Saturday, September 01, 2007


UP FRONT News August 24, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham

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

The deaths of two firefighters at the thoroughly condemned Deutsche Bank building by Ground Zero is another in a long list of econocidal consequences of developer greed and political protection, of private gain over the public good that characterizes New York in the time of Cheney/Bush/Clinton/Bloomberg/Quinn & Co.

For decades multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg and his precedessors as mayor, aided and abetted by the City Council and State Legislature, have been pillaging the public treasury to reward avaricious real estate developers and their allies in the contracting, maintenance, construction and “nightlife” lobbies. The usual mechanism is the tax abatement, which allows real estate predators like Donald Trump, the Cheney/Bush linked Carlyle Group and, on a smaller level, my former loftlord Thomas Berger to not pay millions in real estate taxes to “encourage” them to build housing. And what they build is what New York City least needs – luxury housing and hotels that in may cases over-runs working class neighborhoods and causes economic displacement and thereby homelessness. Just take a look at the Real Estate Section of the Sunday Times. It’s like something out of monarchial Europe. The resl eastate developers are doing stuff here not at all unlike what Halliburton and Blackwater pull off on a national and international scale.

The public, unrepresented by (s)elected officials like Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn – watched over like a vulture by, among others,
Hillary Clinton – is forced to accept concessions like 10% “affordable housing.” One of the reasons why real estate predator Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards Project is so contro- versial is because a coalition involving Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Herbert Daughtry and ACORN, extracted a relatively large percentage of “affordable housing” and some other amenities involving free use of the Nets basketball arena a few times. (I think Atlantic Yards is ill-conceived from the get-go because, aside from the fact that is has the negative effect of Manhattanizing Brooklyn, its success rests on a basketball arena to be used by the athletically schizophrenic but grossly overpaid Nets, who cannot even fill seats in heavily populated North Jersey when they win. And as surely as the sun rises and sets - even in New York - the Nets will lose often and Ratner is going to complain about diminishing profits, and maybe play some rent games.)

Once working class neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan are now islands of hip but aristocratic wealth. I lived in Tribeca as it was DeNiro-ized. My aforementioned crooked landlord Berger, the Ed Koch pal who founded the loft (not left) wing of the real estate lobby known as the Association of Commercial Property Owners, used rent gouging, violence, and keeping me heatless and waterless for 5 1/2 years at 190-A Duane Street, top floor, as part of his campaign to get rid of me by any means necessary. He succeeded after 16 years with the help of a reportedly gender-biased corrupt judge named Marilyn Shafer, who displaced me and those living with me, including a little girl and her mother, because I let someone play a flute at a poetry reading at my home. Berger is the fake Orthodox Jewish public figure living in Forest Hills, Queens, who attends synagogue “religiously” but, during business hours, treats the Ten Commandments like toilet paper. One of his lawyers, at one of the many court and Loft Board events we appeared at, actually anticipated Michael Douglas’ “greed is good” declaration.

The Lower East Side of Manhattan is being transformed from a diverse working class community into a sea of condos and hotels whose guests and residents on bloated salaries paying bloated rents relax by overflowing the profusion of local bars which render for example the corner of Ludlow and Stanton Streets suitable for targeted “congestion pricing.”

The consequences of tax break-subsidizing the super-rich at the expense of everyone else go way beyond housing. The City of New York is unable to properly protect its citizens, as has been shown in the dead firefighers and in cases of patients dying unnecessarily in City Hospitals. Among the most dramatic cases of econocide occurred in the 1970’s at City-run Queens Hospital Center when a bunch of patients died as a direct consequence of the budget cut caused nursing shortage part of the genocidal (victims in City Hospitals were disproportionally black) policy of “planned shrinkage” or balancing the budget by cutting back on services to the poor. (It was I, a social worker and an elected member of the QHC Community Advisory Board, who blew the whistle on the Beame-Koch Administrations coverup. I lost my job but, thanks to some major media publicity, got some serious money for the hospital and also got somewhat famous.

New York City does not have enough inspectors to check vital services such as stand-
pipes for water to fight fires. The City does not have enough inspectors to properly check restaurants (and apparently employs some really bad ones). We have plenty of cops – many of whom are (unlike City Councilmembers) underpaid. Nonetheless, while Giuliani and Bloomberg have often used the NYPD to suppress our civil rights, the line “Where’s a policeman when you need one?” remains relevant.

The City, however, found money to pay all City Councilmembers fat salary increases thanks to a really sneaky bill (Intro. 458) pushed through by the Quinnberg Administration. City Councilman Tony Avella, a Democrat from Queens, not only confronted the imperial Quinn in testifying and voting against the increase, he refused to take the money.

Indeed that is one of a number of reasons why Tony Avella – who does not seem to be intimidated in the least by the autocratic Speaker – should be taken very seriously as a candidate for mayor in 2009.

Among the reasons that the developers are so ominous here is because of the de facto assistance they get from pseudo tenants rights activists - such as most conspicuously the increasingly discredited Mike McKee. McKee and his weird pal Chuck Delaney, who ran the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants like Stalin ran his groups, by spouting populism and denouncing Republicans, delayed and weakened loft tenant protection legislation, thereby expediting the luxurization of neighborhoods like Soho and Tribeca. McKee is largely responsible, during the latter years of the last millennium, for repeatedly helping to kill the oft-introduced Flynn-Dearie Rent Protection Act that would have required landlords seeking rent increases for any reason to first open their books. The only question I have is if the landlord lobby actually paid McKee for his divisiveness and if so how much.

I am involved with a new tenants rights group, the Union of New York Tenants, UNYTE, which is at this point NYC-based with most of the slowly increasing number of participants at meetings coming from Manhattan. UNYTE expects to be a serious counterforce to the well-organized real estate, which gets big support from people like Hillary Clinton (and her Democratic machine, well entrenched in places like Staten Island, where I live), Michael Bloomberg and Christine Quinn.

Aside from the fact that New Yorkers are being gouged, too many people are dying because of the greed of what can fairly be called the ruling class.
It’s time to take on the developers – the gangs of New York!
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