Sunday, March 09, 2014

Crain's analyzes Lewis's support for opponents of waste transfer station after period of neutrality

In  Mayor's ally being paid to fight him, Crain's New York Business reports on the curious situation in which Bertha Lewis, head of the Black Institute and longtime friend/supporter of Mayor Bill de Blasio, is opposing mayoral efforts--which began under Mike Bloomberg and which de Blasio supports--to build a waste transfer station on the Upper East Side.

Lewis says thousands of people of color in low-income housing near the proposed station would face increased pollution, though she's being paid by a coalition apparently funded by real estate interests. And she was against it at first, given that ACORN was the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit then the transfer station was first proposed.

But here's where the episode recalls Lewis's seeming willingness to cut a deal, as recounted--for example--by Neil deMause regarding a baseball field in Prospect Park.

Writes Chris Bragg:
Still, one leading proponent of the transfer station, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Eddie Bautista, says Ms. Lewis later evolved on the issue—only to now again oppose the transfer station.
According to Mr. Bautista, he met with Ms. Lewis at Acorn's offices in Brooklyn some nine years ago, and made the case that the impact of waste-transfer stations in poor South Bronx and Brooklyn neighborhoods far outweighed any impact on the Upper East Side. At the meeting, according to Mr. Bautista, Ms. Lewis was won over to that position, and said that while Acorn's name would remain on the lawsuit, the group would stop actively opposing the Upper East Side station.
Acorn and Ms. Lewis kept their promise, according to Mr. Bautista, before the nonprofit shuttered in 2010. Ms. Lewis returned that year with the much smaller Black Institute. In 2012, the nonprofit took in $341,000 and spent $330,000, according to its tax filing, including more than $78,000 on Ms. Lewis' salary. The board of directors includes several people who worked with Acorn, including its former attorney, Arthur Schwartz.
The Black Institute was also paid $23,000 for polling last October by then-state Sen. Eric Adams' campaign for Brooklyn borough president. Mr. Adams faced token opposition for the seat and won handily.
Ms. Lewis, who declined to be interviewed, said in a statement, "Joining Pledge 2 Protect is consistent with my history of fighting for environmental justice. While some have vocally proclaimed that the [waste-transfer plan] will help correct a century or more of environmental injustice, the blatantly obvious reality is that it attempts to shift the burden to another large population of black and brown people."
She declined to address Mr. Bautista's recollection of their meeting.
I wrote about that $23,000 to Adams as well as Forest City Ratner's payments to ACORN, also cited in the article.

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