" issue will determine the race (see above in Crain's article) then why does he continually chase Batson's firmly planted boot of opposition to no avail?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

NY Times Endorses Diamondstone. Also Endorses Jeffries–But Why?

The Times has endorsed Ken Diamondstone in the 25th Senate District and Hakeem Jeffries in the 57th Assembly District. The paper feels comfortable bucking the establishment with the none-too-loved Marty Connor, and , to nobody's surprise, endorses the candidate in the 57th–Hakeem Jeffries–who supports The Times' business partner Forest City Ratner in their effort to construct 16 towers and an arena, aka "Atlantic Yards."

Here are the endorsements:
Ken Diamondstone, a small developer in Brooklyn, deserves a lot of credit. He’s running against State Senator Marty Conner, a long-term incumbent who also happens to be a lawyer specializing in election law. Mr. Conner has long been the go-to man for politicians who want to get pesky challengers off the ballot. Naturally, Mr. Diamondstone faced weeks of challenges at the Board of Elections and in court.

The party establishment dislikes real elections, and prefers to bump competitors out of the race—either through their control over local boards of elections or with judges handpicked by those same party leaders. This year, one candidate was told the board mysteriously “lost” her petitions from voters. Another, Terence Park in Queens, had to go outside the county to find judges who agreed that a tiny mistake should not disqualify him.

With that dismal history in mind, these are our endorsements in some of the upcoming primary elections for state legislature:

State Senate District 25 (Williamsburg and Sunset Park in Brooklyn): Miraculously, a Brooklyn judge ruled that Mr. Diamondstone should be on the ballot, giving the district an actual race. He does not have a strong record of accomplishments, and Senator Connor is something of an Albany institution. But Albany needs change, not institutions. We recommend voting for Mr. Diamondstone to send a message that business as usual must stop.

Assembly District 57 (Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn): Hakeem Jeffries, a bright and eloquent young lawyer, did such a good job of challenging outgoing Assemblyman Roger Green a few years ago that Mr. Green’s colleagues in Albany rearranged this district to carve out the Jeffries’ home. Now Mr. Green has moved on and Mr. Jeffries has moved into the district so that he could try again.

He is not the only good candidate in the running. Freddie Hamilton, who started Parents United to Rally for Gun Elimination, has had a real impact in this area. And Bill Batson, a former aide to State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, has raised the level of debate about the Atlantic Yards development. But Mr. Jeffries has the makings of a political star in a place that needs his intelligence and his energy. We endorse Hakeem Jeffries.
It strikes us as VERY odd that the Times chose NOT to identify which candidates support and which candidates oppose "Atlantic Yards" in the 57th District. It shows a lack of understanding of the central issue in the campaign for the paper not to focus on it and clarify where each candidate stands.

We don't begrudge the editorial board the right to choose its candidate, but it should be more forthright in its reasoning. And it doesn't give much reason to endorse or vote for Hakeem other than the hollow, unsubstantiated statement that "Mr. Jeffries has the makings of a political star."

Huh? Wha? How so? "Political star?" Sorry but we'd like to see a hard working community based activist/politician, not a "political star." And we don't need another lawyer in the dysfunctional legislature.

The endorsement tells us more about Batson and Hamilton than it does about its choice, Jeffries. But the paper does make a good point that Batson "has raised the level of debate about the Atlantic Yards development." Which is something that can't be said about this editorial board.

We also can't resist saying this: The Times' endorsement, though the paper clearly doesn't see it, further solidifies Jeffries as the pro-"Atlantic Yards" candidate and Batson as the anti-"Atlantic Yards" candidate.

Thank you NY Times (development/business partner of Forest City Ratner): To the majority of the District, which opposes "Atlantic Yards," your Jeffries endorsement is a Batson endorsement in the 57th Assembly District.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Montgomery v. Boyland: 'Nuff Said

from The Crain's Insider - Friday 8/18/06
Suspicion is growing that Atlantic Yards developer Forest City Ratner is behind former City Councilwoman Tracy Boyland's bid to oust state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery. Boyland supports the $4.2 billion project, and Montgomery opposes it. Insiders say that Boyland is using the same consulting firm--Knickerbocker SKD--that Forest City used to produce its Atlantic Yards literature. An insider says that Forest City executive Bruce Bender is also helping Boyland raise money. Knickerbocker SKD's Micah Lasher and a Forest City spokesman both declined to comment, but project opponents will connect the dots when Boyland files a campaign finance report revealing vendors she worked with. She has missed two deadlines to do so, but requested filing software from the Board of Elections this week.
Note: Boyland's filing was due August 11. Where is it?

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]

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Our Time Press Endorses Chris Owens

Our Time Press has endorsed Chris Owens for the 11th Congressional District seat.

Though the paper does not mention "Atlantic Yards," its editors are correct to say that this race is a fight for the soul of Central Brooklyn in more than one way. And for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz who smeared Owens in Carib News as "sucking up to the affluent minority" (which "affluent minority" is smaller and more affluent than the developer Marty "sucks up" to, Bruce Ratner, and the Mayor he endorsed, Mike Bloomberg?) it must come as a surprise that a prominent African-American owned and operated community newspaper, with "a distribution covering the African-American and Caribbean community in Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn Heights, East New York, Starrett City, Wingate and Ocean Hill-Brownsville," has endorsed Chris Owens.

Owens panders to nobody and speaks, always, in defense and on behalf of community. He is a Community Candidate.

Here is an excerpt from the endorsement:
In our June 1st issue of Our Time Press, we'd suggested using the petition process to determine early organizational strength, commitment and support.

"If one of the African-American candidates garners an impressive number of signatures, that person would have a very strong argument to be the presumed front-runner and ...would be a difficult candidate not to endorse."

The Chris Owens Campaign has filed approximately 13,500 signatures to place him on the ballot (1,250 are needed), saying it is far more than any other candidate in this congressional contest. What is surprising about this is that Mr. Owens is working without the benefits of incumbency, or the deep pockets of David Yassky or Carl Andrews.

Mr. Owens has also shown a thoughtfulness and depth on issues that the other candidates lack and a level of campaign organization and communication that demonstrates how he was able to garner thousands of signatures.

Of the three candidates for office, Carl Andrews, Yvette Clarke and Chris Owens, Andrews can be most easily dismissed. The ethical baggage he carries is not what the district needs before a candidate even gets into office.

And while we like Yvette Clarke, we find her positions on issues too tepid for these times.

Our choice in this race is Chris Owens, a candidate endorsed by some of the most progressive members of Congress, including Representatives Dennis Kucinich (OH), John Conyers (MI), John Lewis (GA), Maxine Waters (CA) and Bernie Sanders (VT). But it is important to remember that whichever candidate you support, turnout is critical. A primary election in a non-presidential year is a fragile thing, easily swayed by a determined niche of voters. Turnout, turnout, turnout, will be the deciding factor in this all-important primary.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Connor Loses Appeal, Connor v. Diamondstone Returns to Race Between Connor and Diamondstone

Well, the results are in (no not election results, appellate results) and Marty Connor has lost his appeal to keep Ken Diamondstone off the ballot for the 25th Senate District according to The Politicker.

So, hopefully, we can finally get back to the issues, one of the big ones impacting the District is, of course, "Atlantic Yards."
Marty Connor stands with Ratner (because "its not in his district") and Ken Diamondstone stand with the community against Ratner's taxpayer boondoggle.

Siegel for Batson

The Batson for Brooklyn website has published an open letter from civil rights attorney, former ACLU Executive Director and People's Advocate (as opposed to the "Phantom of City Hall") Norman Siegel, giving his full-throated support, lists his reasons for endorsement and pitch for campaign contributions. Read it and you'll learn a lot about Batson that you might not know.

Why is this important? Siegel is widely recognized as an active and public opponent of the "Atlantic Yards" proposal. In Siegel's race last year for the Public Advocate seat he won only three Assembly Districts in the entire City.

One of those three AD's was the 57th. That is where Batson is battling it out with Hakeem Jeffries and Freddie Hamilton. Many believe that Batson is the frontrunner in that race. All should take a look at Siegel's victory in the 57th and consider that it may very well be a harbinger in the Assembly race so inextricably tied to "Atlantic Yards."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gotham Gazette Goes to the 57th AD

Today the Gotham Gazette covers the 57th Assembly District race. This is the key race when it comes to "Atlantic Yards."

The proposed project sits squarely (or triangularly) within the 57th, and the neighborhoods that would be most directly impacted–Prospect Heights, Fort Green, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights –would be represented by the winner of this race.

Within the bounds of the 57th "Atlantic Yards" is by far the biggest issue and controversy. Not just the development itself but the precedent it would set for other areas in (and out) of the district. It touches on so many policy and quality of life issues from housing to eminent domain. How could it not be the biggest issue in the district when it is the largest project proposed by one developer in the City's history?

The assemblymember representing the 57th District, currently "Atlantic Yards" supporter Roger Greene, will have a special voice, when it comes to the approval decisions, into Speaker Silver's ear. And the results of this race may very well be the clearest political signal about the disposition of the district towards the project.

As stated in an early post, of the three candidates only Bill Batson opposes the project outright.

Current female District Leader Freddie Hamilton fully supports the project, concretely evidenced in the fact that she signed the controversial and severely lacking "Community Benefits Agreement" (CBA); she has also publicly admitted to taking money from Forest City Ratner to the tune of $350,000.

Third time candidate Hakeem Jeffries has straddled the fence, offering strong criticisms, but in the end comes to this position of support quoted in the Times:
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.

If Jeffries has come to a new conclusion regarding the project after the July 18th release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) we would like to hear. But the question is: Do you support THIS proposal as it CURRENTLY stands?

There is no room for equivocation at this late date: the question remains, do you support or oppose the project as described in the DEIS? We would gladly accept a clarification.

From the Gotham Gazette's Succeeding Green in Fort Greene – and Beyond:
Atlantic Yards
Freddie Hamilton, a staunch supporter of the project, was a signatory of a community benefits agreement between six community based organizations andthe developer of the project, Forest City Ratner Companies. Hamilton believes that the project "will ultimately provide the best outcomes for the district."

William Batson, former aide to State Senator David Patterson, is an outspoken opponent of the 6.5-acre real estate development. "This project has everything that's wrong with overdevelopment in it... .It's a three-card monte proposal that changes every time you look down" said Batson.

Hakeem Jeffries, a litigator for the CBS Corporation and third time candidate, refuses to denounce the $4.2 billion project, but criticizes the plan in its current form. "The proposed project is too dense and would dramatically change the character of the tree-lined residential neighborhood that it borders," he said.
(emphases added)

Affordable Housing
All the candidates agree that the district needs more affordable housing. However, they differ over whether Atlantic Yards will help provide that.

Freddie Hamilton believes that it will. According to her, plans for the development include over 200 units for residents with annual incomes as low as $19,00 .

William Batson, who has worked with local residents to protest the pending development, calls Forest City Ratner's promise of new affordable housing a "fraud." "We need real government action to address our housing crises, not the dubious promises of private developers," said Batson during a recent speech.

If elected, Hakeem Jeffries hopes to address the housing situation by repealing the Urstadt law, which places the power to control rents in the hands of the state legislature rather than city government.

Working families and senior citizens on fixed incomes are being pushed out of the only neighborhoods they've ever called home," said Jeffries, who was born and raised in central Brooklyn and provides free legal advice to residents who are facing displacement.

Monday, August 14, 2006

We Spoke Too Soon

Regarding Connor v. Diamondstone, and the race between Marty Connor and Ken Diamondstone, perhaps we spoke too soon.

From the Politicker:
Connor to Try Again

We've just heard from Ken Diamondstone that Marty Connor will appeal the Supreme Court decision to allow Diamondstone to appear on the ballot in their race for State Senate, and that they will appear at the Brooklyn Appellate Courthouse tomorrow.

Diamondstone contends that Connor is attempting to further tie up his campaign resources with the challenge, which could run through August 23, and believes that Connor doesn't want to talk about the issues facing the district, calling him "mostly absent." And he said that the whole effort to elimiate him from the race was actually about...

Clarence Norman.

Read on for more comments from Diamondstone after the jump.

Adams and Alexis in the 20th District

We hadn't included the 20th Senate District, which abuts the proposed "Atlantic Yards" site, in our "Atlantic Yards" Voter Guide because we felt that both candidates were wafflers and weren't really sure where they stood.

We should have known better.

Both candidates–Eric Adams, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care and Anthony Alexis, former council legislative director for Ratner-fueled 18th district candidate Tracy Boyland, support the project until we hear otherwise PUBLICLY from them. (There are three others running, but don't seem to be actively campaigning and we have no idea where they stand on anything.)

This morning Gotham Gazette takes a look at the 20th, a seat vacated by Ratner supporter Carl Andrews who is currently running in the 11th Congressional primary race.
Even though the proposed Atlantic Yards project is not in State Senate District 20, the project is a central issue in this year's Senate race. The high rises and basketball arena will not be built in the district itself, but they will be a few blocks away.

Anthony Alexis, who served as legislative director for former New York City Councilmember Tracy Boyland, supports the Atlantic Rail Yards project because, he said, it will "support job creation for our community." But while he supports the plan for high rises and a basketball arena, Alexis is opposed to one of its central aspects: the use of eminent domain. "I don’t support taking people’s homes or property," Alexis insisted, "There are ways of sitting at the table with the developer and ensuring that the project happens without taking the homes of people."<

Eric Adams, the co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, has not taken a position on the Atlantic Yards plan. He says he wants to look at the issues of environment, affordable housing and labor before reaching a decision.

Adams and Alexis are competing for the seat being vacated by Carl Andrews, who is running for Congress. As of the July filing deadline, Adams raised more than $86,000; Alexis almost $24,000. Two other candidates – Democrat Guillermo Philpotts and Conservative James Gay – are also running, but neither could be reached for comment and they do not seem to be actively campaigning...
Ambiguous words from Alexis and confounding prevarication from Adams.

Let's tackle Alexis first. His support of the project is because of "job creation for our community." Yet by Ratner's own admission, the arena jobs would go first to those who hold them now due to union rules. The orginally announced 10,000 jobs are now down to about 2,300 only a third of which, or about 750 might be new. (Not a glowing number for a $2 billion public investment.) And how many will go to "our community?" Very few. And those who are struggling the most for employment, unfortunately, do not have a lot to hope for in this project if it's built. Yes, it is stated that there will be an average of 1,500 contruction jobs over a ten year build out period, but the building trades have not been kind to "our community" nor had Forest City Ratner fulfilled their bloated construction-jobs-for-locals promises with Metrotech, Atlantic Center or Atlantic Terminal Malls. So Alexis' sole reason for supporting the project is on VERY shaky ground.

Alexis says he supports the project, and then says, "I don't support taking people's homes or property." Mr. Alexis should understand that "Atlantic Yards" cannot be built without taking homes and properties by eminent domain, (or rent-stabilized units for that matter) and it is the threat of eminent domain that has been wielded insidiously by the developer for the past three years. Meaning eminent domain has already been used and abused and the only way for the project to be built is further use and abuse of eminent domain. So while Alexis talks a good game about not supporting eminent domain, he supports the project, and in so doing, tacitly supports eminent domain for its construction.

As for the frontrunning Eric Adams, his story is more disappointing and disturbing. Adams has thought a long time about this project. How do we know? Well Adams emceed and spoke at all of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (DDDB) sponsored rallies since 2004. At each he spoke against the project. (Here he is at a June 2005 anti-"Atlantic Yards" rally and here he is at DDDB's walkathon/rally in November 2005.) Now, a month before the primary he tells the Gotham Gazette that he has not taken a position on the Atlantic Yards plan. He says he wants to look at the issues of environment, affordable housing and labor before reaching a decision. This would make Adams a one-of-a-kind political animal–the only politician or candidate who opposed the project and then supported it. Because, at this late date, such equivocation and fence-jockeying is de facto support.

We'll leave it to Dope on the Slope's sage comment on this blog's first Hakeem Jeffries post (3rd comment down); a comment we wholehearedly endorse and base this blog upon:
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?"

Hakeem 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.
The same applies to Adams and Alexis.

Anti-"Atlantic Yards" voters in the 20th, we are sorry, but when it comes to the Ratner plan we guess we have to leave you to choose between the lesser of two weasels.

The following was posted as a comment from "Marquez." We are still suspicious of Adams' comments in the Gazette.
Marquez said...
When I first read your post last week that Adams was unsure about his position on the Atlantic Yards, I reached out to him for clarification. He told me that the Gazette did not clearly state his comments. He further stated that his position did not change from being opposed to the project as it currently stands. To make his point very clear he told me to attend the press conference at city hall the next day and he will public state his position. At the press conference the Speaker of the City Council endorsed him. When Mr. Adams was asked “was he for or against the Atlantic Yards project” he stated without hesitation that he was against the project as it currently stands. His comments were also printed in the NY Daily News the next day. As long as I have been following Eric Adams, I have always found him to be approachable and willing to public state his positions. You may not always agree with him but he is always up front. He did it as a cop and I think he will do it as a senator. He gets my vote.

10:17 PM

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Thanks for Something

New York Times Endorses Senator Velmanette Montgomery

State Senate District 18 (northwest Brooklyn: Sunset Park, Red Hook, Downtown, Bedford Stuyvesant, Ocean Hill) State Senator Velmanette Montgomery is facing a challenge from former City Councilwoman Tracy L. Boyland, a member of the Boyland political family. Ms. Montgomery is a far better voice for her district, even though we don’t agree with her that the Atlantic Yards project should be scrapped. The senator is perhaps best known in Albany for speaking out for the disenfranchised, most recently arguing against the use of shackles for female prisoners giving birth. We endorse Velmanette Montgomery.
So the Times has endorsed Senator Montgomery despite her staunch and 3-year-old opposition to "Atlantic Yards." While it is surely welcome news to the Senator to receive the Times endorsement (and we congratulate the Times for not letting that issue get in their way and in the way of rejecting the last-minute, Ratner-fueled entrance of the Boyland family into the race for the 18th District) it seems the height of Manhattan-centric arrogance that the Times thinks it knows better than the district's 22-year incumbent Senator–who they say is a "far better voice for her district"–when it comes to the Ratner proposal. When it comes to "Atlantic Yards" we suppose the Times is a "far better voice"–is that their point?

(Remember, the Times also thought there were WMD in Iraq).

Further illustration of the Times' editorial distance from the district–after last week's under-informed and arrogant endorsement of the project (and inconsistent too)–is that they startlingly negate the neighborhoods in Senator Montgomery's district that would encompass and abut the proposed "Atlantic Yards": Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, a part of Park Slope and the part of Prospect Heights where Ratner's proposed footprint is located. (Not terribly surprising as the Times also has had frequent trouble locating the proposed development site.)

(For those who want to say that by our logic the Times shouldn't endorse anyone outside of Manahattan, that is not our point. Our point is that when they do, they ought to do more due diligence in consideration of that candidate's positions–AND–get her district's neighborhoods correct in full.)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Re-Enter Diamondstone, The “Atlantic Yards” Opponent

We had refrained from including the race for the 25th Senate District as the existence of the race was hinging on, well, an existential battle in court between entrenched incumbent and election law pedant Martin Connor and insurgent Ken Diamondstone.

Well the verdict is in and we once again have a race.

Diamondstone won his right to remain on the ballot in the face of Connor’s court challenge to throw him off.

Connor, the ultimate machine incumbent, is now facing a real challenge where he’ll have to stand on his record instead of his case briefs.

But back to “Atlantic Yards.” Martin Connor supports “Atlantic Yards.” Not only does he support it but he has a weasel way of not commenting. At an Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND) meeting in May Connor was grilled by some club members on “Atlantic Yards.” After going through a spiel about the problems New York State has with massive debt, he was asked about his views on “Atlantic Yards.”

He said, “It is not in my district and I’ve received only two letters from constituents about the project.”

A club member asked, “How many letters have you received from outside of your district?”

“A big stack,” Connor said.

Then the Senator went on to speak nonsense. New York State debt is a problem for the whole state, but a project like “Atlantic Yards” that would surely increase New York State debt (as every big white elephant project does) is not his concern because it’s not in his district.

(The Brooklyn Heights Association may beg to differ with Connor.)

Well, besides that fact that “Atlantic Yards”–the largest single source development proposal in the history of New York City–has ramifications for all of the city and state, regardless of district, now that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is out, it is clear that the project would impact Connor’s district in the extreme. (Never mind all the good government, process and policy issues at stake, which apparently never seem to impact Martin “It’s My Ballot” Connor).

There are those on some blog comment boards that say “Atlantic Yards” should not be an issue in the 25th Senate District race because much of the district is in Manhattan. The answer to that is see above

Is it Diamondstone’s only issue? Heck no, see his website and long community leader/activist record. But does Ken Diamondstone understand what this proposal is all about and understand that it matters not whether it’s in his district, outside his district or abutting his district? Does Ken Diamondstone stand with the community against pillaging, corrupt, destructive development plans? You bet he does.

And Martin Connor stands with Bruce Ratner.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hakeem's Inclinations

Where does Hakeem Jeffries stand on "Atlantic Yards?"

The simple answer is: when push comes to shove, Hakeem stands in support of the project.

He has said as much in the most in-depth mainstream news article to date on the race. See Atlantic Yards, Still but a Plan, Shapes Politics in Brooklyn , by Nicholas Confessore, from the July 3rd New York Times :
"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 (which the Atlantic Yards Report had troupble parsing), 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.
Now Daniel Goldstein, of course, has his own clear position against the project. But you don’t need to believe him. As the article continues on, his description is played out in Jeffries' tortured circling around until he finally comes to his truth:
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.
As we said from the start of this post, push has come to shove, and we take Hakeem’s word for it, he supports the project.

If he’d like to contact us or anyone else and clearly state his position we’d be happy to post it, but we believe that we are at the point where middle ground doesn’t seem to exist and for or against are the only positions the public takes seriously. A politician or candidate who can’t come out clearly on the project at this point or suggests unrealistic modifications or conditions for which they will not go to the mat, to our mind, is a supporter of the project.

But let's look at that again:
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.

With the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released, and its identification of numerous unmitigable adverse impacts, is a relatively small amount of truly affordable housing worth it all, or is there a better way to achieve the goal of affordable housing? Blogger/architect Jonathan Cohn suggests the calculation comes out short for the developer. For Hakeem as well.

How much eminent domain would Hakeem accept (he says he’s against it but stops short of opposing the project on that issue)? How much of an undemocratic process does Hakeem accept? How much public financing without political oversight and community input does Hakeem accept? How much environmental degradation does Hakeem accept? How much corruption does Hakeem accept?

Sure, Hakeem has 32 days to change his mind or clarify his view, and we would applaud that. But with three years to think about this project his view shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone, he’d “be more inclined to support it than not.”

What would change his mind at this late date?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Welcome. Guidance Offered.

For voters in the upcoming primary elections, here is a guide to where candidates stand on Forest City Ratner's proposed "Atlantic Yards" development project in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. This blog will keep y'all abreast of these races and others that figure into the "Atlantic Yards" controversy.

**Reader KG points out that we forgot the Ratner/Boyland challenge to Senator Velmanette Montgomery (18th Senate District, which encompasses the proposed development site). We did forget, mainly due to the knowledge that the Ratner fueled Boyland campaign has no legitimate base outside of Metrotech–Forest City Ratner's headquarters, or now Ohio. And that knowledge has entered our unconscious. Thank you KG.

18th Senate District:

Velmanette Montgomery opposes the project.

Tracy Boyland supports the project, and Forest City Ratner Forest City Enterprises supports her.


57th Assembly District:

Bill Batson opposes the project.

Hakeem Jeffries supports the project.

Freddie Hamilton supports the project and signed the "Community Benefits Agreement."


11th Congressional District:

Chris Owens opposes the project.

David Yassky supports the project.

Carl Andrews supports the project.

Yvette Clarke supports the project,


10th Congressional District:

Charles Barron opposes the project.

Ed Towns supports the project.

Roger Green supports the project and was involved in forming the group B.U.I.L.D.



Tom Suozzi opposes the project.

Eliot Spitzer supports the project.


Attorney General:

Sean Patrick Maloney opposes the project.

Andrew Cuomo supports the project.

Mark Green supports the project.

Charlie King supports the project