Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My response to NYT letters in which Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, businesses take issue with my op-ed, support DNC

Wow, not one but three Letters to the Editor published in print in today's New York Times in response to my online-only op-ed last week. They deserve rebuttal.

And note that none of the letters responded to the situation--as I mentioned--in which two cranes, used for two towers under construction, flank the arena's secondary entrance and loading dock.

From the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
To the Editor:
Re “Holding the Democratic Convention in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit” (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, Jan. 21):
I take issue with Norman Oder’s views about Downtown Brooklyn’s readiness to host a successful Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Downtown Brooklyn is one of the East Coast’s greatest urban economic success stories, with new night life, cultural offerings and accommodations, making it an ideal location for Democrats to discuss the future of their party and our country.
Eleven subway lines and 11 different buses stop within blocks of Barclays Center, easing any concerns about unbearable traffic congestion.
Regarding the “extensive use” of EB-5 visas, a program that allows foreign investors to receive visas in exchange for a short-term, $500,000 investment, by the China-based co-owner of Barclays Center:
As the borough of immigrants, we should welcome immigrants, not demonize them, even if we disagree with their home country’s government or America’s broken immigration system. After all, when did we begin to tolerate xenophobia in Brooklyn?
Finally, while area businesses and residents deserve top-notch planning, I have no doubt that City Hall can and will deliver.
TUCKER REED
President
Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
Brooklyn, Jan. 22, 2015
First, let's remember that Tucker Reed essentially works for Forest City Ratner. A co-chair of the DBP is MaryAnne Gilmartin, the CEO of Forest City Ratner, which runs the Barclays Center (owning 55% of the operating company), is selling the arena, and is quite interested in luring the convention to highlight its property.

And Forest City Ratner is the dominant component of the MetroTech Business Improvement District, which is run by the DBP.

Second, note that I didn't write about Downtown Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Brooklyn project is located in Prospect Heights, as the Times has reported numerous times.

Arguably, the arena extends the borders of Downtown Brooklyn, but the significant impacts of arena events--as with the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards--has been on the adjacent streets of Prospect Heights.

By the way, I got an email from a professional contact this morning, regarding a meeting we had last August 11, when the Democratic National Committee visited Brooklyn: "One of the reasons we were SO late getting to you from Manhattan was because of just the expedition to see about hosting the convention in Brooklyn!! Remember! The traffic was horrific."

Regarding EB-5

Finally, I wasn't demonizing immigrants. Here's what I wrote, with very tight space limits:
Perhaps the diciest symbolism regards Greenland and Forest City Ratner’s extensive use of a federal program called EB-5, which allows foreign investors to get visas in exchange for a short-term $500,000 investment (an amount that, on paper, is purported to create 10 jobs).
Greenland and Forest City Ratner have already reportedly raised some $250 million through the program; put differently, a Chinese government is making a profit by marketing American residency to its own nationals — a bizarre, if legal, twist on the law’s intent.
In other words, the investment doesn't really create jobs (the rationale for the program) and the beneficiary, bizarrely, is a foreign government.  Remember the video for "Atlantic Yards II," Forest City's second round of EB-5 fundraising, and the first (of two) with Greenland?

"We believe that this city was built and created for an immigrant population,” Gilmartin stated, somehow conflating the developer’s profit push with patriotic multi-culturalism. “And EB-5 allows folks from all around the globe, in the great tradition of this city, to come and participate in one of the most exciting developments in our country."

As Darthmouth's John Vogel of Dartmouth wrote in February 2013 U.S. News:
One of the oddities about the EB-5 program is that the U.S. government is giving out the green cards, but the entrepreneur who puts together the investment gets the money. This scheme seems inefficient and open to corruption. If our government really believes that it is a good idea to sell green cards, maybe we should drop the pretense that this is a job creation program. It might be more efficient to have the money go directly to the U.S. Treasury and reduce the deficit by billions of dollars a year. In fact, the U.S. government could auction off these green cards and perhaps raise even more money.
Local business support
To the Editor:
You could kick a soccer ball from our pub in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, to what we hope is the future home of the 2016 Democratic Convention.
Our small business is thankful to share a neighborhood and patrons with Barclays Center and the big events it attracts to Brooklyn.
At the same time, we have been impressed by and thankful for the terrific work of the New York Police Department in keeping our neighborhood safe and our traffic flowing. Every high-profile event that Brooklyn hosts is an opportunity to show off our community, our diversity, our families and our businesses.
A national stage like the Democratic Convention is a wonderful opportunity for the world to learn what we already know: Brooklyn is the world’s greatest stage. Our hope is that the Democrats will come to Brooklyn in 2016, pick their nominee and then stay and experience all that Brooklyn has to offer.
ROSS GREENBERG
Brooklyn, Jan. 21, 2015
The writer is the chef and owner of WoodWork Brooklyn, a soccer bar. 
To the Editor:
The businesses along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, would welcome the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Barclays Center.
We understand the concerns raised by Norman Oder, but ultimately believe that the influx of thousands of delegates, members of the news media and even protesters would be good for the small businesses ringing the arena, including the more than 500 businesses in the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.
We look forward to working with Mayor Bill de Blasio to make the event a big success for everyone involved.

MARK CASERTA
Exec. Dir., Park Slope Fifth Avenue
Business Improvement District
Brooklyn, Jan. 21, 2015
WoodWork is located at Vanderbilt Avenue and Dean Street, so you'd need a very strong kick and some headwind to get a soccer ball two long blocks away.

It's an eight-minute walk, according to Google, to the closest arena entrance, on Dean Street just east of Flatbush Avenue.

That said, it's understandable that some, perhaps many, businesses--especially those serving food and drink--would support a big event.

(Note that in August 2013, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake visited Woodwork.)

Still, on the same day my op-ed appeared, a new coalition, the Barclays Center Impact Zone Alliance, emerged to express concern about the convention and calling on the mayor "to immediately appoint a point-person to coordinate government agencies and the developer with the involvement of local community boards and elected officials as a means to minimize unnecessary adverse impacts."

In other words, other businesses, especially those closest to the arena and most likely to bear the brunt of street closings for security reasons, are more wary than those represented by WoodWork and the Fifth Avenue BID.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:34 AM

    If DNC had a chance how come Cuomo didn't mention it last week in his state of the state. Even if the event is to be in Brooklyn, overflow would stay in Queens. No mention of DNC support in Queens by the Borough President in her speech. Let's admit it that city hall is run by a bunch of ppl where a large event like this is soooo over their head. Let's talk about all the empty store fronts on 5th avenue? Nice going 5th Ave BID.

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  2. Anonymous5:01 PM

    Gov has his staff delivering speeches all around the state - http://www.governor.ny.gov/schedule/governors-cabinet-delivers-regional-2015-opportunity-agenda-3 NOT one single mention from any cabinet members of how they can attract the DNC to New York.

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