Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deep bench at the groundbreaking? There were only enough Brooklyn elected officials to play three-on-three

This week and next I'll try to compensate slightly for the failure of any metro columnists to show up and glean insights from the rich spectacle of the Barclays Center groundbreaking March 11.

Yes, Bruce Ratner had the top elected officials from the state, city, and borough behind the Atlantic Yards project, and they happily wielded shovels for the inevitable photo opportunities.

But a deep bench of supporters (to quote the Brooklyn Paper)?

Not if you consider that there were only enough Brooklyn elected officials to play three-on-three, and none of them came from close to the Atlantic Yards site. That has to indicate dismay toward the process, if not the project, a process that bypassed any local elected official.

Among the missing were Assemblyman (and Brooklyn Democratic Chair) Vito Lopez, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Public Advocate (and former Council Member) Bill de Blasio.

And, of course, the representatives of the neighborhoods closest to the site: Council Members Letitia James, Brad Lander, and Steve Levin; Assemblymembers Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Brennan, and Joan Millman, and state Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Eric Adams.

(DDDB points to the unelected governor and a mayor and borough president enabled by the override of term limits.)

Introductions from Markowitz

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz tummled up a storm introducing these officials, but they were a motley crew, distinguished by no particular ideology but rather connections to Forest City Ratner executive Bruce Bender, receipt of campaign funds, and ties to Ratner-funded groups.




City Council: Nelson and Mealy

The Brooklyn delegation of the City Council has 16 members. Two showed up, both--natch--among those who voted in 2008 to overturn and extend term limits.

One was Mike Nelson, from Sheepshead Bay, part of the southern Brooklyn zone from which Bender sprung (as noted by Matthew Schuerman in the Observer) and noted for extreme spending in the cause of self-promoting newspaper advertisements.

Nelson previously worked for Congressman (now U.S. Senator) Charles Schumer and State Senator Carl Kruger, both AY supporters.

(Did Schumer show up last Thursday? If so, he wasn't announced.)

The distance from Nelson's district office to Freddy's Bar & Backroom at 485 Dean Street? More than seven miles.

Then there was Darlene Mealy, she who reportedly puked under pressure when she changed her vote on the term limits issue. Mealy, who represents part of Bed-Stuy and points east, was by far the official representing the closest district, nearly three miles away.

Mealy's gotten campaign contributions from members of BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), an Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory, which, in the FY09 budget (a year ago), got grants of $10,000 and $8000 from Mealy.

State Assembly

Only two of the 20 Assemblymembers from Brooklyn showed up.

Assemblyman Darryl Towns, son of Congressional Rep. Ed Towns, represents a district including East New York and Cypress Hills, nearly six miles from Freddy's. Bruce Ratner in September 2008 contributed $3000 to Towns's campaign.

Then there was Steven Cymbrowitz, also from Thomas Jefferson territory, more than seven miles away. In December 2006, he submitted an "op-ed" on Atlantic Yards to the Courier-Life chain that was almost certainly a press release from the developer.

State Senate

Only two of the nine state Senators from Brooklyn showed up, men who have long ties to each other despite being in different parties.

Republican Marty Golden, whose Bay Ridge district is nearly five miles away, infamously interrupted an oversight hearing last May as he walked in.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Carl Kruger, he of the "Three Amigos" insurrection in Albany, represents another Thomas Jefferson district, more than six miles away.

He received $4000 from Bruce Ratner's brother and sister-in-law; and, though a Democrat, campaigned for Golden in return for new district boundaries that protected his seat, as recounted by Seymour Lachman in Three Men in a Room.

Not attending but sending his regards was John Sampson, Democratic Majority Conference Leader, who represents a district nearly six miles away.

Without any particular examination of the evidence, he last year wrote a letter calling AY "a major economic development venture that is vital to the economy and the future of Brooklyn." But if it delivers--as of course it can--some number of contracts and jobs to his constituents he'll have something to point to.

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