The Continuing Bruce Ratner Fiasco: BrooklynSpeaks statement on the Draft Scope of Work for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Env
As the wonderful promises politicians like Bill de Blasio and Marty Markowitz wooed us all with when they shilled for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project disappear into the distant future, all too many people just sit back and allow the pack of lies we were sold go and let Ratner make his fortune from our hard earned tax dollars.
But not everyone is ignoring the fact that Bruce Ratner and his tame politicians have COMPLETELY failed to even attempt to keep their promises. This whole thing was a corrupt bargain done through back room deals without even one single guarantee that Ratner would deliver the union jobs and affordable housing de Blasio and Markowitz kept touting.
The whole thing is a crock of shit. If you like the arena, great. No problem. But if you believed long-term union jobs and affordable housing were going to be delivered, then de Blasio, Ratner and Markowitz probably want to sell you a certain bridge as well.
The organization Brooklyn Speaks, which is by no means the most avid anti-Ratner group, has a pretty good summary of just what a load of crap we have been sold...paid for by OUR tax money:
BrooklynSpeaks statement on the Draft Scope of Work for
the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
...The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors appreciate the opportunity to respond to the Draft Scope of Work for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). We note that the need for a SEIS was cited prior to the approval of the 2009 MGPP, not only by our organizations but by nearly every local elected official representing the neighborhoods surrounding the Atlantic Yards project. We sincerely regret that litigation was required to compel the study anticipated by the draft scope, but look forward to working constructively with the ESDC to ensure that the SEIS it prepares will be a new starting point from which the stated objectives of the Atlantic Yards project can be achieved on a timely basis, through a transparent process with public accountability.
As its core deliverable, the SEIS must reconcile the stated purpose of the Atlantic Yards project to eliminate purported blight, with the 2009 MGPP’s potential of extending the exact same blight some 15 years past the timeframe given for completion of the Atlantic Yards project at the time of its approval in 2006. In the absence of such reconciliation, we find these two positions antithetical, particularly given that a pattern of investment and organic development had already been established in the area within the project footprint prior to Atlantic Yards’ 2006 approval. It will not be enough for the SEIS to conclude that construction impacts are not greater over 25 years than they otherwise would be over 10 years. The Atlantic Yards project itself was approved to address a blight condition so onerous that hundreds of millions of dollars of direct and indirect government aid, zoning overrides and the use of eminent domain all were apparently justified. There would appear to be some public interest in such blighted conditions being remediated in a timely fashion, and the SEIS should determine whether delaying the completion of the project supports that interest.
But to the extent the SEIS nevertheless should conclude that extending project construction by nearly a generation would not create additional adverse impact to local communities, it must be prepared to explain how commitments to protect air quality, limit construction noise, manage contention for on-street parking between construction workers and residents, and control the use of residential streets by construction vehicles will be enforced. Violations of these commitments during the construction of the Barclays Center arena were well documented not only by residents but also by the ESDC’s own environmental monitor, leading an independent environmental engineer to conclude that ESDC and the City of New York in effect allowed Forest City Ratner to break project commitments and City law with impunity. Why should the public believe later phases of the Atlantic Yards project will be different? This question must be answered thoroughly and with candor.
Nor is it sufficient for the SEIS to limit its scope of analysis to Atlantic Yards’ second phase footprint. Current project agreements allow the development of features of Phase I, including building B1 and the entire Site 5, to extend beyond the originally-approved 10-year time frame. Analyses involving the impacts of construction on transportation and pedestrian circulation must be revisited for the entire project site based upon current conditions and existing plans.
The SEIS must also assess the time value of economic development and affordable housing benefits ascribed to the Atlantic Yards project. Would thousands of affordable apartments delivered fifteen years late really be as effective in terms of preserving socioeconomic diversity in the study area as if they were delivered on the originally approved schedule? And what would the delay in adding tens of thousands of residents mean to the development of businesses in Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Boerum Hill?
What about the “temporary” open space impact cited in the draft scope of work? The build year guidelines in the CEQR Technical Manual would suggest that an interim build year based on the contractual obligation to complete Phase I in 12 years be considered as a point at which the open space impact must be mitigated—with or without the Phase II buildings.
The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors believe that when all of the above impacts are considered together, they indicate that an alternative plan for the development of Phase II of the Atlantic Yards project must be evaluated. This alternative plan should focus on the opportunity to restore the original 10-year construction plan by dividing the Phase II site among multiple development teams through a competitive bidding process. Had ESDC not withheld disclosure of the change in project schedule in 2009 in order to avoid a SEIS, exploring this alternative would have made good sense at the time. With intense development activity in downtown Brooklyn today, it is no longer a matter of simple good sense, it is imperative that it be explored in order to realize the stated goals of the Atlantic Yards project.
Funny how the politicians who pushed Ratner's Atlantic Yards project so hard have shut up about it now that it has turned so sour. What happened to those union jobs the Working Families Party were so enamored of? What happened to the affordable housing that was the explicitly stated reason many of these politicians sank so much of our tax money into the project?
What do you call it when political allies of a developer (in exchange for endorsements and political donations) use tax money taken from our pockets to fund a developer's for-profit project on the hope that some union jobs and affordable housing are thrown to us as bones but those bones don't materialize? I call it corruption. But maybe that's just me. Brooklyn Speaks has been relatively moderate on this issue. This statement is about as calmly and technically stated as you can get given the huge scam that Ratner sold to us thanks to his tame politicians. Personally I would phrase it with a lot more rude words.
Of course the BIG question is this: did anyone learn any lessons from the whole mess? Somehow I doubt it.
My wife and I got involved (perhaps way TOO involved) in local Brooklyn politics thanks to a high school friend of hers who ran for a judicial position. At about the same time we were recruited into the brawl that is Brooklyn politics, I was organizing protests to "welcome" the 2004 Republican National Convention to NYC. In the end these two things led to my becoming a well known blogger in Brooklyn (primarily at Daily Gotham) and my wife becoming an officer (currently 2nd Vice President) of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID).
So every year we attend the CBID annual dinner. And blogging about it since 2007. 2008 was a particularly good dinner, noted for Chuck Schumer giving a rousing speech which I wrote about and titled "I'm Not Afraid of John McCain!" In that speech Schumer predicted the huge victory of Barack Obama. The 2009 dinner not only honored one of my favorite members of Congress (Nydia Velasquez) but also gave one of the best rundowns of single payer healthcare I have ever heard, thanks to Dr. Oliver Fein (who I believe I saw this year as well but he didn't speak). Can't find my write up about 2010 but my 2011 coverage included some videos of some of the speeches (thanks to the efforts of Raul Rothblatt). Not sure if I blogged the 2012 dinner since Daily Gotham was dead at that time and I was focused more on work and family than politics.
But last night's dinner was another good one and had many elements that would have been huge shocks 4 years ago.
CBID is the most reform and liberal of the Brooklyn "reform" clubs and is well known for asking the hardest questions of politicians at their monthly meetings and for many years stood up to the corrupt local machine led by the now disgraced Vito Lopez. They have sometimes put ideology before practicality, but have become more united and practical in recent years and so have become more effective without losing their reputation, often repeated last night, of being some of the most active and hard to please of Democrats in Brooklyn. I believe most speakers last night gave some version of the line "CBID sets the bar very high for elected officials."
Chuck Schumer was there, as always, and gave one of his usual excellent speeches. He continued a theme I first heard pushed at the community swearing in ceremony for Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez. Coming from that event I was one of the first people to blog that Comprehensive Immigration Reform was about to be a major push by the Democratic Party. I think it was FIRST mentioned at Nydia's event by NYC Comptroller and (very) likely mayoral candidate John Liu, but then reiterated quite deliberately by speaker after speaker. Last night both Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman (my Congresswoman) Yvette Clarke emphasized Comprehensive Immigration Reform as a must pass plank this year, practically daring Republicans to commit political suicide by opposing it. Again, this kind of strong progressive rhetoric by Democrats is quite welcome and I am glad it is continuing. Schumer and Clarke also both emphasized gun control as a major plank in the Democratic agenda for this year, again practically daring Republicans to sacrifice themselves on the altar of NRA fanaticism.
Four mayoral candidates also attended last night. Missing was Christine Quinn...perhaps remembering that she was once the recipient of CBID's "Tarnished Fork" award (a tradition they sadly have given up and really should bring back!) for her central role in the seemingly now ignored slushgate scandal.
Bill Thompson gave a short speech (a great tradition many more speakers should follow!) basically congratulating the honorees and praising the efforts and high standards of CBID, messages conveyed by every politician who spoke...in a more long winded manner. I am warming to Bill Thompson's relaxed style, and I am reminded by
more and more people that despite his boring reputation, he came far closer than anyone expected to defeating Bloomberg and he may have a better chance than I have given him credit for.
John Liu gave a rousing speech as always. A brilliant man who highlighted his excellent record as Comptroller. Honestly, his record as Comptroller reaffirms why I endorsed him. He did NOT officially announce his candidacy, but he did seem to be semi-officially announcing that he will officially announce very soon. Of course even though he has not announced, most people are treating him like a candidate for mayor. As usual he directly acknowledged the investigation against his campaign, again welcoming the scrutiny and emphasizing his transparency. CBID in the past worked closely with John Liu and his campaign and was impressed with the care his campaign took verifying donations. In fact, his campaign was one of the MOST cautious and this was long before the investigation. If what we saw was typical of his campaign, then I am sure he will be absolved with no problem. I personally always find it amazing that Liu's campaign gets all this scrutiny from the media while Bill de Blasio's past shady campaign practices (which involved SEVERAL candidates in addition to Bill, involved the entire Working Familiies Party, and WERE ACTUALLY FOUND ILLEGAL but not prosecuted as long as money was given back), and Quinn's massive slushgate scandal are being ignored. Of the three, there is no doubt in my mind that John Liu is the most honest and transparent. Maybe damning with faint praise comparing him to Quinn and de Blasio, but this is NYC politics and these are three of the front runners and so it is an appropriate comparison.
Sal Albanese also attended and gave a speech. I apologize to Sal for missing his speech. I was talking to John Liu during it.
Bill de Blasio came late and so spoke to only the last of us to leave. As always he gave a good speech but with little substance. As my wife says, he can talk a good line but has never really done anything. I tend to point out that for all his talk about supporting Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project ONLY because of the affordable housing, it is amazing that he hasn't said a word about it since the affordable housing part was dropped...as many predicted to de Blasio's face when he was such a supporter. If he is that easily fooled or that much of an enabler for unscrupulous developers, I don't want him as a mayor.
Scott Stringer also came. Let me just say he needs to tell different jokes when he comes over to Brooklyn. First time was funny, but we already know you're from Manhattan and you don't need to tell the getting your visa stamped joke every time. Stringer also gives a good speech but my wife remembers his role enabling Columbia's land grabs so we are somewhat skeptical about him as well. Still, when challenged about Columbia's land grabs he once did give me a somewhat convincing explanation for why he felt it was the best possible deal...somewhat convincing, I say, but "best deal possible" has been an excuse used by many for many really lousy and rather corrupt real estate deals in NYC and I think our politicians may need to redefine for themselves the words "best," "possible," and "deal." Too often people like de Blasio and Stringer (and let me be clear I consider Stringer MUCH better than de Blasio, but in this they seem similar) are like my former City Councilman David Yassky. Yassky, as my wife used to comment, seemed to surrender to developers before the negotiations even started, calling the surrender the "best possible deal." At a bare minimum it is a bad bargaining technique yet is too often used by NYC politicians when faced with developer money. read more »
I would like to highlight a mayoral candidate forum that occurred January 31st, 2013...it seems to be one of the most comprehensive candidate forums to date. It was held by The Uptown Current, a "forum for local writers, artists, and filmmakers to cover what is taking place in northern Manhattan by covering a wide range of topics." It is worth plugging the Uptown Current itself as well as highlighting the candidates who came to speak at their forum. Here are YouTube videos from that forum.
Bill Thompson Speaks at Northern Manhattan Mayoral Forum
John Liu Speaks at Northern Manhattan Mayoral Forum
Sal Albanese Speaks at Northern Manhattan Mayoral Forum
From our local Coffee Party (the progressive answer to the rapidly fading right wing Teabagger extremists):
KochBusting: Ending the Spell—An evening to expose and oppose the influence of the Koch brothers" will feature a panel of Koch brothers’ experts: Lee Fang, Contributing Writer to The Nation and fellow with The Nation Institute; Lisa Graves, Executive Director Center for Media and Democracy; and John Nichols,Washington Correspondent for The Nation. The event will be held on Thursday, March 14, from 7-9 PM at All Souls, 1157 Lexington Avenue at 80th Street. The panel will be moderated by Laura Flanders of GRITtv.org.
The renowned panelists will tackle what the Koch brothers have been doing, and what they have been funding, to co-opt our democracy and make it work for themselves. It will cover their activities during the run-up to the last election, in American colleges, in the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), in climate change denial, and in the corporate effort to destroy organized labor.
KochBusting: Ending the Spell is presented by the Big Apple Coffee Party and the Peace and Justice Task Force of All Souls, and is co-sponsored by The Nation.
KochBusting: Ending the Spell is free and open to the public.
For further information please call 212-252-2619 and go to KochBusting: Ending the Spell Facebook event page.
For my part, I have started boycotting Georgia Pacific paper products since they are owned by the Koch Brothers. I don't want to be giving these anti-democracy right wingers money each time I wipe my ass or blow my nose.
I have been a supporter of Yetta Kurland since she tried standing up for keeping St. Vincent's Hospital open (see bottom of page for this issue). I think she was right when she took that stand and I think she gets a lot of issues better than most candidates out there. AND she is getting a lot of good union endorsements.
Here's the latest from Yetta Kurland for City Council:
Local 46 Officially Endorses Yetta Kurland for City Council;
Calls Her a “True Friend of the Working Class”
Today, Terry Moore, Business Manager of Metallic Lathers Union Local 46, announced his union’s endorsement of Yetta Kurland, a progressive Democrat running for City Council in New York’s 3rd Council District (West Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen). The seat is currently held by Christine Quinn, who is running for Mayor.
“There are many candidates who claim to support labor and the working people of our City but who, in the end, don’t deliver. It’s with great pride that we support Yetta, someone who has a long history as an ally of labor and a true friend of the working class. Yetta will be a voice for all of us, someone we know will fight for us,” said Moore.
Local 46, 2500 members strong, is one of the City’s most established building trades unions, serving the metropolitan area since 1897. Members work on concrete structures including bridges and skyscrapers; they are at work on the new World Trade Center tower. They also work in commercial and residential construction, performing work on suspended ceilings and architectural lath and plaster.
Kurland is a civil rights attorney, educator, small business owner and community activist who has been empowering her community for over two and a half decades. A lifelong New Yorker, she currently resides in Chelsea. She is also the host of Yetta Kurland LIVE!, a popular weekly progressive talk radio show on WWRL1600 AM.
Local 46 adds its endorsement to a growing list that includes many labor unions: TWU Local 100, Amalgamated Transit Union International, CWA Local 1180, District Council 37, Local 372, the NYS Machinists District 15, IATSE Local One Theatrical Stage Employees, New York City Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 (DC 37 AFSCME), as well as others.
NEW YORK METRO AREA POSTAL UNION ENDORSES YETTA KURLAND FOR CITY COUNCIL
The Executive Board of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, APWU, AFL-CIO has unanimously endorsed Yetta Kurland for City Council in District 3.
"Yetta Kurland is the kind of person we need to have in elected office. Her experience as a civil rights attorney means that she knows the struggle of the poor, the disenfranchised and the middle class. Yetta fights the good fight with everything she has, and understands the power of working in coalitions with community groups and labor", said President Jonathan Smith.
"I am honored to receive the endorsement of the New York Metro Area Postal Union, the largest local in APWU. I am deeply inspired by the hard working clerks, motor vehicle operators and maintenance workers in Manhattan and the Bronx who serve millions of New Yorkers every day and keep our city running smoothly", said Yetta.
Yetta has already received labor endorsements from TWU Local 100, Amalgamated Transit Union International, CWA Local 1180, District Council 37, Local 372, the NYS Machinists District 15, IATSE Local One Theatrical Stage Employees, New York City Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 (DC 37 AFSCME) as well as endorsements from national and local groups including Emily’s List, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, McManus Democratic Club, The Chelsea-Midtown Democratic Club, the Women’s Democratic Club of NYC, Voterbook NYC, and others.
Yetta Kurland, 44, is a civil rights attorney, radio host, and community activist. She is a progressive Democrat running in New York’s 3rd City Council District. The district includes the West Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen and is currently represented by Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
For more information, go to Yetta Kurland's website.
And for those interested in why I started supporting Yetta, here she is in 2011 fighting for St. Vincent's: