Sunday, March 30, 2008

RESISTING THE DEVELOPERS, AKA THE GANGS OF NEW YORK

UP FRONT News March 25, 2008
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."

RESISTING THE DEVELOPERS, AKA THE GANGS OF NEW YORK FROM THE LOWER EAST SIDE TO STAPLETON THE UNHOLY TRINITY: THE FATHER (MICHAEL BLOOMBERG), THE DAUGHTER (CHRISTINE QUINN) AND THE HOLEY BOAST (MIKE McKEE)
By Tom Weiss
www.groups.yahoo.com/group/upfrontnewsdiscussionforum
Email: Tomsupfrontnews@yahoo.com

In a recent issue of Metro, Lower East Side activist Rebecca Moore, citing instances of life threatening construction incidents in her development-dominated neighborhood, states, "And yet, the projects are allowed to continue." Ms. Moore, a musician activist with whom I am acquainted, and the founder of the Ludlow Orchard Community Organization, is approximately 100% correct.

What the Metro article does not mention is the fact that the tsunami of luxury housing over- development and gentrification which has reached a fever pitch under Billionaire Bloomberg, is a logical consequence of the fact that much of the (s)elected political establishment is in the pockets of the real estate lobby every bit as much (albeit perhaps somewhat less graphically) than Eliot Spitzer was in the arms of some high-priced ladies of the night.

Millions of New Yorkers have for decades been hoodwinked by a succession of occasionally tenants rights-spouting politicians who have been selling us out much as people like George Bush, Big Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton have been selling us out corporation- wise for years.

Michael Bloomberg, flaunting his credentials as both an ex-Republican and as a philanthropist (certainly more politically acceptable than a philanderer, a bipartisan phenomenon affecting governors and presidents alike), was for a time actually being talked about as a "Stop Obama" presidential possibility. Bloomberg as president could be tempted to try to obtain a variance in order to turn the White House into a condominium.

As far as I am concerned Michael Bloomberg - who owes his purchased election in 2001 to a Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. racist surrogate named Lenora Fulani (formerly thec dictator of the Independence Party of New York which put him over the top in the very close 2001 race), and who gets fawning coverage by papers like the politically censored and almost uniquely obsequeous Staten Island Advance - has crane accident, etc, blood on his hands.

The level of developer-connected defacto murder is as far as I can tell worse under the development-obsessed Bloomberg regime, than even under similar landlord-friendly mayors like Ed Koch and Rudolph Giuliani. Bloomberg has worsened the homelessness crisis, the solution for which, in his eyes, is crumbs of "affordable housing" and degrading and client abusing shelters and drop-in centers. Indeed, there is little question that, generically speaking, most very rich people are ethically unqualifed to hold elective office. No one can tell me of any billionaire who has not violated the "Thous Shalt Not Steal" Commandment many times.

Among the "liberal" politicians, most of whom are Democrats (not democrats), most guilty of selling out the people is Bloomberg pal New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Marie Antoinette of New York politics. Quinn's credo: Let them eat granola - or perhaps something less tasty.

Christine Quinn rode to power in her liberal neighborhood of Chelsea as a gay rights and tenants rights activist. Since she is gay, she has been pretty consistent on gay rights issues. (And although I am not gay, I am for full gay rights.) From the standpoint of tenants rights, however, Quinn, who like her political role model Hillary Clinton, gladly accepts tons of campaign contribution cash from the real estate lobby, is a disaster.

In a tenant heavy city Ms. Quinn has become very gifted, through her opportunistic rhetoric and her publicity stunts, at parasiting herself into the good graces of tenants. A good example of that took place recently in connection with the enactment of Intro 627-A, a bill introduced by City Councilman Daniel Garodnick (D.-Manh.), which gives tenants some new weapons with which to resist landlord harassment. After a landlord-friendly bill offered by a couple of Quinn allies was shot down by tenant protests, Quinn backed Mr. Garodnick's bill, which passed the City Council, even with some serious weaknesses, such as in the laughably inadequate fine schedule for landlords found guilty of harassment. Under the existing system, which may have to be corrected by state legislation, a landlord, who by heat deprivation, is responsible for a an electrical heater-caused baby death, can be fined a maximum of $5,000. That is what I call "Blackwater Justice."

At the press conference attended by many tenants announcing the enactment of the bill, it was Quinn who hogged the publicity while Mr. Garodnick listened obediently.

Among the people that the developer-loyal Quinn has complimented most effusively is Mike ("The Knife") McKee, a self-appointed and (still?) deeply entrenched tenants rights "leader."
There is a great deal about the reportedly right wing (Manhattan Institute)-linked fifth colum-nist McKee in my newspaper UP FRONT News at www.tomsupfrontnews.blogspot.com. There is also a list-serve discussion forum at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UPFRONTNewsdiscussionforum.

As far as I am concerned, in another story that has been covered up by the established media (which includes both mainstream and "alternative"), McKee may be politically responsible for as many evictions as many landlords. As is clearly described in UP FRONT News, it was Mike McKee who, working in rather blatant collusion with the real estate lobby, repeatedly submarined the oft-introduced Flynn-Dearie Rent Protection Act. Flynn-Dearie, probably the best tenant protection bill ever introduced in New York, contained a provision requiring any landlord of a residentially occupied building seeking a rent increase to prove need by opening his or her books for auditing by the state. It is an axiom that, like arms manufacturers, landlords cook their books. McKee, siding with the real estate lobby, declared the "open the books" provision "too cumbersome" and the bill, introduced with bipartisan backing repeatedly in Albany, was repeatedly legislatively buried in the 1970's and 1980's. I have talked to several legislators, such as Assemblymembers Brian Kavanagh and Linda Rosenthat, both Manhattan Democrats, about introducing a much needed an updated version of Flynn Dearie. I hope the idea gets the support of my State Senator, the very influential Diane Savino.

Among the people most responsible for the massive luxurization of once working class loft districts such as Soho and Tribeca (in both of which neighborhoods I used to live as a very landlord belaguered loft tenant) is McKee ally Chuck ("Ol' Loophole") Delaney. It was McKee and Delaney who is 1980 managed to slip into what became the Loft Law a provision allowing loftlords (such as my landlord Delaney and Ed Koch Pal Thomas Berger, aka in UP FRONT News as "The Greed Merchant of Tribeca") to pass along their "legalizations" costs in the form of rent increases. When I found out about it and went up to albany on my own to stop that giveaway, McKee and Delaney working with a severely mentally ill staffer in the office if then assemblyman Paul Viggiano, had me arrested. I am not making this stuff up.

There is no question in my mind that the infiltration-skilled McKee has worked to undermine the progress of in particular the still alive Union of New York Tenants (UNYTE).

Rebecca Moore is certain ways represents the concerns of many of her neighbors in the development playground known as the Lower East Side. Indeed, my perception is that East Houston Street with its nouveau high rises is starting to look like one of those corporate thoroughfares in White Plains or Long Island.

The Lower East Side, where there are many anti-gentrification and anti bar-proliferation activists, needs to do more to link up with activists elsewhere, particularly in the outer boroughs.

Without question the most "outer" borough, although the 22 minute trip to Manhattan is free, is Staten Island, where I live. There is also no question that the primarily working class community of Stapleton, in which I live, is in the crosshairs of the avaricious developers who subsidize people like Christine Quinn and those who do her bidding in City Hall. The Homeport, a very short distqnce from my home in a very downscale neighborhood, is a likely arena for combat as Bloomberg has invited bids from developers in his attempt to Manhattanize Staten Island. Among the most aggressive Staten Island developers seeking to transform Bay Street into an updated East Houston Street is Casandra.

It is also a fact, as activist minister Rev. Demetrius Carolina (of whose First Central Baptist Chuich in Stapleton I am a member and Social Action Coordinator), has said, that the ethnically quite diverse while heavily African-American North Shore of Staten Island has no African-American elected officials. Like Rebecca Moore, Rev. Carolina is also approximately 100% correct. The North Shore is run by a largely Democratic white establishment, which (e.g. in the case of for example my State Asemblyman Quinn pal Matthew Titone) does not always represents the constituents.

At least two well-known African-American leaders, Rev. Tony Baker and activist Debi Rose, are interested in the City Council seat being vacated by term-limited Quinn pal City Councilman Michael McMahon. If Rev. Baker and Ms. Rose face each other in a Democratic primary, there is a real chance that the white domination of an African-American constituency could continue as a de facto colonial extension of Quinn's power extending across the Bay. As far as I am concerned, should Matthew Titone (who has been known, like Quinn, sometimes talkstenants rights) for some reason decide to run for re-election, he could be beaten by an independent-minded Democrat who really represents the community.

I have spoken some with Ms. Rose, who has assured me that affordable housing and over- development are major issues as far as she is concerned. As far as I am able to tell from experiencing Rev. Baker, a frequent guest at Rev. Carolina's church, he is ready to take on any real estate-influenced Democratic Party machine.

The developer vs. community battle in Staten Island is underway. As "conservative" as Staten Island is said to be, this borough is known for its very potent environmental movement, and for in years past having several times elected to the City Council Mary Codd, one of the most progressive and independent legislators in New York history.

Among the encouraging political realities that could help to bring communiites such as the Lower East Side and Stapleton (among many others in all the boroughs) together is the increasingly visible mayoral candidacy of City Councilmember Tony Avella (D.-Queens). Tony Avella is for tenants rights, the rights of Tibetans and other oppressed people, animal rights and he has shown himself to be against greed. He is the opposite of Christine Quinn.

Some months ago Mr. Avella was near 0% in the polls. More recently, thanks in part to coverage in UP FRONT News, his poll numbers have increased to 4%.

As far as I am able to tell Tony Avella is not only a Democrat but also a democrat.
Remember the Boston Red Sox!
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