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AY supporter Herbert announces for Senate against Montgomery

Atlantic Yards supporter Tony Herbert, a Democrat-turned-Republican who led a protest against Democratic Mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer and shortly thereafter was crushed in his attempt to unseat City Council Member Letitia James, has become a Democrat again and announced his challenge to State Senator Velmanette Montgomery in the 2008 election. (Graphic from the Daily Politics, where Errol Louis broke the story and noted the announcement came unusually early, and some spirited--and mean-spirited--commentary ensued.)

Montgomery, a 22-year veteran, last year beat back shadowy challenge from former City Council Member Tracy Boyland, who played fast and loose with campaign finance regulations. Belated filings showed that Boyland outraised Montgomery and used the same political consulting firm as Forest City Ratner.

That doesn't mean that Herbert would be the "Ratner candidate," as Boyland was described by some opponents, but it does show that pro-Atlantic Yards sentiment can be a driving force for future challenges to Montgomery. The incumbent has created some vulnerability by apparently expressing interest in running for Borough President.

Herbert's claims

In an interview in yesterday's Black Star News, Herbert stated:
The overall issue now is to use take this network that I have created and use those relationships to get corporate America engaged in our community and basically, take back exactly what we’re giving out -- support.

Why should we have to wait for government to say, “Okay, you only get this amount of discretionary money this year.” I’m not waiting for that. Why should we? Why are so many of our people happy to settle for a tiny slice when they can have the whole entire pie! Some of the elected officials today lead people to believe this is all they can get.

There’s a disparity with regards to what my opponent does. She gives a tiny bit of money to the people who don’t support her and lots of money to the people who do. Meanwhile, the people she’s giving astronomical amounts of money to, are the people that already have money. It has been documented that 85% of her discretionary moneys are distributed to the much better off portion of the district.

He wasn't asked for the documentation.

Atlantic Yards support

Herbert offered a classic defense of Atlantic Yards:
Look, with regards to the Atlantic Yards Arena, which my opponent was against and tried to shut down and was unsuccessful. She was against the development because some of the better off constituents felt the sun would be blocking the neighborhood due to the height of the buildings. I don’t give a heck about how high they build a building, because the way I look at it, the sun was gone a long time ago when all these people started losing their jobs. There are a lot of minority contracts coming through that Atlantic Yards project. Forest City Ratner can build up to the 50th floor. That’s fine. All that means to me is there are 50 floors that a minority contractor from my community can get business from and put people to work.

This is a variant of an observation the late columnist Murray Kempton made a long time ago, quoted in Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker: "A construction worker would pave over his grandmother if the job paid $3.50 an hour." (And a lot of those minority and women contractors aren't exactly from Herbert's community.)

Montgomery's objections extend well beyond the height of buildings, of course. Despite his earlier mention of "the whole entire pie," Herbert's framing of the issue recalls some dialogue from August Wilson's play Radio Golf, in which a black character defends his decision to be part of a questionable business deal:
I don't care if somebody else makes some money 'cause of a tax break. I get mine and they get theirs. I pull this off and next time I'm on the other side of the deal, sitting at the head of the table.

Previews for the Broadway production of Radio Golf begin April 20.