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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Saturday, December 30, 2006

    Progressive Democrat Issue 102: NYC FOCUS

    Many of my NYC readers are aware of the Atlantic Yards fiasco and the recent developments. I have been pretty busy and distracted, but now I finally can find the time to sit down and put into words the disgust and forboding that I feel as our state government green lights one of the most un-American, corrupt and poorly conceived development plans in American history: the Bruce Ratner plan to profit from the exploitation of Brooklyn, with the help of tax money from NYC and NY State.

    The state has approved Ratner's plan to develop the Atlantic Yards and surrounding areas of Brooklyn despite the fact that not one single concern of the community has been addressed. Sewage, traffic, schools, fire houses, jobs and affordable housing are all unanswered questions. But we are told to shut up, get out of the way, and let Ratner use tax money to make a giant profit.

    Albany is broken and it is affecting Brooklyn. Albany is broken, and the approval of Ratner's get richer with government help scheme is a giant indication of how bad Albany has become.

    Shelly Silver, the only Democrat (until Eliot Spitzer takes over) in Albany’s infamous “room” where three men purportedly meet, has sided with Republican Joe Bruno (under investigation by the FBI) and Republican George Pataki to basically violate the basic principles of private property by evicting private property owners from their private property to benefit Pataki’s law school buddy, Bruce Ratner.

    Let me rephrase and reiterate that: the NY State government is seizing private property to benefit a crony of the Governor’s. This is not good old-fashioned American free-market capitalism. This is not good government. This is not even good economics. This the odd hybrid economy of state-sponsored crony capitalism that Bush has championed since he moved from Texas to DC. Pataki, Bruno and Silver are helping to undermine one of the basic principles of the American economy: private property. They are wallowing in a culture of corruption that we have seen permeate the Republican party and, with Shelly Silver, seems to affect NY State Democrats as well.

    The main beneficiary of this use of the government’s power of eviction is not the community, but an individual, Bruce Ratner. In exchange for the muscle of government and taxpayer (our) money behind him, Ratner has promised jobs, affordable housing, and tax revenues for the city. Problem is none of this is legally binding and we are asked to take on faith that Ratner will be good for Brooklyn the same way we have been asked to take on faith that what was good for Enron or Halliburton is good for America. But since when did office space and an arena generate good, long-term, union jobs and why is Ratner, whose record of job creation is non-existent, being trusted with this project? Most of the promised affordable housing doesn’t even match what is considered affordable in Manhattan and there is no guarantee that that housing will remain affordable. And, once again, why is Ratner, who has no record at all of creating affordable housing, being trusted with this project? And the tax revenue promises have already been scaled back considerably (by $500 million) before the first spade of earth is turned.

    And Brooklyn STILL has not been told how the traffic will be handled, how the already over-burdened schools and fire houses will cope, what will happen to the massive increase of sewage being forced into Brooklyn’s already overloaded sewage system, or how the security issues created by Ratner’s project will be addressed.

    We already have massive traffic jams right where Ratner wants to add an arena and 17 skyscrapers. We already have chronic sewage backups throughout much of brooklyn every time there is a heavy rain, leading to a worsening state of the Gowanus canal and to the need for buildings like the one I live in to spend $300,000 to install pumps to keep the sewage from fountaining up in our bathrooms. We already have overcrowded schools. And we already have sharp increase in fires even as Bloomberg closes firehouses.

    In short, we are asked by one of the most dysfunctional state governments in the nation to trust them that the traffic jams that are already bad won’t get considerably worse, we won’t get yet more sewage flooding our basements, our schools won’t be further overcrowded and our already thin fire coverage won’t be stretched to the breaking point. Not to mention the corrupt, underhanded way that the whole review process has been carried out.

    To all our elected officials who told us that they would not support the Ratner project if eminent domain was used: what are you doing NOW that the eviction notices have been sent out?

    To Eliot Spitzer and the other "reformers" who vow to clean up Albany, what do you propose to do with a project whose review process reflects, in the words of former Senior White House Advisor to President Clinton, Sean Patrick Maloney, "...the face of what’s wrong with a corrupt culture that mixes business and politics, profits and tax dollars."

    We are being asked to take a lot on faith. But the scandals of Enron and Halliburton tell me one thing: the scandalous state-sponsored crony capitalism that Bush, Pataki, Bruno and Silver seem happy with hurts America, hurts our communities and helps no one but the richest Americans and their political lap dogs. We should NOT take on faith the promises and half-lies of Ratner, Pataki, Bruno and Silver.

    Spitzer? Cuomo? Gotbaum? I am hearing silence from your corners as Pataki hands a chunk of Brooklyn over to his crony for exploitation without adequate guarantees to and input from the community and without adequate exploration of the effects it will have on Brooklyn’s infrastructure and quality of life.

    Folks, there was never just one proposal for developing Atlantic Yards. There are four competing proposals. Why has only the plan put forth by Pataki's crony gotten attention and due consideration? America is all about capitalism and competition, not cronyism. So let’s put all four proposals back on the board and let BROOKLYN, not Albany, decide. And let’s respect private property in cases like this where the primary beneficiary of the project is a private individual, not a community.

    Finally, there is an event in Manhattan that would be of interest to people concerned about NYC development, PARTICULARLY the Atlantic Yards development issues. On Thursday, January 4th, at 6:00 p.m., the Center for Architecture – home to the New York City chapter of the American Institute of Architects – will screen “Brooklyn Matters,” a documentary by Brooklyn filmmaker, urban planner and historian Isabel Hill. The timely and urgent film exposes how powerful interests are circumventing community participation and skirting legal protections to push the “Atlantic Yards” project forward at any cost.

    Ms. Hill, a Brooklyn resident, and former planner in New York City’s Department of City Planning, directed the award-winning “Made in Brooklyn,” a documentary about the borough’s manufacturing industry.

    From the American Institute of Architects website:

    Brooklyn is distinctly different and yet such an important part of New York City. The names itself brings to mind tree-lined streets, finely carved rowhouses and beautiful churches and diverse communities, rich in cultural life and ethnic heritage. On the upswing, vibrant and rebuilding itself, Brooklyn faces a new challenge—an uncommon development, designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry, that threatens to redirect Brooklyn’s future and reshape its identity.

    BROOKLYN MATTERS is an insightful documentary which reveals the fuller truth about the Atlantic Yards proposal and highlights how a few powerful men are circumventing community participation and planning principles to try to push their own interests forward.


    Event is free, but RSVP HERE

    What:
    Brooklyn Matters, a documentary film by Isabel Hill.
    Panel discussion to follow.

    When:
    Thursday, January 4th
    Doors open at 6:00 pm
    Film starts at 6:30.

    Where:
    Center for Architecture
    536 LaGuardia Place (between West 3rd Street and Bleecker Street)
    Greenwich Village
    For mass transit access, take the A, B, C, D, E or F subway to West 4th Street

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