Skip to main content

The Bloomberg manipulation behind the term limits override effort

The big news from yesterday's second (and final) day of hearings on the Bloomberg administration's attempt to extend voter-imposed term limits was not the dueling arguments--most were not new--but the clear evidence of manipulation. (If only the New York Times had done such an assiduous job covering that August 2006 Atlantic Yards hearing.)

(Photo of State Senator Eric Adams, with Rep. Anthony Weiner, a mayoral candidate, at right, from the New York Times.)

As the Times reported today, in an article headlined Bloomberg Enlists His Charities in Bid to Stay:
Michael R. Bloomberg, who says he strictly separates his philanthropy from his job as mayor of New York, is pressing many of the community, arts and neighborhood groups that rely on his private donations to make the case for his third term, according to interviews with those involved in the effort.

As opposition mounts to his plan to ease term limits, those people said, the mayor and his top aides have asked leaders of organizations that receive his largess to express their support for his third-term bid by testifying during public hearings and by personally appealing to undecided members of the City Council. Legislation that would allow him to run for another term is expected to come up for a Council vote as early as next week.

The requests have put the groups in an unusual and uncomfortable position, several employees of the groups said. City Hall has not made any explicit threats, they said, but city officials have extraordinary leverage over the groups’ finances. Many have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Mr. Bloomberg’s philanthropic giving and millions of dollars from city contracts overseen by his staff.

(That connection has been raised by Noticing New York commentator Michael D.D. White, who, unlike the Times, was unable to get a figure from the Public Art Fund regarding Bloomberg's contributions. )

Moreover, the representatives from five Bloomberg-supported groups that testified failed to disclose that connection during their testimony. The Daily News detailed how the Doe Fund was unlisted. The Post described lunch money being given out. The Times got an obligatory and obvious criticism:
Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor at Hunter College, said it was inappropriate for the mayor to be asking the groups that are so dependent on his good graces to take a position on his legislation.

During the hearing

Similarly, the Times's live-blogging of the hearing yesterday turned up examples of mayoral coordination with beneficiaries of his largess, such as Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera:
“Mayor Bloomberg has always been a great champion of opera and of all the cultural activities of New York,” he said. He joked that while “it’s no secret that Mayor Bloomberg finds opera slow at times,” all “kidding aside, the mayor understands the vital role that arts institutions play in the lives of our citizens.”

Mr. Gelb spoke of the Met’s efforts to “bring opera to the people,” and said, “Mayor Bloomberg’s unwavering support of the city’s cultural institutions has enhanced the image of New York across the nation and around the world, resulting in more visitors to our city than ever before.”

(Couldn't private citizen and philanthropist Bloomberg accomplish that goal just as well?)

The Times reported:
Outside the hearing, after Mr. Gelb testified, he told City Room that Mayor Bloomberg had been a supporter of the arts and of the Met, in particular. Asked whether there had been any coordination with the mayor’s office, he said, “I have an ongoing dialogue with the people in the mayor’s office. I made it known that I would be happy to testify on the mayor’s behalf.” He had been waiting about 45 minutes, he said. “Of course, there has to be some kind of communication in terms of schedules regarding the hearing.”

On the way out of the hearing room, he was greeted by a member of the mayor’s staff, who said to him: “Good job. Thanks so much for your help.”

The Borough Presidents

All five borough presidents testified in support of a bill that would give them four more years, and Brooklyn's leader cited projects under way, presumably including Atlantic Yards. The first paragraph is a direct quote from BP Marty Markowitz:
I’ve always been opposed to laws that enforce term limits. They are profoundly undemocratic. We have methods to apply term limits, they’re called elections. Look at the most recent elections: Two veteran state senators were defeated in elections in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

But Mr. Markowitz added, “Our city will confront many challenges in the months and years ahead.” And he concluded that extending the limits to three terms from two — but not rescinding them entirely — was sensible.

“We must remember that extending term limits is not about Michael Bloomberg, Marty Markowitz or any other city officials,” he said. “When term limits first went into effect, New York had gone through so many corruption scandals that people lost confidence in their government. I think the attitude of the public was very different then.”

He added, “With another term, I’d have the chance to see the projects come to completion.”

And another builder gave his endorsement:
Richard T. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, a trade group for the design, construction and real estate industries, spoke in favor of extending term limits. “Term limits have a negative impact on New York City, including the building industry,” he said, contributing to “municipal inefficiency and short-sightedness.”

Many would argue that the Bloomberg's stewardship of the Department of Buildings has been an administration low point.

It's about the projects

Such rhetoric got a response from the leading political opponent of Atlantic Yards:
Councilwoman Letitia James, a Brooklyn Democrat who has been a forceful opponent of the plan to alter term limits without a public vote, expressed skepticism:

I believe the mayor of the city of New York wants to stay in office to complete his projects, his mega projects. To think that mayor Bloomberg is the only one who can lead the city is intellectually dishonest. Given the fact that the mayor has unmatched resources, do you think this would be a fair fight?

More Brooklynites angered

The Times quoted Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, who's sponsored a bill in Albany to require a referendum:
Mr. Jeffries, of Brooklyn, denounced the effort to change term limits as utterly self-serving; he has called for the State Legislature to intervene and block the city from altering term limits without a referendum.

Mr. Jeffries used some dramatic analogies:
Lady Liberty is crying. Boss Tweed is smiling. The Big Apple is rotting, because democracy is being snatched away from us, not in Venezuela, not in North Korea, not in Bosnia, but here in the City of New York.

State Senator Eric Adams pointed to Rudy Giuliani's failed attempt, post-9/11, to extend his term, and continued:
Mr. Adams referred again and again to New York’s resolve after 9/11.

“This is an important time for us to show the entire country our strength and fortitude,” he said. “How do we find ourselves seven years later, cowardly shaking under the skirt of liberty? What happened to us?”

The Times quoted (and misidentified) Room 8 blogger Rock Hackshaw:
Rick Hermon Hackshaw was the witness who compared Mayor Bloomberg to President Robert G. Mugabe of Zimbabwe. He scoffed at the idea that term limits would merely be extended to 12 years from 8.

Larger issues

As I wrote yesterday, the move to overturn term limits came before the financial crisis. And a historian offered a longer perspective:
Matthew Vaz, who teaches United States history at the City College of New York. The notion of crisis is being “abused” by supporters of extending term limits, he said. “It’s constantly being compared to the Great Depression, and we can’t be certain of that,” he said, noting economic panics or recessions in 1819, 1837, 1873, 1893, 1921, 1929, 1987 and 1991 (among other years). “We managed to get through these things without Michael Bloomberg being anywhere in our sights.”

(The Wall Street Journal also made this point, in an op-ed Thursday headlined New York Will Survive Without Bloomberg.)

And shouldn't this take a little longer, rather than lead up to a vote next week?
In fact, citing the jam-packed hearings, the New York Public Interest Research Group issued a statement at the beginning of Friday’s session, asking the Council to schedule more public hearings on the term limit laws, in all four boroughs.

“It is crystal clear that there in intense public interest in the term limits issue,” the organization said. “Scores of groups and individuals came to speak at yesterday’s hearing, which went until late at night. Many New Yorkers were kept waiting outside in overflow lines, while other appear to have been given preference in attending the City Hall hearing.”


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…

No, security guards can't ban photos. Questions remain about visibility of ID/sticker system.

The bi-monthly Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Community Update meeting June 14, held at 55 Hanson Place, addressed multiple issues, including delays in the project, a new detente with project neighbors,concerns about traffic congestion, upcoming sewer work and demolitions, and an explanation of how high winds caused debris to fly off the under-construction 38 Sixth Avenue building. I'll have more coverage.
Security issues came up several times at the meeting.
Wayne Bailey, a resident who regularly takes photos and videos (that I often use) of construction/operations issues that impact residents, asked representatives of Tishman Construction if the security guard at the sites they're building works for them.
After Tishman Senior VP Eric Reid said yes, Bailey asked why a guard told him not to shoot video of the site, even though he was on a public street.

"I will address it with principals for that security firm," Reid said.
Forest City Ratner executive Ashley Cotton, the …

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what might be coming (post-dated pinned post)

This graphic, posted in November 2017, is post-dated to stay at the top of the blog. It will be updated as announced configurations change and buildings launch. Note the unbuilt B1 and the proposed shift in bulk to the unbuilt Site 5.

The August 2014 tentative configurations proposed by developer Greenland Forest City Partners will change. The project is already well behind that tentative timetable.

How many people are expected?

Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park has a projected 6,430 apartments housing 2.1 persons per unit (as per Chapter 4 of the 2006 Final Environmental Impact Statement), which would mean 13,503 new residents, with 1,890 among them in low-income affordable rentals, and 2,835 in moderate- and middle-income affordable rentals.

That leaves 8,778 people in market-rate rentals and condos, though let's call it 8,358 after subtracting 420 who may live in 200 promised below-market condos. So that's 5,145 in below-market units, though many of them won't be so cheap.


The passing of David Sheets, Dean Street renter, former Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality

David Sheets, longtime Dean Street renter, Freddy's bartender, eminent domain plaintiff, and singular personality, died 1/17/18 in HCA Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green, KY. He was 56.

There are obituary notices in the Bowling Green Daily News and the Wichita Eagle, which state:
He was born in Wichita, KS where he attended public Schools and Wichita State University. He lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY, and was employed as a legal assistant. David's hobby was cartography and had an avid interest in Mass Transit Systems of the world. David was predeceased by his father, Kenneth E. Sheets. He is survived by his mother, Wilma Smith, step-brother, Billy Ray Smith and his wife, Jane all of Bowling Green; step-sister, Ellen Smith Alexander and her husband, Jerry of Bella Vista, AR; several cousins and step-nieces and step-nephews also survive. Memorial Services will be on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 1:00 pm with visitation from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Monday at Johnson-Vaughn-Phe…

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…