Skip to main content

Looking at the weekly newspaper endorsements: James, Thies, Skaller, plus some contradictions

Well, the endorsements from Brooklyn's major weeklies (Brooklyn Paper and Courier-Life, plus Ledger/Star and Caribbean Life) are out and there are some (relative) surprises:
  • three endorsements for incumbent Letitia James in the 35th District and none for challenger Delia Hunley-Adossa
  • two endorsements for Even Thies in the 33rd District and one for Steve Levin
  • two endorsements for Josh Skaller in the 39th District and one for John Heyer (and none for Brad Lander).
Clearly, the Atlantic Yards issue isn't dispositive; otherwise the Brooklyn Paper would not have endorsed AY opponent James as well as proponent Heyer.

Clearly, the issue of independence from the county Democratic Party isn't dispositive; otherwise, the Courier-Life wouldn't have endorsed reformer Skaller as well as Levin, chief of staff to party boss Vito Lopez. (Skaller's an AY opponent, Levin a fence-sitting supporter.)

While these endorsements surely have influence, and will be cited in last-minute mailings and campaigning as the September 15 Democratic primary vote approaches, endorsements from the New York Times and (to a lesser extent) the New York Daily News probably have more weight.

The 35th District

While James has been challenged by AY proponent (and recipient, via her nonprofit organization, of Forest City Ratner funds) Hunley-Adossa, the latter's campaign performance and accessibility has been questionable, and even the AY-promoting Courier-Life chose not to make an endorsement.

The Brooklyn Paper called James "a talented community leader who has shown gutsy independence by breaking with the city’s power elite when appropriate" and said she was "running against two unqualified challengers." (The other is Medhanie Estiphanos.)

James "has consistently been ahead of her colleagues in criticizing much-hyped development projects that don’t create as much affordable housing or community benefits as promised." And the newspaper criticized Hunley-Adossa for running a "secretive campaign" and being uninformed.

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star said James "established a reputation for personal and political integrity, guts, and hard work. With those tools, she has taken on developers, the Bloomberg Administration, and the state (over, among other issues, the Atlantic Yards project, which James vehemently opposes)."

Also Caribbean Life endorsed James as “a tireless advocate for change and a fighter in the mode of her predecessor, James Davis, not only for her constituents but for embattled city residents.”

The 33rd District

The Courier-Life endorsed Steve Levin, saying he was "the candidate who has most pounded the pavement."

As for concerns about his ties to the machine, the newspaper said, "While Levin formerly worked for and is a favorite of Kings County Democratic boss Vito Lopez, he has also shown to be a clear thinker with an independent streak."

By contrast, the Brooklyn Paper said that Levin, as well as District Leader Jo Anne Simon, would be qualified but not independent. "Thies would be a break from insider politics and a step towards the kind of progressive leadership that the Council desperately needs," the newspaper said. "He showed that in his committed, hands-on work as a member of his local community board, a body that too many members treat as nothing but a place to whine about something every month." (Broadway Triangle was omitted.)

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star, which circulates more in the northern part of the district, pointed out that the previous three council members, including current Council Member David Yassky, came from Brooklyn Heights, and a new focus on North Brooklyn is needed.

The newspaper endorsed Williamsburg resident Thies for his willingness to focus on that part of the district and saluted his experience working for Yassky and serving on the CB.

The newspaper criticized Levin for a lack of independence and said interviews "showed very clearly that [he]... knows the least about the details and day-to-day issues that define the district."

The newspaper also criticized Simon, a "talented candidate," as lacking independence and said that "a candidate of true integrity like Doug Biviano" would be good in an ideal world, where Council members don't have to work within the system while maintaining core principles and values.

The 39th District

In perhaps the biggest surprise, the Courier-Life endorsed Skaller, calling the former president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats a "reformer in every sense of the word."

"As we face another four years, we need someone who will shake things up and fight not only for his constituents, but for what’s right," the newspaper said, in something of a contrast to the Levin endorsement.

The Brooklyn Paper endorsed Heyer, noting that Lander, Skaller, and Bob Zuckerman were all well qualified.

While the newspaper criticized Heyer's stance on gay marriage and abortion rights,it said he had the right temperament and a focus on nuts-and-bolts issues.

"And he’s the only candidate in the race who is not ashamed to say that he wants the Atlantic Yards basketball arena built at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, a position that we share," the newspaper said--though it didn't criticize James and Thies for their opposition to the project.

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star praised Skaller for "hard work, passion for detail, and personal interest in residents across the district," saying he was undaunted by the challenge from Lander, who's been preparing longer for a run.

(City Hall News has a very interesting article on the battle between Heyer and Lander for votes in socially conservative Borough Park.)

Comptroller and Public Advocate

The Courier-Life endorsed David Yassky for Comptroller, saying "he is not only a fighter for important causes, but can 'think out of the box' and create new approaches when tackling some of the city’s oldest problems from garbage pick up to local traffic concerns."

It endorsed Bill de Blasio for Public Advocate, saying he was "promoting a comprehensive reform proposal expanding the position’s watchdog powers this week and standing up to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his move to eliminate term limits earlier this year."

The Brooklyn Paper endorsed Yassky, as well, saying (in a nod to flip-flops over term limits--and, perhaps, Atlantic Yards), "Being comptroller — the dry, bean counter of the city — will free Yassky from the mundane pursuit of popularity or his desire to seek the politically expedient nuance, and allow him to focus his intellect and considerable skills on the job."

It stepped away from the pack to endorse Norman Siegel (an AY opponent) for Public Advocate, noting that former Public Advocate Mark Green "has approached the campaign with a feeling of entitlement," and that the energetic de Blasio and Eric Gioa "see the advocate job as a stepping stone to higher office."

"As a longtime civil rights lawyer and head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Siegel has led principled fights whenever society runs the risk of being unjust," the newspaper said.

The Queens Ledger/Greenpoint Star/Brooklyn Downtown Star endorsed John Liu for Comptroller, saying he "Liu understands and is committed to improving the lives of all New Yorkers, not just to protecting the assets of the wealthy and privileged."

Caribbean Life termed all four Comptroller hopefuls “very strong candidates,” but it preferred Liu, “a former actuary for a major accounting firm, with extensive experience overseeing the books of the MTA.”

It endorsed de Blasio for Public Advocate "because of his unwavering advocacy for disadvantaged New Yorkers on issues such as affordable housing, education and health care.”


Popular posts from this blog

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

Revising official figures, new report reveals Nets averaged just 11,622 home fans last season, Islanders drew 11,200 (and have option to leave in 2018)

The Brooklyn Nets drew an average of only 11,622 fans per home game in their most recent (and lousy) season, more than 23% below the announced official attendance figure, and little more than 65% of the Barclays Center's capacity.

The New York Islanders also drew some 19.4% below announced attendance, or 11,200 fans per home game.

The surprising numbers were disclosed in a consultant's report attached to the Preliminary Official Statement for the refinancing of some $462 million in tax-exempt bonds for the Barclays Center (plus another $20 million in taxable bonds). The refinancing should lower costs to Mikhail Prokhorov, owner of the arena operating company, by and average of $3.4 million a year through 2044 in paying off arena construction.

According to official figures, the Brooklyn Nets attendance averaged 17,187 in the debut season, 2012-13, 17,251 in 2013-14, 17,037 in 2014-15, and 15,125 in the most recent season, 2015-16. For hoops, the arena holds 17,732.

But official…

At 550 Vanderbilt, big chunk of apartments pitched to Chinese buyers as "international units"

One key to sales at the 550 Vanderbilt condo is the connection to China, thanks to Shanghai-based developer Greenland Holdings.

It's the parent of Greenland USA, which as part of Greenland Forest City Partners owns 70% of Pacific Park (except 461 Dean and the arena).

And sales in China may help explain how the developer was able to claim early momentum.
"Since 550 Vanderbilt launched pre-sales in June [2015], more than 80 residences have gone into contract, representing over 30% of the building’s 278 total residences," the developer said in a 9/25/15 press release announcing the opening of a sales gallery in Brooklyn. "The strong response from the marketplace indicates the high level of demand for well-designed new luxury homes in Brooklyn..."

Maybe. Or maybe it just meant a decent initial pipeline to Chinese buyers.

As lawyer Jay Neveloff, who represents Forest City, told the Real Deal in 2015, a project involving a Chinese firm "creates a huge market for…

Is Barclays Center dumping the Islanders, or are they renegotiating? Evidence varies (bond doc, cash receipts); NHL attendance biggest variable

The Internet has been abuzz since Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick reported 1/30/17, using an overly conclusory headline, that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center Is Dumping the Islanders.

That would end an unusual arrangement in which the arena agrees to pay the team a fixed sum (minus certain expenses), in exchange for keeping tickets, suite, and sponsorship revenue.

The arena would earn more without the hockey team, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a financial projection shared with potential investors showed the Islanders won’t contribute any revenue after the 2018-19 season--a clear signal that the team won’t play there, the people said."

That "signal," however, is hardly definitive, as are the media leaks about a prospective new arena in Queens, as shown in the screenshot below from Newsday. Both sides are surely pushing for advantage, if not bluffing.

Consider: the arena and the Islanders can't even formally begin their opt-out talks until after this season. The disc…

Skanska says it "expected to assemble a properly designed modular building, not engage in an iterative R&D experiment"

On 12/10/16, I noted that FastCo.Design's Prefab's Moment of Reckoning article dialed back the gush on the 461 Dean modular tower compared to the publication's previous coverage.

Still, I noted that the article relied on developer Forest City Ratner and architect SHoP to put the best possible spin on what was clearly a failure. From the article: At the project's outset, it took the factory (managed by Skanska at the time) two to three weeks to build a module. By the end, under FCRC's management, the builders cut that down to six days. "The project took a little longer than expected and cost a little bit more than expected because we started the project with the wrong contractor," [Forest City's Adam] Greene says.Skanska jabs back
Well, Forest City's estranged partner Skanska later weighed in--not sure whether they weren't asked or just missed a deadline--and their article was updated 12/13/16. Here's Skanska's statement, which shows th…

Not just logistics: bypassing Brooklyn for DNC 2016 also saved on optics (role of Russian oligarch, Shanghai government)

Surely the logistical challenges of holding a national presidential nominating convention in Brooklyn were the main (and stated) reasons for the Democratic National Committee's choice of Philadelphia.

And, as I wrote in NY Slant, the huge security cordon in Philadelphia would have been impossible in Brooklyn.

But consider also the optics. As I wrote in my 1/21/15 op-ed in the Times arguing that the choice of Brooklyn was a bad idea:
The arena also raises ethically sticky questions for the Democrats. While the Barclays Center is owned primarily by Forest City Ratner, 45 percent of it is owned by the Russian billionaire Mikhail D. Prokhorov (who also owns 80 percent of the Brooklyn Nets). Mr. Prokhorov has a necessarily cordial relationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — though he has been critical of Mr. Putin in the past, last year, at the Russian president’s request, he tried to transfer ownership of the Nets to one of his Moscow-based companies. An oligarch-owned a…