Saturday, September 6, 2008

Scratching My Head on Who to Vote For: Connor Vs. Squadron (Vs Gyllenhaal) the 25th District State Senate Seat

The other day I got one of those polling phone calls and spent 20 minutes answering a slew of questions about the Marty Connor/Daniel Squadron contest for the New York’s 25th District State Senate seat. (The primary is this Tuesday.) A heavy stress of the poll questions was where the candidates might be viewed in terms of over-development, taking money from developers and working for Forest City Ratner; the Brooklyn Bridge Park development was mentioned several times. I told the polling interviewer that I considered the single most important issue these days to be stopping Atlantic Yards.

Listening to WNYC last week I was sorry that I missed the Wednesday night Connor/Squadron debate when I heard that among the issues the candidates had “clashed” about was “the Atlantic Yards development.” WNYC left me hanging and didn’t tell me what they said about Atlantic Yards during the debate. “No Land Grab” picking up on the WNYC report tantalizingly summarized: “Squadron has made cautionary statements against the Atlantic Yards project in the past, but all of his heavy-hitting political backers are big-time supporters of the project, leaving many Brooklynites scratching their heads on the way into the voting booth.”- So, just as NLG described, I was still scratching my head and wondering whether anything elucidating was said at the debate.

I figured I would wait until Thursday night/Friday morning for my trusty Brooklyn Paper to come out figuring that the paper would have covered the debate. The paper’s coverage is good on Atlantic Yards.

Opening the Brooklyn Paper and I immediately found a campaign ad for Daniel Squadron. It said he is endorsed by:

1.) Chuck Schumer- Until Schumer gets it straight on Atlantic Yards I am wary of his recommendation on anything that affects local neighborhood development.
2.) Michael Bloomberg- Another major negative in my consideration
3.) Anthony Weiner- Strike three!
4.) Scott Stringer- Also not doing well in the area of opposition to over-development
5.) The Working Families Party- Given ACORN’s irresponsible conduct on Atlantic Yards that is a major downer (Of course, WFP supported Tish James for her City Council office and Tish James has done everything right on Atlantic Yards.)

When I looked harder, the paper actually covered the debate itself (Connor, Squadron dance around issues at debate, by Sarah Portock., page 5 of the print edition) but the story didn’t mention the Atlantic Yards issue. The Brooklyn Paper has endorsed Squadron.

I then looked to see what I could find in the Brooklyn Heights Courier. I didn’t find a report of the debate but on page 18, in an endorsement for Connor, I found the paper, while comparing the worth of Connor vs. Squadron, musing on the value of voting to put into the Senate Seat “actress Maggie Gyllenhaal - - a former resident of the 25th State Senate District, which includes Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg.” The endorsement did not say anything about Atlantic Yards.

Meanwhile, I had gotten mailings from a a group of my politically heavy-hitting (and Obama- supporting) neighbors telling me to vote for Martin Connor. It as if the mailing was a major effort and it might have made a difference as I attempted to make up my mind, but wouldn’t it have been easier for Connor to gain my support by just taking a strong position in favor of effective action to stop Atlantic Yards? Any candidate who distinguished himself by doing so would have had my vote easily. But months before I’d already communicated several times with Connor’s office telling him he needed to take effective action against Atlantic Yards and I was not getting satisfactory responses.

So if neither candidate is satisfactorily mobilizing to oppose Atlantic Yards is there one of them to vote for in the Tuesday primary? Is it better to vote for Squadron, a candidate who is ostensibly a reform-minded insurgent on guard against over-development who won’t prove those credentials by doing what he has a perfectly free hand to do: opposing what is obviously the worst thing happening in New York and the immediate environs of this Senate District? Unlike other problems New York City might be facing, this is one that comes signed, sealed and delivered by problem politicians. Squadron says he should be elected because he will take on important “development battles:” why won’t he prove it by addressing the poster-child? Or, is it better to vote for Connor, a 30-year incumbent who was probably taken in by the Atlantic Yards hornswaggling when it was first underway and won’t admit this now or reverse course? Then, what does it say about Connor that when David Paterson unseated him as minority leader in the State Senate in 2002, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, allied himself with Connor? Silver has been quite unsatisfactory when it comes to a long list of things, with Atlantic Yards toppingthe list. We are pleased to see that Paul Newell is now out-raising Silver in his race to gain Silver’s seat and that the New York Times endorsed him, August 22, 2008, in its editorial Endorsements for a Better Albany.

Eventually, on the Brooklyn Paper web site I found a 76-minute podcast of the Connor/Squadron debate. I really didn’t hear a discussion of Atlantic Yards. Debate moderator, Dick Dadey of Citizens Union, missed an opportunity.

It is interesting that Squadron has taken a position on the development of Brooklyn Bridge Park which is less pro-development than Connor but the issues about exactly how Brooklyn Bridge Park should be developed (about 19 minutes into the debate podcast) are far less clear-cut and far less important than the multiple issues making it essential that Atlantic Yards be politically opposed.

Which candidate is better? If either one of them comes out between now and the Tuesday primary to definitely and emphatically state that they will take effective action to stop Atlantic Yards I will vote for him. My thinking about candidates who wimp out on the subject of Atlantic Yards is likely to be just as important when the general election comes up. But if I don’t get satisfaction, the musings of the Brooklyn Heights Courier have me thinking. Maybe I should write in a candidate. Maggie Gyllenhaal co-stared with Heath Ledger in “Dark Knight” and her brother Jake co-starred with Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Heath Ledger was on the advisory board of Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn which has been a key player in halting Atlantic Yards. Voting for Ms. Gyllenhaal sounds mighty attractive.

1 comment:

Mike Barfield said...

Statement from Marty Connor -

"I have testified in the past against the scale and size of the Atlantic Yards project. I have also challenged some of the financial projections of the project.

In September 2007, I was one of four Senators to vote against the 421-A bill that gave special benefits to the Atlantic Yards project.

The next month, Mr. Squadron, then an employee at Knickerbocker, the public relations and political consulting firm for the Atlantic Yards project (think of all those fancy mailings), conducted a poll testing his candidacy. Coincidence?"

Mike Barfield
Campaign Manager
Connor for Senate 08