Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Politicians and Fighters

Congratulations to all the candidates. Congratulations to the winners.

This guide was NEVER about who would win. Quite the contrary, it was a guide about who was unequivocally standing up for the community and who was wholly or partially defending Ratner and the ESDC's "right" to loot, and plunder a real estate treasure at Brooklyn's hub.

Those who have fervently and consistently opposed "Atlantic Yards" (Batson, Owens, Montgomery, Barron) were challenging an enormous power structure:
Institutional party machine support, massive union support, media support and corporate support.
Challenging unprincipled, politics-as-usual is always an uphill battle. Challenging corporate interests will always bring out the long knives.

(Despite her incumbency, Senator Velmanette Montgomery struggled to stave off the empty-suit, law-breaking, Ratner-fuled Boyland campaign.)

That's why you'll ALWAYS find that campaigns that truly stand for something, truly challenge the power structure, are grassroots campaigns; while those that are simply about getting elected, and saying what one needs to say to get elected, pay their "volunteers," or receive institutional (read: entrenched) support.

The Batson campaign was borne out of opposition to "Atlantic Yards." That movement forced the issue of "Atlantic Yards" to the fore of numerous local races. And that movement–nearing its fourth year–transcends Democratic Primary elections.

That movement will ALWAYS side with the fighters, and try to work with the politicians.

That movement, we are sure, will continue on. And we expect that those fighters will be at the ramparts.

Meanwhile, we'll keep an eye on the politicians to see how they maneuver on the battlefield.


More from the Blathersphere (those in the the know, and those not so):

No Land
Ratner beats grassroots amateurs on his home court. Next stop, a more "civil court."

Atlantic Yards Report
"Atlantic Yards win by a mile"? The evidence isn't there
Election results no anti-AY referendum, but not an endorsement either

The NY Times Empire Zone
The Atlantic Yards Vote

Gowanus Lounge
Good Day for Atlantic Yards

Daily Politics
A Good Day for Ratner?

and a special item:

The Ratner contributions just keep coming

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Daily News Endorses Hakeem's Support of Atlantic Yards

Well, we had missed this one somehow. It sure contradicts Hakeem's Liar Flyer. From the Daily News endorsement of Hakeem Jeffries:
7th Assembly District (Fort Greene, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights): Lawyer HAKEEM JEFFRIES has been a cautious supporter of the Atlantic Yards project and gets the nod over Freddie Hamilton, a longtime district leader, and former union activist Bill Batson.
Just as we suspected, it's a Liar Flyer. And that's pandering.

To paraphrase from the last Presidential: He supported it, before he pretended not to support it.

Go vote today.

Go work with a campaign that has never seen a fence or worn rubber toe-sandals.

Go Vote for:









and enjoy the party when it's over. Win or lose. You've worked hard.

The No Land Grab Slate

The people at No Land Grab have posted their electoral slate. We couldn't agree more:

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hakeem Mailer Says Albany is Broken, Batson Aims to Fix It

The "Atlantic Yards" project is quite literally a state takeover of a large area of land in BROOKLYN (22-acres) and a State override of all local zoning. That takeover and override has been overseen by an unlected, unaccountable, non-transparent public authority–the Empire State Development Corporation.

The ESDC has been roundly attacked for how they've run their project "oversight," the latest attack coming in a letter from a neutral coalition called The Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods concerning the public hearing fiasco from 3 weeks ago. The ESDC takeover of a chunk of Brooklyn for "Atlantic Yards" and the Condo-in-the-Park scheme for Brooklyn Bridge Park are just two of many examples of the dire need for public authority reform.

The ESDC's takeover of the Central Brooklyn "Atlantic Yards" site, its coziness with the developer and its mismanagement of everything from the DEIS hearing to the DEIS itself makes it the poster child for such reform (along with their brethren at the MTA).

So, we're back to Hakeem Jeffries' most recent (last?) mailer which hit our box on Saturday. It's a classic "Albany is broken, I'm the guy to fix it" mailer. First the mailer tells us that "We all know our State Government in Albany is broken."

And then on the flip side we have "The leaders we trust believe Hakeem Jeffries has the tools to help fix it."

Then three politicians (none from Albany, none from Brooklyn and one from Jersey) tell us why they think Hakeem is right for Albany. City Comptroller William Thompson (a Ratner cheerleader) tells us that "Hakeem Jeffries represents the best that Brooklyn has to offer."

Council Speaker Christin Quinn tells us that "Hakeem Jeffries' progressive thinking will be a terrific asset to the State Assembly and our City as a whole."

And Newark Mayor Cory Booker tells us that "Hakeem Jeffries represents a new generation of African American leadership
that stands ready to bring together constituents from all walks of life for the betterment of Brooklyn."

Never mind that these pols are not exactly local or have much sway in Brooklyn but none really tells us how Jeffries is planning on fixing the broken Albany. We don't include the mailer's reproduction of the Times' endorsement as that was such a vapid piece of copy it doesn't deserve mention (nor does it tell us either how Jeffries would reform Albany).

So we've learned nothing about Hakeem's ability to reform Albany.

Conversely Bill Batson has endorsements from the local paper, The Brooklyn Papers, and well respected local elected leaders such as Councilwoman Letitia James, Congressman Major Owens, Councilman Charles Barron and Councilman Bill de Blasio. So those who know Brooklyn, and the 57th District, best have endorsed Batson. (We don't think that Hakeem has one endorsement from a Brooklyn elected official).

But more to the point. Bill has already taken on Albany and the ESDC in his blistering testimony to the ESDC for the Atlantic Yards Draft Environmental Impact statement. That testimony concludes:
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 [ESDC] 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.
Have you ever heard a candidate vying for Albany office talk in such a way?
We didn't think so.

More than anything else "Atlantic Yards" is a breakdown in government. But Mr. Jeffries has never spoken of it this way. He talks around the edges with slippery talk about eminent domain and "scalebacks." He has NEVER denounced or critiqued the process in any meaningful way.

Mr. Batson, on the other hand, has always framed his conversation about the project from the faulty process starting point.

We'll take Batson as the Albany reformer any day over Hakeem.

Hakeem mails a pretty good game.
Batson, clearly, isn't playing games.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

God, Hoops, and Hakeem

We have an earwitness report that campaiging and preaching at Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill today Hakeem Jeffries said:

You have a God-given right to go to a ball game in your own neighborhood.
(Reports are now coming in that it was Reverend Al Sharpton, campaiging with Hakeem, who said this at their church stop.
More reports that the Hakeem Jeffries entourage, and we are not sure if it was Hakeem or Reverend Sharpton, said:
Some folks in this neighborhood want to keep you from being able to watch basketball in your own neighborhood.)

Now, we love hoops as much as the next person. We cried when Starks went dry in Game 7. But we don't think God has got anything to do with ball or hoops at all. Which is interesting because "Atlantic Yards" really has got not much to do with hoops either. We also know that nobody is trying to stop anyone from watching basketball.

But much more interesting is how this utterly contradicts Hakeem's two recent mailers co-opting the fight against "Atlantic Yards": the one with the bullet point about "protecting our communities from the abuse of eminent domain" and the one which says "I do not support the use of eminent domain by a private developer to build a basketball arena."

Let's be clear on one thing that some people seem to be having trouble understanding. Bruce Ratner cannot build an arena OR his luxury housing at his chosen location (which is an incredibly valuable piece of real estate, thus the eminent domain) without the use of eminent domain. Simple as that.

Now, we wonder, who trumps who in Hakeem's world: God or the abused power of monarchs? Does the God-given right to watch ball outweigh Hakeem's purported position against the "use of eminent domain by a private developer to build a basketball arena."

Bill Batson has no such contradictions. He has consistently been against the use and abuse of eminent domain and its threatened use for "Atlantic Yards" from the beginning. He has also led the fight against the use of eminent domain that would destroy and Underground Railroad site in Downtown Brooklyn.

In God We Trust. Hakeem not.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Ben Smith Pushes Hakeem's "Privately-financed" Anonymous Pollaganda

So what do we have here? Daily News blogger/columnist Ben Smith, ever with his ear to the ground, posts his "exclusive" results of an anonymous, privately-financed poll on the 57th AD race between Batson, Hamilton and Jeffries, showing a big lead for Jeffries.

First we'll say straight out that our feet are on the ground in the 57th and this poll is Wack. We assure you.

We take serious issue with this "journalist" posting a privately-financed poll without saying who financed it. We quote Ben Smith here:
I've obtained a full copy of a privately-financed poll of the 57th Assembly District. The poll was conducted by Tom Kiley, a nationally-known pollster based in Boston. I was given access to it on the condition I not identify my source.

The results show Hakeem Jeffries with a strong lead:

Hakeem Jeffries: 51%
Bill Batson: 17%
Freddie Hamilton: 6%

23% of voters said they aren't sure who they'll vote for.

The poll, taken on September 4-5, surveyed 299 people who said they were registered Democrats and would either definitely (90%) or probably (10%) vote on Tuesday.
Ben, it's the source that counts. Who financed this poll? No independent party of course. Did Hakeem have enough dough to do this poll? The only other private financier who'd have an interest in polling the 57th AD is Forest City Ratner. We conclude that the anonymous, privately-financed poll was either financed by Forest City or the Jeffries campaign.

In which case this is pollaganda used to depress the Batson vote which won't happen. There is no groundswell of support for Jeffries. The energized voters in the 57th are the anti-Atlantic Yards voters which is why Jeffries put out his Liar Flier earlier this week in an attempt to co-opt Batson's popular and firm stance against Ratner's over-development.

We'd also like to see the full copy of the privately-financed poll, Ben. How about posting it. Clearly Ben's source is the financier. We agree with Ben that 299 polled is a small sample, and even more skewed considering it was done on Labor Day weekend. We were polled that weekend on this race but oddly we weren't asked any questions about our likelihood of voting and there was no option for "aren't sure who I am voting for." Yet we don't think two polls have been done for the 57th, so it is curious. Did this pollster pull voter determination and undecideds out his hat? Or was there a second poll?

Additionally, this poll was done before:

-- a Batson mailing that arrived in our box yesterday;

-- Councilwoman Letitia James endorsed Batson;

-- The Brooklyn Papers endorsed Batson;

-- The Brooklyn Papers published its interview of the 3 contenders for the 57th.

-- a Letitia James robocall for Batson we got on our phone today;

We fully expect that this poll, WHOEVER financed it, will be yesterday's trash by Tuesday.

Since Ben isn't saying, we can only guess, and our final guess is that this is a Forest City Ratner financed poll. Who else would it be?

Why Hakeem's Pandering Is Offensive

A commenter over on Daily Gotham's post, "Hakeem Jeffries Flip Flop Flips on Atlantic Yards,", by Mole333 sums things up pretty well about Hakeem's recent mailer. This commenter posts the following;
Its about defending positions not taking sides, Jeffries Deflect
Submitted by coward (not verified) on Sat, 2006-09-09 13:33.

You don't need to be "with or against us" but you need to be willing to FIGHT if elected to back up the claim on his own literature that says he will FIGHT TO PROTECT PEOPLE AGAINST THE ABUSE OF EMINENT DOMAIN FOR PRIVATE USE."

HOWEVER, when asked WHAT he will DO, if elected and the abuse of Emininet Domain takes place, he does not and will not answer that question.... It is all good and fine when these lame, pussy footing politicians want to be "diplomatic" but you can't say you oppose something in its present form and yet do NOTHING to try to change the present form. You can be diplomatic, say you think there are some good aspects of the project ( if you can find them) but to take no stand on how you intend to hold the developer to his promises, or how you will inforce your beliefs that some of the project is bad...that is as good as taking a side "for," the project. So, while agree with the statement that it is not just about taking is about taking a stand and having a back bone....Jeffries, Yassky and all these "fence" people leave me with NO FAITH that if the project goes through that they might do ANYTHING to fight for changing the things they pretended to be concerned about.

Jeffries is running to protect and represent a neighborhood that won't even exist if this project goes through. If it goes through there will be no low income community, small time home grown people to represent. Thus making his campaign a bit of an imaginary scenario.

We couldn't agree more.

Fans for Fair Play's Adamant Endorsements

FFFP is never shy about its convictions, which is why they are so spot on. Take a gander at the sports fan's political heros at:
FFFP's Election Endorsements

Here is a LONG snippet from FFFP's endorsements:
These are the important races, and who FFFP endorses:

11th Congressional District

Chris Owens is the one.

Owens is passionate, outspoken, smart as hell, progressive, and knows Washington's ropes. He's the incumbent's son. Don't let that put you off. We know Chris. He's his own man, he listens to everyone around him, and best of all, he's not politics as usual. If you're tired of politicians acting like politicians, vote for Chris Owens -- he acts like the rest of us. Chris is a big sports fan who loves the idea of a major league sports team in Brooklyn, but not the way Ratner's doing it. For what it's worth, Chris is a great musician -- sings the blues like nobody's business, and has made the recorder a rock'n'roll instrument like it always should have been.

The folks you shouldn't vote for: David Yassky, who supports the Atlantic Yards project but claims he doesn't, and is the proto bland fence-sitting politician we're tired of...Yvette Clarke supports the Atlantic Yards and has been funded by Bruce Ratner's brother Michael. Clarke has lied about her past, and is something of an establishment tool...but not as much as Carl Andrews, who was the right-hand-man of convicted-and-jailed Brooklyn machine boss Clarence Norman. Many of Norman's transgressions happened when Andrews was by his side. A complete tool.

57th Assembly District

Bill Batson is the one.

Batson's another one cut from a non-politician's cloth. Doesn't mean he's inexperienced -- he's served as a member of Community Planning Board 8, co-chairing the Fire Safety committee as well as the special sub-committee on the Environmental Impact of the Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Development, and has been a civil rights worker his entire adult life. Bill's adamantly pro-development and favors creation of affordable housing and jobs, and for that reason is staunchly against the Atlantic Yards project. This seat is crucial -- this is the elected official Sheldon Silver will consult before deciding whether to endorse or refute Ratner's boondoggle. Electing Bill will insure that Silver gets information that isn't shoved through the Ratner p.r. filter. Batson is also a sports fan -- go to his website, >Batson For Brooklyn and check out his interlocking BB and Brooklyn Dodgers blue. Bill's also a kick-ass artist.

The folks you shouldn't vote for: Freddie Hamilton, who not only supports Ratner but is a signatory of the fake and useless "community benefits agreement. Hamilton has nothing to offer the community that isn't already paid for by Ratner...Hakeem Jeffries presents himself as the community's guy with his slick trial-lawyer manner. He claims he's against every component of Ratner's project, but make no mistake: Hakeem Jeffires is a firm supporter of the Atlantic Yards. He's told supporters as much. Doesn't help that a few days ago he menaced a Batson campaign worker and then got in the face of Batson's campaign manager.

18th State Senate District

Velmanette Montgomery is the one.

File this election under Payback's A Bitch. Montgomery has represented her district for 22 years, ushering it from the bad old days of the mid-80s through to Brooklyn's current renaissance. She's powerful, firery, and stands up against the rich and elite. She's against the Ratner project because she knows it won't bring jobs or affordable housing to Brooklynites who need it most. Many of the people Ratner's targeting live in her district.

The folks you shouldn't vote for: well, it's only one, and she's Tracy Boyland. This is why we're filing this under Payback's A Bitch. Ratner and the Brooklyn political establishment has Montgomery in their sights because of her brave opposition to Atlantic Yards. Ratner is paying for Boyland's campaign, again via Bruce Ratner's brother Michael. If ever there was a tool of the wealthy and powerful to vote against, it's Boyland.

10th Congressional District

Charles Barron is the one.

Barron's often the only guy in an entire chamber of politicians who stands for justice. When everyone else is too scared to offend the mayor, the governor, the president, Barron makes sure his constituents' voices are heard. We were disappointed when he chose not to run for mayor last year. Barron, proudly and defiantly outspoken on behalf of the African-American community, knows when the 'hood is being sold a bum deal -- and that's why he opposes the Atlantic Yards project. Barron's a sports fan, and understands that sports truly nourishes us when it's Ali, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, not Mark McGwire or Tiger Woods.

The folks you shouldn't vote for: Roger Green, who was likely the first local politico Ratner seduced after borough president Markowitz. Green's heavily in Ratner's pockets, and that comes after he pled guilty to corruption charges a year ago...Edolphus Towns, a Brooklyn machine cog who also supports the Atlantic Yards. quotes his utterly uninformed analysis that says Cleveland's arena reinvigorated the city, and that's why the Nets arena should happen. News flash -- the Cleveland arena did no such thing. That place is a ghost town when there isn't a game, and when there is, fans just eat in the arena, drink in a few modern chain sports bars, or get in their cars and go home.

We'll leave it with those crucial races. Sadly, the establishment has backed Eliot Spitzer, Hillary Clinton and the no-good-choice tandem of Mark Green and Andrew Cuomo in the state-wide races.

The future of Brooklyn is at stake. Normally, that's just empty rhetoric. But with the dangerous and destructive Atlantic Yards project hanging over our heads like a guillotine, this year it's true.

Get out and vote on Tuesday. If you love Brooklyn and don't want it falling prey to wealthy developers and ethically challenged politicians, voting for our choices will be the best votes you've ever cast.

Friday, September 08, 2006

AY Voter Guide's Obvious Endorsements

The struggle over "Atlantic Yards" is of much larger import than some want it to be. It's no NIMBY fight. It's not just a fight over scale, density, traffic, open space, planning, eminent domain etc. It's no small local issue. It's a barometer of the state of affairs in NYC and State government. That's why we believe a candidate's view on "Atlantic Yards" is a litmus test.

In sum it's a fight over political power and corporate influence over government at the expense of the public.
It's a political fight.

So get out and vote and we also urge you to volunteer with one of the campaigns of your choosing.

Get out and vote for those who have stood consistently against the abuses of "Atlantic Yards", have stood against the influence of Ratner over a big chunk of our elected "leaders."

Here they are:

57th Assembly District**:



18th Senate District:



25th Senate District:



11th Congressional District:



10th Congressional District:


** While all of the above races matter for "Atlantic Yards" this 57th Assembly district race is the one that would have the most impact on "Atlantic Yards." Batson is the only "Atlantic Yards" opponent running.

AY Political Winds Blowin' in the Blogs

Gowanus Lounge
Thursday Political Round Up
Featuring Councilmember Letita James endorsement of Bill Batson and Batson's internet campaign advert.

Daily Gotham
Hakeem Jefferies Flip Flop Flips on Atlantic Yards
Mole333 advances the Hakeem Liar Flier story forward:
Though I do not know Mr. Jeffries personally and have not had extended conversations with him on this issue, I feel I should relay to you what he told me around 6:45 P.M. on August 23, 2006. As I was waiting to get into the public hearing regarding the Atlantic Yards Project DEIS, Mr. Jeffries came down the line shaking hands. As he shook my hand, I asked Mr. Jeffries if he had a solid position on the project as it now stands. Mr. Jeffries looked me in the eye and said that he was "fully in favor of the project" and that he thought "it will be great for Brooklyn."
Atlantic Yards Report
More Ratner-related contributions: $10,800 to State Sen. Connor
Incumbent State Senator Martin Connor, who's in a tough primary race against Atlantic Yards opponent Ken Diamondstone, just reported $5400 each from Michael Ratner and his wife Karen Ranucci (or, as it says, "Ranvcei"), along with contributions from developers David and Jed Walentas, and the District Council of Carpenters...
Gowanus Lounge
Friday Political Roundup: Endorsements and a Dead Heat
Brooklyn Papers' endorsements, polling and NoLandGrabbing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Brooklyn Papers' Endorsements

>The Brooklyn Papers

The Papers makes these endorsements:

• State Senate, 25th District (Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill): No endorsement. This race pits longtime incumbent Marty Connor against gadfly Ken Diamondstone. We strongly objected to Connor’s effort to knock Diamondstone off the ballot on a factually inaccurate charge that Diamondstone did not live in the district. But in recent mailings, Diamondstone has lied about Connor’s record. Both candidates should be ashamed.

• State Senate, 18th District (Park Slope, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights): We endorse incumbent Velmanette Montgomery. Montgomery is running a transparent and reasonable campaign, while her opponent, Tracy Boyland, seems to regard openness as a luxury, ignoring requests for basic information and not filing campaign finance reports. They also differ on Atlantic Yards, which Montgomery opposes.

• State Senate, 20th District (Park Slope, Prospect Heights): We endorse former police officer Eric Adams, who will make a fine senator. His opponents offer no competition.

• State Assembly, 57th District (Prospect Heights, Fort Greene): In a close battle, we endorse Community Board 8 member Bill Batson.

While his opponent Hakeem Jeffries is intelligent, articulate and talented, his inability to take a clear position on the Atlantic Yards mega-development — which is centered in this district — is problematic.

Batson has been a strong opponent, pointing out the project’s flaws, including a recent discovery of tens of millions more in public subsidies. In addition, he has been a strong voice in the fight against landlords who set fire to their own buildings to drive out low-rent-paying tenants. For that, we endorse Bill Batson.

A third candidate, district leader Freddie Hamilton, signed the Community Benefit Agreement with Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, rendering her unable to negotiate on behalf of the community.

Pick your candidates and vote — Tuesday, Sept. 12, 6 am to 9 pm.

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

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ratner Ally Sharpton to Walk with Hakeem in Final Weekend

In a NY Times Empire Zone blog post by Jonthan Hicks about Councilwoman Letitia James' endorsement of Assembly candidate Bill Batson, Reverend Al Sharpton states that he'll be walking the district wiht Jeffries this weekend in his final push.

Councilwoman Letitia James is the leading and most outspoken political opponent of "Atlantic Yards." On the other hand Reverend Sharpton admits to receiving funding year after year from Bruce Ratner anf fully supports "Atlantic Yards" (though the Reverend says that the money doesn't impact his support of the project.) From the Daily News:
...Not included in Sharpton’s statement or the newspaper articles, however, was one significant fact: Forest City Ratner has contributed thousands of dollars to Sharpton’s National Action Network. Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco acknowledged Ratner’s development company provided financial support last year and this year but declined to say how much money FCR has contributed to the National Action Network’s coffers.

Sharpton, too, would not specify a dollar amount, but he did tell The Score that FCR has been a corporate sponsor of his organization’s annual fund-raising dinner and convention for the past three years.

That money, Sharpton adds, has nothing to do with his support for the $3.5 billion [sic] project. He points out that he only jumped aboard in July. “If donations to the Network meant anything,” Sharpton says, “then I would have supported it long before that.”
So, Ratner seemingly is getting closer and closer to the Hakeem Jeffries campaign. Sharpton could be spending the final weekend push with any candidate of his choosing (like someone in the 11th CD), so how did he come to choose Mr. Jeffries?

As we wrote yesterday, in pure speculation, perhaps Hakeem Jeffries has not reported his 11 day pre-primary filing yet because there is money in there that he may not want to publicize. We don't know. But that campaign finance law breaking oddity, combined with Ratner's ally, Reverend Sharpton, should only raise more eyebrows.

Additionally the Empire Zone blog says that Newark Mayor Corey Booker has endorsed Hakeem. Why Booker's endorsement should matter to Brooklynites is an open question that you can answer yourself. But it is an odd endorsement. Why? Well, during the Sharpe James regime Newark's city planning department was abolished. Booker has made it a top priorty to rebuild that city planning department to put an end to one-off city deals with developers as a planning "process." From Booker's Newark budget press release:
We will create a City Planning Division, which will include neighborhood planners, an urban designer, and a historic preservation officer. We will also focus on updating the City’s antiquated Master Plan. We will work with experts to establish criteria and a process for how City owned land is transferred.
It's exactly the absence of a city planning (or city council) role in the "Atlantic Yards" project that has angered so many people and led to the flawed urban planning "Atlantic Yards" symbolizes. Why would Booker endorse a candidate, Hakeem Jeffries, who has yet to raise a fuss about New York's own developer-first planning practices?

What we can see, though, is that all but one of Jeffries' endorsements have come from solid supporters of "Atlantic Yards" (including Ratner-funded city Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr.), while Batson's have come from the leading opponents of the project.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Where is Hakeem's 11 Day Pre Primary Filing?

Today is September 5th. Primary day is 7 days away. Election law requires an 11 Day Pre Primary Filing.

We've been looking around the NY State BOE site and have found something interesting.

The Batson campaign has filed its 11 day pre-primary report.

The Jeffries campaign has not filed its 11 day pre-primary report.
(9/7 Update: The Jeffries campaign has now filed its 11 day pre-primary report. Its six days late but now its filed.)

What could this mean? Well, it means non-compliance with BOE law. But indeed we will speculate (note, we don't know it's just speculation). Could it have something to do with this and being shy about showing the money?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Times Chimes in on Up for Grabs 11th

The Times says it's going to be all about GOTV in the 11th Congressional race.

We agree.

Here's the article:
Each Candidate Claims the Advantage in a Fierce 4-Way Congressional Race in Brooklyn

Hakeem's Insincerity on Eminent Domain

Hakeem Jeffries has refused to denounce and oppose the use of eminent domain at Atlantic Yards. So, when his recent campaign mailer was in our pile, we were befuddled. It reads, "...Hakeem Jeffries will:
Protect our communities from the private abuse of eminent domain."

Click to enlarge

"Private abuse of eminent domain?" Huh? What we have with Atlantic Yards is a public and private abuse of eminent domain. How can Jeffries hold this position while at the same time talking about a "principled compromise" at Atlantic Yards. Either you are for or against the use of eminent domain for Atlantic Yards.

The piece of paper in our mailbox suggests that Jeffries would be against Atlantic Yards because of its abuse of eminent domain. But the real life walking talking candidate has said no such thing. Ever. What does this mean? Insincerity, in our view; Lack of principles; Slick, imprecise, fence-sitting language.

On the other hand, Bill Batson who is vying for the same 57th Assembly District Seat has worked to save an Underground Rail Road site from the City's use of eminent domain. And Batson, who is the only candidate in the race opposed to Atlantic Yards, has the following on his campaign website:
...Eminent domain for economic enhancement is terrible precedent that must never be set. Using it to seize an historic site of without Brooklyn’s tradition of radical abolition, slaves could never have made it from the south to Canada. The underground rail road is a national disgrace. Henry Ward Beecher must be pounding bibles and firing rifles in his grave.

What solutions do the private sector offer to meet our urgent needs as a borough? A Trojan Horse arena packed with 16 skyscrapers; the extreme density of 19,000 new residents and thousands of new commuters and thousands of cars and more eminent domain.

The Forest City proposal was never about hoops or housing because Forest City has no track record in either enterprise. This is about money and valuable real estate: a broad-day light property theft under the color of law...
That sounds like a clear position on eminent domain and Atlantic Yards to us.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Batson for Brooklyn Press Release

The following arrived in our maibox:
Assembly Candidate Bill Batson to be Endorsed by City Council Member Letitia James at September 6th Press Conference

Brooklyn, NY – On Tuesday, September 6th Council Member Letitia James will endorse Assembly candidate Bill Batson at an 11am press conference (location to be announced).

Bill Batson is the former Director of Community Relations for New York State Senate Democratic Leader David A. Paterson. He has a 20-year record of community-based, city and statewide activism. Batson has been an advocate for the homeless, renters, small business, and home owners. He has also worked on behalf of labor, arts and culture groups, responsible policing, innovative youth programs, expansion and protection of voting rights, community-centered development, education, and multicultural cooperation and tolerance.

For the past two years, Batson has served as a member of Community Planning Board 8, Co-chairing the Fire Safety sub-committee and the special sub-committee on the Environmental Impact of Brooklyn Atlantic Yards Development.

Batson has already received endorsements from Norman Siegel, Congressional Candidate Chris Owens, Major Owens, and City Councilman/Congressional Candidate Charles Barron.

WHO: Assembly Candidate Bill Batson, Council Member Letitia James and supporters.
WHAT: Endorsement Press Conference
WHERE: Location TBA
WHEN: 11 am

# # #
-- -- -- -- -- --
Abeni J. Crooms, Deputy Campaign Manager

Bill Batson, Candidate for NYS Assembly District 57

Baston for Brooklyn!
767 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238
917-627-6528 phone
718-228-8556 fax

ALL Politics Are Local

Mole333 at Daily Gotham explains why, even though Atlantic Yards will play out on the State and City level, a candidate's postion on Atlantic Yards provides insight into who they are as principled or unprincipled politicians and whose side they are on. Mole333 writes:
Some have told me that Atlantic Yards should not be discussed in the context of a Congressional race because it is a local issue. I would agree if it was the ONLY issue that differentiates the candidates. But it isn't. Chris has taken many stands on many issues and should be judged on those as well. However, a candidate's reaction to Atlantic Yards is a good measure of his or her general attitude towards government. To me, politicians who support Ratner and BUILD are showing a willingness to support cronyism and corruption. Cronyism and corruption are two of my biggest criticisms of today's Republican party and I think it was cronyism and corruption that was behind the failures in New Orleans after Katrina and behind the no-bid contracts for Halliburton. To me a politician who supports Atlantic Yards doesn't get the need to end cronyism and corruption at all levels of government.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Final Line Drawn Over the Ratnerena in the 57th?

We have heard that the leading Atlantic Yards political opponent, Letitia James, on September 6th, will be endorsing Bill Batson in the 57th Assembly District (the Assembly home of the proposed project). Batson is the only Atlantic Yards opponent in that race.


From Mole333 at Daily Gotham we learn that Caribbean-American Weekly has endorsed Chris Owens for the 11th. And we couldn't agree more. With his early stance against the War in Iraq and the War on Brooklyn he couldn't be anything other than clean and outside the machine. Which is exactly what we need much more of in Brooklyn.

To Caribbean-American Weekly we say "ditto."
We heartily endorse the candidacy of Chris Owens. He is 'a breath of fresh air' in the toxic atmosphere of Brooklyn machine politics. He offers a clear alternative to the Carl Andrews school of patronage, to the David Yassky school of political opportunism, and to the Yvette Clarke school of capitulation to powerful real estate developers." In summation, they say, "Chris Owens is head and shoulders above the rest of the congressional field. He best exemplifies the Shirley Chisholm paradigm of clean, independent and progressive politics. We reiterate our mantra for this campaign 'Owens in 2006.