Posts tagged ‘Atlantic Yards’

"Housing Advocate" Celibrates Eviction

Why does supposed housing advocate Bertha Lewis celebrate a man's eviction so his land can be given to a wealthy private developer?

Bertha Lewis, a housing advocate who supported the project, bid Mr. Goldstein "good riddance."

"Low- and moderate-income people had to wait years for housing while he obstructed the Atlantic Yards project," she said.

Maybe because her organization cut a deal to provide the developer a patina of public service in exchange for big bucks for her organization.

Of course, Lewis is much more than just a "housing advocate who supported the project," she was the CEO of ACORN, a group that signed a contract with Bruce Ratner "to publicly support the [Atlantic Yards] Project by, among other things, appearing with the Developer before the Public Parties, community organizations and the media as part of a coordinated effort to realize and advance the Project." In return, Ratner pledged to include a certain amount of "affordable housing" in the project, units that ACORN stood to make a fortune from marketing and managing. As the New York Post reported, "Anita MonCrief, a former ACORN official-turned-whistleblower, estimates the anticipated deal could bring the group $5 million to $10 million annually over multiple years."

And the money didn't stop there. In 2008 Ratner bailed ACORN out to the tune of $1.5 million dollars after the news broke that Dale Rathke, brother of ACORN founder Wade Rathke, had embezzled nearly $1 million from the group back in 2000 and the national leadership had covered the crime up for eight years. The financial fallout from that scandal threatened to ruin ACORN until Ratner stepped in with a $1 million load and a $500,000 grant. This desperately-needed cash kept ACORN alive and allowed it to keep providing cover for Ratner's corporate welfare and eminent domain abuse.

Lewis's role reminds me a lot of money laundering.  Call it progressive laundering.  The Brooklyn Yards project is simply a total money grab by a powerful developer who got the state to seize land and hand it over to him for development.  To hide the naked cronyism here, the developer cleverly cut a deal with ACORN such that about 0.1% of the development was dedicated to low-income housing and ACORN was paid off to advocate for the project as a low-income housing project, when in fact it is 99% an upscale development to benefit a politically-connected developer.

More here.

Update: Wow, you have to check out this email from Bertha Lewis.  Just remember, when reading it, that she is talking about a man who just wanted to stay in his own home that he owned, and didn't want to be evicted just so the New Jersey Nets could have a new stadium in Brooklyn at taxpayer expense.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Bertha Lewis <[EMAIL REDACTED>
Date: Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 8:04 PM
Subject: Daniel Goldstein and the 7 year itch
To: [RECIPIENTS REDACTED]

Finally, the itch that was Daniel Goldstein has been scratched and scratched out.   After almost seven years of flawed strategies, smear campaigns, stupid tactics, disingenuous rhetoric and total disregard for people who have lived in the downtown Brooklyn community for years before he even thought about coming here; finally he got what he really wanted.  A Deal.  Not for the community he claimed to love so much, but for the only beneficiary of his community of one, himself, Double Dealing Danny Goldstein.  How utterly despicable for him to be in the newspaper  today whining that he did not have enough time to move, and had nowhere to go because he was being stiffed by the State and Forest City Ratner, when low and behold, all the time, he was negotiating, not for the community , but for himself.  Well good riddance and don't let the door hit ya'.  Low and moderate income people have had to wait years for housing while he obstructed the Atlantic Yards Project that could have been well over half done by now.  He never had to worry about housing so he did'nt care how long other people had to wait.  Behold, the Gentrifier.  He has slandered and denigrated not only me but my organization and my members relentlessly.  What benefit has he delivered to the community?  None except for his own pocket.   Well, the housing at Atlantic Yards will be built, and the day after he moves out, which I hope will be sooner rather than later, the building that he squatted in these past years should be razed to ground immediately, and salt poured into the soil, so that never again can the likes of one of the biggest shakedown artists in Brooklyn return.  We will still be here, we will still be fighting for the all the people that Danny spurned and used for his own enrichment.  We hope that now everyone in Brooklyn and New York can see him for what he really is and can see what his actions cost Brooklyn.  I hope whatever he settled for was worth the pain and misery he caused to so many people who just wanted a decent place to live in Brooklyn and who just wanted a decent job and a place for their family.  Now that the flim flam man is gone, they can finally see it on the horizon.

--

Bertha Lewis

An Actual Court Victory for Property Rights

Some good news after years of bad decisions:

New York's Supreme Court Appellate Division (First Department) handed down a massive victory for property rights yesterday in the case of Kaur v. New York State Urban Development Corporation. At issue was the state's highly controversial use of eminent domain on behalf of Columbia University, which wants free rein over the West Harlem neighborhood of Manhattanville, where it plans to build a fancy new research campus.

As I discussed in an article last February, there is overwhelming evidence that the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) actively colluded with Columbia in order to produce the very conditions that would then allow ESDC to seize property on the university's behalf. At the time of ESDC's 2006 blight study, for instance, Columbia owned 76 percent of the neighborhood and was thus directly responsible for the overwhelming majority of blight that the report alleged, ranging from overflowing basement trash heaps to major roof and skylight leaks. As numerous tenants have reported, the university refused to perform basic and necessary repairs, which both pushed tenants out and manufactured the ugly conditions that later advanced Columbia's long-term interests. Preliminary findings delivered to the ESDC admitted as much, noting "Open violations in CU Buildings" and "History of CU repairs to properties" among the "issues of concern."

Thankfully, the New York court recognized this shameful mess for what it is: eminent domain abuse. As Justice James Catterson wrote for the majority:

the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry. It was utilized by ESDC years after the scheme was hatched to justify the employment of eminent domain but this project has always primarily concerned a massive capital project for Columbia. Indeed, it is nothing more than economic redevelopment wearing a different face.

This, from the Court's majority decision, was especially heartening post-Kelo:

The time has come to categorically reject eminent domain takings solely based on underutilization. This concept put forward by the respondent transforms the purpose of blight removal from the elimination of harmful social and economic conditions in a specific area to a policy affirmatively requiring the ultimate commercial development of all property regardless of the character of the community subject to such urban renewal.

This was pretty unexpected given how the Atlantic Yards case went.  I am not sure how to reconcile the two decisions.  Damon Root at the link above has the same concerns.