Sunday, October 23, 2005


UP FRONT News July 17, 2005
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold”


Community activists Rebecca Moore, of the Lower East Side, and Sandra Stevens, who lives in the Phipps Houses on East 26th Street in the Gramercy section of Manhattan, prior to making contact with UP FRONT News, were presumably unaware of each others’ existence, let alone the fact that they, as do many, many other New Yorkers, have much in common.

Ms. Moore is a musician (a songwriter-singer whom I’ve seen in performance and who brings to mind an under-the radar superstar gospel rocker and balladeer from Kansas City, MO. Named Iris DeMent) who founded the Ludlow Orchard Community Organization (L.O.C.O.) to bring people together to face up to a couple of real estate developers who are reportedly trying to profiteer by destroying the character of in particular Orchard Street, one of New York City’s legendary thoroughfares. According to Ms. Moore, many of the very low rise old buildings on Orchard Street, famous over two millenniums for clothing bargains, have been razed in order to make room for high rise luxury hotels and condominiums. Ms. Moore told me that the developers are in such a rush to pull a Jets Stadium in Chelsea-type maneuver that the construction on one of these imperialistic skyscrapers goes into late nights and did not stop for Easter Sunday. (The resurrected Jesus would love this story.)

In a neighborhood already sated with noise generated nightclubs, Ms. Moore speaks almost tearfully about the worsening air quality and other pollutions that are forcing her to consider leaving a home and community that she loves.

Sandra Stevens is a wheelchair-bound retired nurse who is one of many modest incomed tenants at Phipps houses who is facing profit motive displacement from her home of many years. According to her, New York University is a part of a real estate development juggernaut that seeks to convert Phipps Houses into dormitory housing. She claims that tenants have been warned that they face rent increases of, in some cases, several hundred percent. She has organized a tenants group that has committed itself to working with elected officials and other community groups to tell N.Y.U., in effect, “No way!” Among the groups that have begun to act in support of both of these groups are the United Homeless Organization (for which I am the community outreach/government relations/media representative) and the No Police State Coalition, a network of activists that hosts public issue speakouts on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday afternoons between 4:00 and 7:00 PM at the southern end of Union Square Park in Manhattan.

One factor that is potentially to the tenants’ advantage is the fact that this is a mayoral election year. Although I feel that there are aspects of his campaign that leave much to be desired in terms of following up on important issues, I believe that Anthony D. Weiner, a U.S. Congressman representing parts of Brooklyn and Queens, is the mayoral candidate most willing and able to take on the developers. Weiner took the lead on at least two confrontations involving corporate economic imperialism against local neighborhoods. It was Weiner who, when Jets owner and Bushie Robert (“Woody”) Johnson and Mayor Bloomberg tried to ram a football stadium down the throats of folks living in Chelsea, said, “No way.” He correctly said that a football-Olympic stadium was indeed feasible – in Queens. Mr. Weiner also earned the displeasure of Rupert Murdoch’s off the map right wing New York Post when he played a major leading role in stopping the attempted invasion of Queens by Wal-Mart’s. Weiner caused seizures in the corporate world by suggesting that a company’s “values” should play a role in community acceptance. Wal-Mart’s values include treating non-executive employees like chattel, not to speak of imposing sexist standards of employment and promotion. It is not at all surprising that Wal-Mart’s is being pursued most energetically to open facilities in “Communist” China, the genocide and slave labor capital of the solar system.

I have spoken with Mr. Weiner directly on a number of issues and in the last few days have spoken by phone with his top aides. Mr. Weiner knows about Rebecca Moore and L.O.C.O. and about Sandra Stevens, who, as noted earlier, does her locomotion in a wheelchair. If Anthony Weiner is serious about making a real challenge for the mayoralty – he trails badly in the polls, because, I believe, his message is not getting out – it’s time that he get himself down to the Lower East Side and hang out some at, for example, Tompkins Square Park, Orchard Street, and the becoming legendary art collective on Rivington Street known as ABC No Rio. I believe that he will find, for example, Rebecca Moore – and UP FRONT News – to be most convincing.

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