The contradictions of the Working Families Party: responsible development and silence on Atlantic Yards
“Responsible development is a huge one,” [executive director Dan] Cantor said, enumerating the party’s general principles. “Meaning from soup to nuts, it has to be built responsibly. The jobs that are created need to be good jobs. The housing that’s created needs to include a substantial amount of affordable housing. It needs to be sensitive to local neighborhood concerns. It’s got to be a democratic planning process as much as possible. We should not give away such a precious social resource without demanding a social benefit.”(Emphases added)
Often in development projects in New York, however, those principles are in conflict: the city must choose between whether or not they want developers to add more affordable housing or build lower in deference to community concerns. Plus, Bloomberg administration officials say, there is more agreement than some of their critics allege, but that say translating those kinds of principles into deals with private-sector developers and community groups is often easier said than done.
WFP allies, though, say that the Bloomberg administration has often favored developers over neighborhood concerns. Now in power, they vow to re-orient local government’s priorities.
“It’s about making community concerns a core priority rather than an afterthought, and economic development geared towards that priority,” said Brad Lander, one of the WFP priority candidates who scored a convincing Democratic primary win with the party’s help. “If you start with increasing the tax base and letting the developer dream big, then yes, living wages are going to be a nuisance—but you can start with affordable housing, good jobs, sustainable neighborhoods and public amenities, and then gear development around that.”
WFP on AY
With Atlantic Yards, however, the priority is the developer's vision, while neighborhood concerns--at least the neighborhoods represented by the three community boards touching on the project site--get downplayed.
The complication is that some community concerns, at least as represented by the Forest City Ratner-funded groups in the Community Benefits Agreement, are met, thanks in part to government funds funneled to the developer and then redistributed.
And where has the Working Families Party been on this? It's officially neutral on Atlantic Yards, and has criticized tax-free bonds for Yankee Stadium, but never mentioned the Nets arena.
As I wrote in June 2006, given that ACORN is a founder of the WFP, the party can't ignore ACORN's position supporting AY. But shouldn't the WFP care about a democratic planning process?