Skip to main content

10th CD candidate Kevin Powell on Atlantic Yards and intertwined struggles

In an interview in the June issue of the Brooklyn Rail, activist Kevin Powell, challenging long-term incumbent (and Atlantic Yards supporter) Edolphus Towns, was asked a host of questions, including about affordable housing, the Iraq war, his own history of violence toward women, the importance of alternatives for inner-city youth, and his position on AY.

Powell two years ago announced he was running, then dropped out, leaving AY opponent Charles Barron as Towns's main challenger. AY supporter Roger Green, who did not campaign seriously, was seen by at least one observer as a spoiler to divert votes from Barron. Now Powell is apparently Towns's only challenger.

Money from Ratner

Ted Hamm: Can you explain your position regarding Atlantic Yards, and why you’ve criticized Towns for supporting it?

Kevin Powell: I’m opposed to Atlantic Yards. As for Towns, he gets money from a lot of different places—tobacco, pharmaceuticals—and we believe he is getting money from the Atlantic Yards folks, from Ratner.

Well,Towns in 2005 got $2000 contributions from both Michael Ratner, brother Forest City Ratner head Bruce Ratner, and Michael's wife Karen Ranucci, both Greenwich Village residents. That's close enough.

The connection to the projects

Powell, who lives in a condo near housing projects in Fort Greene and attended the recent FUREE convention, continued:
Over the last few years I’ve had a chance to really study this issue. If you remember two years ago, I said that I had to get back to you about my position. Now I can say unequivocally that I do not support the use of eminent domain in a private project. I made it a point to educate myself thoroughly about that issue. I don’t support Atlantic Yards in its present form. I can’t support a project that is dividing a community racially and along class lines. Working class folks in this community have been taking money from Ratner—they have been getting money for t-shirts and bus rides to casinos and Nets games and stuff like that. They are being exploited. I come from poverty, so I understand. When I was growing up and someone said, “Hey, you get free Nets tickets,” then you’re gonna support someone that is giving you the free Nets tickets. But we’re not seeing the larger effects of the project, one of which is that we’re about to lose eleven acres of land where the Fort Greene Projects are located. If you walk around, you’ll see a lot of vacancies there. As the residents will tell you, one of the things that’s been going on is that if you have a son that lives in the projects, and he happens to get arrested outside for standing on the corner, you lose your lease automatically. Meanwhile, while that’s happening, money is being thrown at folks who are in tenants groups—“we’ll give you money for this, we’ll give you money for that,” and so you’re actually supporting Atlantic Yards while you’re being gentrified out of your own home. We’re not seeing the connection between the two. Luckily an organization like FUREE sees that connection and they are fighting back.
(Emphasis added)

Powell is right to point out that community groups, including Community Benefit Agreement signatory Public Housing Communities (led by Charlene Nimmons), have taken money from Forest City Ratner. And it's legitimate to target New York City Housing Authority rules that strip families of their right to stay in a project.

However, NYCHA officers and elected officials reiterate that they don't intend to close housing projects, so Powell shouldn't charge that "we're going to lose eleven acres of land" unless he has more proof. Even FUREE is more cautious: The Mayor’s Downtown Brooklyn Plan, like many development plans happening around the City, places millions of dollars of public subsidies into the hands of developers who will permanently transform – and possibly eliminate – low-income communities.

Linking AY and other struggles

In his Martin Luther King Day speech on his campaign web site, Powell tried to link all the issues together. The passage begins at about 25:30.

Powell said of the struggle to recall the Underground Railroad in Brooklyn: "you can't say that's just for black folks, that's for all of us." He then talked about gentification in Downtown Brooklyn.

"It ain't just about Atlantic Yards, we need you on the other side of the park as well. And I'm not going to support [the struggle against] Atlantic Yards if you're not going to support the folks on the other side of the park. It's gotta go both ways... We gotta come together, y'all, and this is what Dr. King was talking about. You can't be conveniently opposed to injustice for yourself," he said, acknowledging regret that he long talked about racism, without addressing sexism, homophobia, or other forms of oppression.

Well, a few Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn members attended FUREE's recent convention and DDDB activists contributed to the effort to save 227 Duffield Street.


Popular posts from this blog

Barclays Center/Levy Restaurants hit with suit charging discrimination on disability, race; supervisors said to use vicious slurs, pursue retaliation

The Daily News has an article today, Barclays Center hit with $5M suit claiming discrimination against disabled, while the New York Post headlined its article Barclays Center sued over taunting disabled employees.

While that's part of the lawsuit, more prominent are claims of racial discrimination and retaliation, with black employees claiming repeated abuse by white supervisors, preferential treatment toward Hispanic colleagues, and retaliation in response to complaints.

Two individual supervisors, for example, are charged with  referring to black employees as “black motherfucker,” “dumb black bitch,” “black monkey,” “piece of shit” and “nigger.”

Two have referred to an employee blind in one eye as “cyclops,” and “the one-eyed guy,” and an employee with a nose disorder as “the nose guy.”

There's been no official response yet though arena spokesman Barry Baum told the Daily News they, but take “allegations of this kind very seriously” and have "a zero tolerance policy for…

Behind the "empty railyards": 40 years of ATURA, Baruch's plan, and the city's diffidence

To supporters of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, it's a long-awaited plan for long-overlooked land. "The Atlantic Yards area has been available for any developer in America for over 100 years,” declared Borough President Marty Markowitz at a 5/26/05 City Council hearing.

Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, mused on 11/15/05 to WNYC's Brian Lehrer, “Isn’t it interesting that these railyards have sat for decades and decades and decades, and no one has done a thing about them.” Forest City Ratner spokesman Joe DePlasco, in a 12/19/04 New York Times article ("In a War of Words, One Has the Power to Wound") described the railyards as "an empty scar dividing the community."

But why exactly has the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Vanderbilt Yard never been developed? Do public officials have some responsibility?

At a hearing yesterday of the Brooklyn Borough Board Atlantic Yards Committee, Kate Suisma…

Barclays Center event June 11 to protest plans to expand Israeli draft; questions about logistics

At right is a photo of a poster spotted in Hasidic Williamsburg right. Clearly there's an event scheduled at the Barclays Center aimed at the Haredi Jewish community (strict Orthodox Jews who reject secular culture), but the lack of English text makes it cryptic.

The website explains, Protest Against Israeli Draft of Bnei Yeshiva Rescheduled for Barclays Center:
A large asifa to protest the drafting of bnei yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel into the Israeli army that had been set to take place this month will instead be held on Sunday, 17 Sivan/June 11, at the Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, NY. So attendees at a big gathering will protest an apparent change of policy that will make it much more difficult for traditional Orthodox Jewish students--both Hasidic (who follow a rebbe) and non-Hasidic (who don't)--to get deferments from the draft. Comments on the Yeshiva World website explain some of the debate.

The logistical questions

What's unclear is how large the ev…

Atlanta's Atlantic Yards moves ahead

First mentioned in April, the Atlantic Yards project in Atlanta is moving ahead--and has the potential to nudge Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn further down in Google searches.

According to a 5/30/17 press release, Hines and Invesco Real Estate Announce T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards:
Hines, the international real estate firm, and Invesco Real Estate, a global real estate investment manager, today announced a joint venture on behalf of one of Invesco Real Estate’s institutional clients to develop two progressive office projects in Atlanta totalling 700,000 square feet. T3 West Midtown will be a 200,000-square-foot heavy timber office development and Atlantic Yards will consist of 500,000 square feet of progressive office space in two buildings. Both projects are located on sites within Atlantic Station in the flourishing Midtown submarket.
Hines will work with Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) as the design architect for both T3 West Midtown and Atlantic Yards. DLR Group will be t…

Not quite the pattern: Greenland selling development sites, not completed condos

Real Estate Weekly, reporting on trends in Chinese investment in New York City, on 11/18/15 quoted Jim Costello, a senior vice president at research firm Real Capital Analytics:
“They’re typically building high-end condos, build it and sell it. Capital return is in a few years. That’s something that is ingrained in the companies that have been coming here because that’s how they’ve grown in the last 35 years. It’s always been a development game for them. So they’re just repeating their business model here,” he said. When I read that last November, I didn't think it necessarily applied to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, now 70% owned (outside of the Barclays Center and B2 modular apartment tower), by the Greenland Group, owned significantly by the Shanghai government.
A majority of the buildings will be rentals, some 100% market, some 100% affordable, and several--the last several built--are supposed to be 50% market/50% subsidized. (See tentative timetable below.)

Selling development …

Forest City acknowledges unspecified delays in Pacific Park, cites $300 million "impairment" in project value; what about affordable housing pledge?

Updated Monday Nov. 7 am: Note follow-up coverage of stock price drop and investor conference call and pending questions.

Pacific Park Brooklyn is seriously delayed, Forest City Realty Trust said yesterday in a news release, which further acknowledged that the project has caused a $300 million impairment, or write-down of the asset, as the expected revenues no longer exceed the carrying cost.

The Cleveland-based developer, parent of Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner, which is a 30% investor in Pacific Park along with 70% partner/overseer Greenland USA, blamed the "significant impairment" on an oversupply of market-rate apartments, the uncertain fate of the 421-a tax break, and a continued increase in construction costs.

While the delay essentially confirms the obvious, given that two major buildings have not launched despite plans to do so, it raises significant questions about the future of the project, including:
if market-rate construction is delayed, will the affordable h…

"There is no alternative": DM Glen on de Blasio's affordable housing strategy

As I've written, Mayor Bill de Blasio sure knows how to steer and spin coverage of his affordable housing initiatives.

Indeed, his latest announcement, claiming significant progress, came with a pre-press release op-ed in the New York Daily News and then a friendly photo-op press conference with an understandably grateful--and very lucky--winner of an affordable housing lottery.

To me, though, the most significant quote came from Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who, as the Wall Street Journal reported:
said public housing had been “starved” of federal support for years now, leaving the city with fewer ways of creating affordable housing. “Are we relying too heavily on the private sector?” she said. “There is no alternative.” Though Glen was using what she surely sees as a common-sense phrase, it recalls the slogan of a politician with whom I doubt de Blasio identifies: former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative who believed in free markets.

It suggests the limits to …