Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Election Day Triangles

We sometimes worry whether some of the accusations we make about the strange links between politics and New York City developement will seem too extreme. One story we held back about reporting was the tale of the Broadway Triangle intrigue. We thought we could only do it justice with a well-documented analysis of what is going on. Now, today for an Election Day editorial the New York Times boils Broadway Triangle down to the stark and appalling core of its political mechanics.

Times Editorial With Emphasis

We reprint today’s editorial below in full with some emphasis supplied:
Councilwoman Diana Reyna, a Democrat from City Council District 34 in Brooklyn, is battling two formidable foes in Tuesday’s election. One is a vengeful Democratic Party boss, who rails about her independence, and the other is the Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn, who has made robocalls supporting the party boss.

If Ms. Reyna is defeated as a result of these misplaced efforts, it will be a real loss for the residents of her district. Ms. Reyna has helped her struggling constituents with housing and school difficulties. Her willingness to stand up to Assemblyman Vito Lopez — the boss who increasingly runs the Democratic Party in Brooklyn with an iron fist — shows extraordinary political courage.

In his recorded phone messages to every registered voter in District 34, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio does not mention Ms. Reyna or her opponent, Maritza Davila of the Working Families Party. His pitch is to support Mr. Lopez, who has been helpful to the church. But the subtext is clear: Mr. Lopez has been working overtime to elect Ms. Davila instead of his party’s candidate.

Mr. Lopez has, indeed, helped the church, most recently by blocking legislation in Albany that would have temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving the sexual abuse of children. The church has returned the favor by ordering a priest to drop his fight against the rezoning of a 31-acre parcel that Mr. Lopez favors.

It is that same rezoning, for a housing project called the Brooklyn Triangle, that helped land Ms. Reyna on the boss’s enemies list. Ms. Reyna sided with community members who opposed the secretive way the project has moved forward through the city’s development process. Voters in City Council District 34 should reward that independence by re-electing Ms. Reyna.
(See: Editorial: Election Day, November 2, 2009.)

The Three Faces of Broadway Triangle: What’s Missing From The Times

In the print edition of the Times the editorial is followed by something astounding given that there is one last appalling thing the Times editorial leaves out: The Broadway Triangle rezoning deal was apparently a “triangle” itself, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the Catholic Church and Mr. Michael Bloomberg. Who do you think has the power over rezonings and to move things secretively “forward through the city’s development process” if not Bloomberg?

Extending the “Election Day” Choice to an Absurd Contradiction

Here is what is astounding. In the print edition of the Times, looking like it is actually part of the same editorial and under that same "Election Day" heading with a subheading of “Election Day Choices” the Times Editorial Page then tells us to vote for Michael Bloomberg.

(See image below. Click to enlarge.)
No Denying Denials

A bit schizophrenic? Can the mayor magically disassociate himself from the unpopular mega-projects he supports? Atlantic Yards Report asks that question today and the answer should be “no” provided there is a responsible press. (See: Tuesday, November 03, 2009, On Election Day, a Bloomberg story: the mayor disavows influence on Atlantic Yards.) This story reports Bloomberg trying to duck responsibility for Atlantic Yards with his electioneering dismissal “the city doesn't have much sway or influence” over it. Then the article, without having to do deep research digs up obvious and ready contradictions including the mayor’s statement that “we’re going to get this one done” which he offered when rejecting the NYC Independent Budget Office report that the Atlantic Yards arena will be a $220 million net loss to the public.

Bloomberg’s Charmed Sail Through the New York Press

A responsible press? Tom Robbins of the Village Voice has pointed out that Bloomberg is, in general, getting a free pass from an anemic New York press corps. (See: The Mayor's Press Pass: The unexamined world of Mike Bloomberg, by Tom Robbins, October 27th 2009.) Robbins begins: “One reason for the remarkably charmed life of Mike Bloomberg's administration as he sails toward re-election has been the waning of the city's news business.” Robbins goes on to catalog a long list of Bloomberg scandals that didn’t get follow-up press coverage, suggesting that Bloomberg has gotten a pass that no other mayor before him ever got.

Important to Vote Today

So the Question is what should voters do on this election day? One thing is that, no matter what, it is very important to vote. It is important to vote even if you don’t think the candidate you would like to see win can, and even if you don’t see a candidate in an election you would like to see win.

A low turnout is predicted throughout the city which means that your appearance at the polls will count even more. If nothing else you are voting for your neighborhood and your election district, reminding elected politicians that your area votes and that its concerns need to be paid attention to. As an e-mail from the Brooklyn Heights Association reminds us: “a strong voter turnout" from the neighborhood “will demonstrate to our city officials that we are an active and informed community that deserves their attention.”

Bill T or Billy T?

Most readers of Noticing New York will be considering whether to vote for either Bill T or Billy T, Democrat Bill Thompson or Green Party candidate Billy Talen (Rev. Billy.) When it comes to development issues and questions like Atlantic Yards we certainly prefer the clarity of Talen’s message and we would certainly vote for him if, as we recommend, the city had a form of instant runnoff voting that would allow a second-ranked vote for Mr. Thompson also to count. Nevertheless, given that the system is, instead, the way it is and that there is at least a chance that Bill Thompson could win, we will be voting for him this election.

(On other elections like the Brooklyn Borough President where the voters have been deprived of choice we could go into the mechanics of write-in votes, which we won’t, or we can point out the options of not voting in that column or voting for the Republican as a simple protest even though he too has the wrong position on development issues like Atlantic Yards.)

Bloomberg vs. Thompson on Atlantic Yards and Megadevelopment

Atlantic Yards Report in the above-linked story suggests today that “No one voting on Atlantic Yards issues can discern much different from the Democratic candidate, Comptroller Bill Thompson. AY voters have to go with Green Party candidate Bill (Rev. Billy) Talen.” We don’t exactly agree. We have criticized Mr. Thompson for his lack of a clarion message on Atlantic Yards (Sunday, October 11, 2009, Thompson’s Campaign: Lacking a Clarion Message, Plus Issues of Confused “Respect”) but we think that the position that Thompson has since taken that megadevelopments should be broken up and bid out to multiple developers is a significant difference in outlook that we hope will one day be applied to Atlantic Yards. (See: Monday, October 19, 2009, Thompson’s Advocated Multiple Parcels (a la Battery Park City) vs. Single-Developer Mega-monopolies Should Boost Developers’ Bids.)

The fact is that while Thompson’s errant support for some version of Atlantic Yards is a problem (he has occasionally said he doesn’t know "what" the mega-project is at this point), there is hope that with a Thompson city administration support for Atlantic Yards will ultimately (and logically) fade. There is no such hope with the stubborn Bloomberg administration, irrespective of the way Bloomberg may try to hide, misrepresent or deny his administration’s support.

Bloomberg Stubbornly at the Apex of Power

The other matter is this. If Thompson’s and Bloomberg’s positions on Atlantic Yards (and/or other megadevelopments) were substantially the same, we would still rather see Thompson as the less powerful mayor pushing that agenda. Right now, Bloomberg is supremely at the apex of too many power triangles in New York and his dissembling about his noninvolvement and true positions too often gets a pass. The balance of powers in this city needs to be restored. (See our recent pieces: Sunday, November 1, 2009, Bloomberg vs. Thomson (54% to 29%?): It’s Not What You Think. (For Instance the “P” is Missing and What Might “P” Stand For?) and Monday, November 2, 2009, On Your Way Vote, We Quizzically Ask: How “Green” Is Our Bloomberg?)


For more thorough reporting about the Broadway Triangle project, including some information about the instant runnoff voting we recommend for future elections see: Tuesday, August 11, 2009, In the 33rd: Levin vs. everyone else, AY & Broadway Triangle, and the argument for IRV (Instant Runoff Voting).

For a (NY Post/Courier life) update about how a coalition of 40 North Brooklyn community groups filed a lawsuit against Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his involvement in the development of Broadway Triangle “contending that the city violated the Federal Fair Housing Act in its negotiations” regarding its development see: Lawsuits over Broadway (Triangle), by Aaron Short, September 10, 2009.

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