Monday, March 22, 2010

Citizens Union board member criticizes group for support of Bloomberg; good-government group has been unwilling to challenge projects like AY

One of the enduring questions regarding Atlantic Yards regards the failure of longstanding good-government organizations to make a difference. The Municipal Art Society has played a careful role, calling for major changes in design but not opposing a process critics consider fundamentally skewed.

The Citizens Union (CU), responding in December 2006 to a drastic decline in estimated tax revenues--first revealed by AYR, then picked up by the New York Times--called for a “limited delay” in the process and noted that it “does not align itself with those who oppose the project and wish to use the process of delay to kill the project, because we believe that economic development is needed so that the city can continue to be a dynamic place of business and meet the needs of a growing population.”

Of course the economic development figures remained questionable, but the CU thereafter remained silent, despite cogent criticism by not-so-radical representatives of local community boards.

The CU and the mayor

The New York Daily News's Adam Lisberg picks up another angle, citing the CU's unwillingness to take on Mayor Mike Bloomberg, praising the mayor's Charter Review Commission (which might further diminish power of community boards) and endorsing him for re-election even after opposing Bloomberg's successful effort to overturn and extend term limits.

Lisberg writes::
One of its board members, Joel Berger, resigned this month with a scathing e-mail, accusing Citizens Union of straying from its roots by cozying up to Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"It saddens me that the organization has become so timid, conflicted and corrupt that I can no longer serve it in good conscience," Berger wrote.

Citizens Union executive director, Dick Dadey, and its board chairman, Peter Sherwin, both reject those charges.

They said they have consciously tried to work with New York's movers and shakers to create real reform, instead of just hollering from the sidelines.

"If Citizens Union is to be effective in advancing a reform agenda, it has to be effective with the elected officials who make the decisions," Dadey said.
But what if the decisions are made by the unelected Empire State Development Corporation and Bloomberg has supported the project from the start, without question?

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