Thursday, October 30, 2008

ACORN's Lewis still thinks AY's moving forward (but not paying as much attention)

On WBAI radio yesterday, sociologist and City Watch co-host Bill DiFazio invited ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis to defend the organization against charges of voter registration fraud--and, at about 17:50 in, brought up Atlantic Yards. (Lewis was elevated from New York to the national role in the wake of an embezzlement scandal.)

BD: Maybe it’s my ignorance, but I don’t know what’s happening with Atlantic Yards any more. I never hear about the Atlantic Yards project.
(He must not have been trying that hard.)

Personally, I’ve been against it…. It’s one of the few things we don’t agree on.
(See his comments when Lewis was a guest in February 2007.)

But what’s happening with it. What’s the current status?

Not paying as much attention

BL: I have to say I haven't been paying as much attention since I’ve just gotten a new position, I am now chief organizer for ACORN national. So...

Lewis continued, unmindful about the "AY is dead" meme or the proliferating reports of Bruce Ratner's attempts to sell the team.
(Update: DDDB reminds us that ACORN is contractually obligated to support the project.)

What I knew is demolition has been going on. They’be been winning their court cases.
(But not a key motion to dismiss, the loss of which flipped the AY inevitability meme.)

Lewis allowed that subsidies are still up in the air:
They’re still moving forward with development. The big crash and horrible financial condition that we find ourselves in, which, by the way, ACORN has been screaming about since 1999…. They're still pushing forward. We still have our housing plan intact and in place. They’re still looking to get the subsidies that they’re going to need in order to build 50% of affordable housing.

That would be 50% of the rentals, not the project as whole. And some of those subsidized rentals might cost more than $3000 a month.

Groundbreaking in December?

Even the developer has acknowledged the likelihood of a six-month delay, but Lewis didn't acknowledge that--or whether the credit crunch might have an impact:
So, they wanted to break ground by this December, they may still be able to do that. They may be delayed by a month or so. But the only thing that's been delaying them is one court case after another. But they’re still on track. Atlantic Yards is gonna be built. It may wind up taking six months more than originally stated. But it is moving forward. It is going to be built. The thousands of affordable housing units that are going to be there are needed now more than ever, because everything else in Downtown Brooklyn is all luxury.

Lewis is right that public policy failed, as landowners were given new development rights (and profits) in Downtown Brooklyn without a requirement to share the wealth via subsidized units. But it doesn't necessarily endorse the density and the subsidies behind Atlantic Yards.

"The truth does not matter"

In talking about the national political scene, at 15:10, DiFazio and Lewis had an interesting exchange that could also be applied to Atlantic Yards.

BD: It seems like one of the things [critics of ACORN] may be ultimately successful in doing is getting community organizers who are… working on voting to become more careful than they should, because they can become worried that, if you screw up in any way, the Republicans are going to use it as propaganda. And most people have no way of getting at facts.

BL: What we understand about the Republicans, the RNC, and their right-wing cohorts--you can be absolutely perfect—do everything perfect. It doesn’t matter to these people. They want to win and retain power at all costs. You know what—the truth does not matter to these folks. We’ve seen what’s been happening in this campaign so far.

Has she spent any time with Forest City Ratner's "liar fliers"?

DePaolo: "Not a done deal"

A guest later in the City Watch program, Williamsburg activist Phil DePaolo, aimed to talk about term limits. Host DiFazio pointed out (at 42:45) that Mayor Mike Bloomberg "has not been such a great mayor," citing his support for the West Side Stadium and for predatory lending. "He represents global capitalism," DeFazio said.

DePaolo followed up:
It was funny that you were discussing Atlantic Yards with Bertha earlier, because that's a classic example of Bloomberg not having any problems with using eminent domain and basically using the ruse of a sports arena to do a very vicious land grab and development.

And ironically, despite what Bertha said earlier, the major newspaper reported earlier today that Bruce Ratner is actually in talks with investors about selling the New Jersey Nets and staying in New Jersey. It seems like this a done deal is very much not a done deal.


At about 48:00 DePaolo added:
One of the things in history that will always be remembered from the Bloomberg administration will be the sense of greed.

DePaolo said about the term limits power grab:
We're facing a big moment in our democracy in our city.... The people have spoken and the people will speak again.

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