Saturday, November 18, 2006


UP FRONT News November 15, 2006
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

“The paper that can’t be bought and can’t be sold.”


Under the pro-development and gentrification agenda of the Michael Bloomberg re-
gime, working class communities throughout New York City are endangered. While that is true in threatened neighborhoods such as Stapleton, Staten Island and the South Bronx, when it comes to over-development and gentrification, Ground Zero is the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The LES, rapidly going the feed-the-rich way of the once working class neighborhoods
now called Soho and Tribeca, is a becoming a weird blend of Times Square/ Las Vegas (the strip being the bar-proliferated Ludlow Street) and a suburban-style land of luxury condominiums and hotels. For years the George Pataki-controlled New York State Liquor Authority, rationalizing away the “500 foot rule”, handed out liquor licenses like metro- cards, ignoring the protests of community residents tired of intoxicated suburbanites re-lieving themselves on neighborhood blocks at 4:00 AM. One of those community residents, musician Rebecca Moore, who backs up her protests with action, created the Ludlow Orchard Community Organization, ominously acronymed LOCO. Ms. Moore, along with other LES indigenous groups, testified (as I did) at Community Board and State legislative hearings and got some results. Much to the dismay of the nightlife lobby, seemingly made up of profiteers who live in quieter neighborhoods elsewhere, the State, Liquor Authority, which now has a New York City resident as one of its members, imposed a moratorium on the issuance of new liquor licenses in much of the LES. The nightlife lobby, pleading an impending economic collapse of Western Civilization, is hoping that the moratorium expires before the State legislature enacts a law that will effectively put and end to the kind of bar proliferation that Michael Bloomberg would not tolerate on his block on East 79th Street, between 5th and Madison Avenues. There is every reason to believe that the political confrontation between greed (real estate/nightlife lobby) and community need in Albany and City Hall will be intense. Indeed, I speak from experience as an activist in what were known as the loft wars. Indeed, the LES community doesn’t merely have to keep an eye on the obvious real estate lobby but also on those who, rhetorically feigning tenants rights, etc., become the enemy within.

The Lower East Side is also the target of a Bloomberg-style “rezoning” plan put forth by Bloomberg’s developer friendly Department of City Planning. The public relations efforts by the DCP at recent public meetings of Community Board #3, have yielded widespread community opposition to the DCP plans, which, from my perspective, are nothing more than incremental gentrification, which will benefit the bar lobby, the devel- opers and expansionist institutions like NYU. The DCP, while offering to place some limits on wannabe skyscraper-condominium developers, is playing games with its use of the term “affordable”, when it comes to housing. It allows for a development “corridor” and will encourage the construction of totally unneeded “sliver” (tall, anorexic looking buildings that don’t take up scarce horizontal space) projects. New York City needs luxury housing a lot less than it needs housing for the poor and homeless. It’s a bad deal for the Lower East Side.

Also targeting the Lower East Side is the increasingly notorious Extell Development Company, which is buying up residential properties in a neighborhood with perhaps this country’s largest population of anarchists. Carlyle is directly connected to the Carlyle Group, of Bush, Oil, and Osama bin Laden fame. In an e-mail to a friend, I recently suggested that perhaps the outgoing George, W. Bush Administration will qualify for “affordable housing” in the LES. Dick Cheney hanging out in Tompkins Square Park! Or at the Halliburton Bar & Grill. Or Osama’s Oasis.

A number of students at NYU attended a recent CB3 meeting and announced their group called Students Creating Radical Change, which is offering to fight gentrification. They understand that their enormous tuition expenses are going to an institution that, at least in its otherwise highly regarded Dental Clinic, has a record of economically abusing the homeless - at least this one. After a dishonest and incompetent office staffer at the clinic fouled up on a third party reimbursement matter, leaving me unable to afford treat- ment, the clinic responded by covering up and throwing me out. My complaint to the New York State Health Department was substantiated and NYU continued to play games. Perhaps it is NYU President John Sexton’s awareness, from my calls and e-mails to him, that I am prepared to go to the Attorney General and other law enforcement people that induced him to approve an NYU letter promising to pay for all my treatment at a dentist of my choice. My impression is that NYU is an institution that, regardless of its merits as an educational institution, in other areas tends to do the right thing only when it has no choice. Like many universities, conspicuously the community-antagonistic Columbia, NYU is a part of the permanent government. For example, the Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of Columbia, G.G. Michelson, was among those who sat on a Bloom- berg appointed Commission that has recommended 25% salary increases for all City Councilmembers and a host of other highly paid public officials, a ripoff for which City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is largely responsible. And the Washington Square News, the NYU student newspaper, reported some time ago that Dr. Sexton was involved in some away in enabling the booted New York Stock Exchange boss Richard Grasso to parachute away with $150 million.

The City Council is ruled by the increasingly developer and Hillary Clinton-friendly mayoral wannabe Quinn, whose opposition to the West Side Stadium was hardly an act of bravery since almost all her constituents wanted no part of Bloomberg’s plan. When the battleground became the perhaps somewhat less well organized and definitely less monied South Bronx, Quinn folded to George Steinbrenner like a house of cards, despite rising community opposition to a new luxury box-filled Yankee Stadium where the obscenely overpaid Yanks can also lose.

Bloomberg, Quinn & Co. are guilty of economic imperialism even if they try to cover their tracks with food stamp and anti-smoking campaigns and holiday visits to homeless shelters. But this is the Lower East Side.
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