Wednesday, November 05, 2008

As the State Senate goes Democratic, would that mean a change for AY?

Now that the State Senate has a 32-30 Democratic majority, Brooklyn Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, an opponent of the Atlantic Yards project, should have new clout, but it's not as simple as that.

In many cases, the majority will follow the wishes of the local legislator, but in this case, some members of the Democratic majority, like Carl Kruger, who's benefited from Republican largesse, are staunch AY supporters. Other solid Democrats, like [updated] Martin Malave-Dilan, are supporters. After all, as the New York Times reported, four Democrats, including Kruger, may continue to support Republican Dean Skelos as Majority Leader.

[Update: I originally listed Eric Adams as a supporter. He's sometimes been critical, appearing at some BrooklynSpeaks events. I'm not certain of his position, but note that he recently organized a health fair co-sponsored by the developer.]

Leadership issues

Also, putative Democratic Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has past ties to a firm deeply involved in the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

A New York Observer article two weeks ago, headlined Malcolm Smith and the Worst Job in New York Politics, described some of the pitfalls facing Smith regarding the battle between progressive ideas (a revision of rent regulation, a repeal of the Rockefeller drug laws, etc.) and more conservative ones:
In the process, Mr. Smith will be forced to choose between placating his colleagues or protecting his fragile relationship with David Paterson, a governor who has a history of turning on his allies.

Also, even if the Democrats vote as a bloc, Smith may not even retain his leadership position; the New York Post reported Monday that Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx was manuevering to replace him.

New governance act?

The new Senate may be more receptive to the BrooklynSpeaks-inspired Atlantic Yards Governance Act, which would set up a new structure to oversee the project.

But it's less likely that the Senate, and thus the Legislature as a whole, would be persuaded to "look for the least necessary insertion of subsidies" (in the words of Newark's Deputy Mayor) and pull the plug.

What about eminent domain?

State Senator Bill Perkins, joined by Montgomery, in September held a hearing on eminent domain reform and suggested that a Democratic majority might move reform legislation forward.

Maybe. There's no evidence that some of the more development-friendly Democrats are exercised about eminent domain abuse; perhaps moderate reforms might be possible.

Michael D.D. White of Noticing New York this week tried to get some positions on eminent domain from various Democratic and Republican State Senate candidates, and came up pretty much empty.

At the least, as I've pointed out, a state commission on eminent domain is in order.

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