Sunday, February 10, 2008

Connecting the dots between a politician and AY

A little digging turns up the identity of the Brooklyn machine politician who wanted something from Forest City Ratner in exchange for his support: former State Sen. Carl Andrews.

Nicole Brydson of the New York Observer wrote Thursday about working in "central Brooklyn politics, commuting south every morning from my apartment in Greenpoint to a state senator's office on Flatbush Avenue near Lincoln Place. The district "includes Flatbush, Park Slope, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights."

While Brydson doesn't mention Andrews by name, he held the seat in the 20th District when the Atlantic Yards plan was announced. (Others have confirmed that she worked for Andrews.) She writes:
Then the first inklings of Bruce Ratner's stadium came up. His representative paid a visit to my office. “What are you going to do for my support?” my boss asked. I sat there, my stomach in knots. I quit soon after.


(Graphic from the web site for current State Sen. Eric Adams.)

What was it?

And what did Ratner's representative do? We can't be certain; Andrews did not receive any political contributions from the Ratner family, which has supported Brooklyn machine politicians. Then again, the Brooklyn machine, as noted below, has been very good to Andrews, so maybe the benefits aren't to be found on paper.

Andrews, who later ran unsuccessfully for the Congressional seat vacated by the retiring Major Owens, offered consistent though hardly passionate support for Atlantic Yards. He endorsed the developer's $6 billion lie. He absented himself and his staff from the meetings of Borough President Marty Markowitz's Atlantic Yards Committee.

Under Spitzer, everything changes?

Andrews, despite having been flayed by the Village Voice's Wayne Barrett for his ties to disgraced and convicted Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Clarence Norman, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign fees and leading the borough in patronage court appointments in the 1990s, has landed on his feet--or, rather, in a comfortable chair.

He's now "Director of NYC Intergovernmental Office" for Gov. Eliot Spitzer, whose reformist tendencies could go only so far.

The lingering issues

Brydson's post (Brooklyn, The Borough: A Personal Wire) was an attempt to raise issues of race and class:
I watched helplessly as men and women fought to get drugs off their streets, yet were unable to voice concerns in community meetings for fear of reprisal; while schools deteriorated and landlords let homes go into disrepair to force tenants into further squalor elsewhere in order to renovate and flip apartments in advance of the next gentrification wave; as convicted felons were dropped back into their home borough with nothing, to find nobody waiting for them. I watched while community members were riled up for elections and soon after ignored. I watched while homeless families struggled with the decision to enter shelters to speed up potential housing placements. All the while trying to figure out how to use this broken system to some menial advantage.

Then she mentions Ratner's project and her departure.

One reasons why some groups offered support for Atlantic Yards and its narrowly "negotiated" Community Benefits Agreement is that it promises some response to the pressures Brydson cited: affordable housing, minority contracting, job training for locals. Whether that's commensurate with the benefit to the developer is another story. But it does point to the failure of government to respond, as well.

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