Thursday, January 02, 2014

At inaugural, de Blasio cites required affordable housing, James says government had prioritized a "new stadium" (but then faces backlash)

 The big news at the city inauguration yesterday, according to the media consensus, was the advance of new Mayor Bill de Blasio and the surprisingly harsh criticism, notably by new Public Advocate Letitia James and some invited speakers (Harry Belafonte, the Sanitation chaplain), of recent ex-Mayor Mike Bloomberg, stonily taking it in.

de Blasio, according to his speech, doubled down on his campaign pledge:
So let me be clear. When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as One City. We know this won’t be easy; It will require all that we can muster. And it won’t be accomplished only by me; It will be accomplished by all of us — those of us here today, and millions of everyday New Yorkers in every corner of our city.
You must continue to make your voices heard. You must be at the center of this debate. And our work begins now. We will expand the Paid Sick Leave law — because no one should be forced to lose a day’s pay, or even a week’s pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law. We won’t wait.
We’ll do it now. We will require big developers to build more affordable housing. We’ll fight to stem the tide of hospital closures. And we’ll expand community health centers into neighborhoods in need, so that New Yorkers see our city not as the exclusive domain of the One Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work, and raise a family. We won’t wait. We’ll do it now.
How de Blasio "will require big developers to build more affordable housing," and how much help he gives Atlantic Yards--or uses it as a positive example--remains to be seen.

Wrote Daily News columnist Dennis Hamill:
“All the working-class neighborhoods of Brooklyn are gone,” one friend said. “Windsor Terrace rents are through the roof with yuppies and hipsters willing to pay top dollar. In fact, the hipsters refer to us natives as ‘leftovers.’”
“Five single hipsters move into a three-bedroom pad kicking in $600 a month each so they can afford $3,000 rent,” said another pal. “A couple with two kids can’t pay that. And I’m talking an apartment in Bushwick!”
James takes on stadiums, and arena

New Public Advocate Letitia James, in her speech, took aim at sports facilities:
The wave of progressive victories our city has recently enjoyed was, in some ways, inevitable - The fabric of our city, of our nation is made strong by the untold sacrifices of so many who are left defenseless, unrepresented, unspoken for, -- but at some point in history the tide must turn - the policies that made them voiceless must give way to a government that works for them - that speaks for them - that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development that a majority of New Yorkers can’t afford. To live up to that challenge and to be centered in our decisions is the task before those of us who think of ourselves as the progressive wing of our city.
Given that James used the term "stadium" rather than "arena," and given that there were more stadiums than arenas built during the Bloomberg years, I thought she James was being inclusive, not simply talking about the Barclays Center, built in her district.

I thought it was semi-oblique RT @AndreaWNYC James disses @deBlasioNYC chum Ratner in swipe at Barclays stadium deal @azi

— Norman Oder (@AYReport) January 1, 2014

On NY1

That said, in an interview last night on NY1 with Road to City Hall Errol Louis, a Brooklyn constituent and sometime rival, James at 5:20 said she's been speaking all along about homelessness, poverty, inequality, and the crisis in affordable housing, "and what do we get? we get an arena."

"The arena--we'll agree to disagree about the arena," Louis responded, as James chuckled, knowing her host's strident advocacy for Atlantic Yards.

"Go Nets," added the host.

James was asked about her invitation to and deployment of of 12-year-old Dasani Coates, the protagonist of the New York Times's "Invisible Child" series, who held the Bible during her swearing-in.

James told Louis she had a role in calling the New York Times's attention to the situation at the homeless shelter at issue, in her district. (She wasn't mentioned in the series, though.)

The backlash

Capital New York reported:
"I was aware of it and had a little bit something to do with it," said James, who had Coates join her on stage at her swearing-in on Wednesday afternoon. "And in fact I had established a task force on Auburn, and the conditions continued. And so we decided to work together to basically put on the front page of the New York Times, the face of poverty in the city of New York. "
But the Times says James wasn't a source for the paper's reporting.
"Andrea Elliott met Dasani in the course of interviewing residents outside the Auburn shelter, and exposed conditions there by following the family. Andrea never talked to Ms. James nor was she a source for the story," said Matt Purdy, an assistant managing editor for the Times, in an emailed statement.
The article cited other examples of James's stretching the truth: a meeting with Gov. Cuomo, and her age.

The Times opined:
Too bad the speakers on stage with him didn’t get the unity part, marring the event with backward-looking speeches both graceless and smug. Worst among them, but hardly alone, was the new public advocate, Letitia James, who used her moment for her own head-on attack: on the 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In doing so, she made a prop of a 12-year-old girl named Dasani, who had to hold the Bible and Ms. James’s hand as Ms. James called for a government “that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development.”
Dasani was profiled in a recent series of articles in The Times illustrating how bad things get for homeless families in the shelter system. Ms. James turned her into Exhibit A of an Inauguration Day prosecution: the People v. Mayor Bloomberg.... Mr. Bloomberg had his mistakes and failures, but he was not a cartoon Gilded Age villain. He deserved better than pointless and tacky haranguing from speakers eager to parrot Mr. de Blasio’s campaign theme. 
Some commenters disagreed.

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