Saturday, May 31, 2008

SOHO-IZING STATEN ISLAND.

UP FRONT News May 21, 2008
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UPFRONTNewsdiscussionforum
http://www.tomsupfrontnews.blogspot.com/

SOHO-IZING STATEN ISLAND. DOWNTOWN STATEN ISLAND COUNCIL "URBAN
DESIGN PLAN" MEANS GENTRIFICATION AND ECONOMIC ETHNIC CLEANSING FOR STAPLETON, ST. GEORGE AND NORTH SHORE STATEN ISLAND. HANDS OFF CANAL STREET (S.I.)! POST-"FOSSELLA FALL" POLITICS. DEMOCRAT STEVE HARRISON IN FRONT (?)

By Tom Weiss

The May 21 meeting of the Staten Island at Scott's Armory Inn in Westerleigh got off to a very tense beginning because, as I arrived, local "peace" hothead David Jones (whose wife Sally is the Chairperson of Peace Action of Staten Island (PASI), a group with some extremism- related problems), made what would be his second attempt at getting physical with me.

On April 5 Jones had to be physically restrained by First Central Baptist Churchmember Marilyn Averett from assaulting me on Wright Street in Stapleton at a so-called "peace" event in the FCBC parking lot. Jones became blazingly incensed because I had been criitical of his wife's rather secretive (mis)handling of the event-scheduling arrangements and the evidently arbitrary PASI decision to invite one Democratic congressional candidate (Steve Harrison) to speak and not another candidate, City Councilman Dominic Recchia.

Indeed, certainly in light of some previous near hostilities between me and PASI (which once, thanks to the dubiouis political wisdom of "Green"-oriented "anarchist" Mike May, invited a neo-fascist criminal named Geoffrey Blank to speak at one of their events in 2005) and because of the violent nature of Jones' behavior on April 5, it became necesary for me to make an official complaint of criminal harassment with the NYPD.

As I arrived at the SIDA meeting, Jones literally jumped out his chair, moved in my direction and demanded that a SIDA officer throw me out. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and, with the assistance of a SIDA veteran name "Mark", who reminded Jones that I had every right to be in at the meeting, Jones scowlingly took his seat next to Sally.

As far as David Jones is concerned, his temper makes John McCain appear pacific by comparison. Mr. Jones needs to understand that if there is to be "peace" with me, he will have to chill in my presence, whether at PASI events at the Staten Island Unitarian Church, at Steve Harrison events and anywhere else. A repeat of any threats from Mr. Jones or if he so much as lays a finger on me will result in my pressing charges and he can wind up looking politically somewhat like Vito Fossella, perhaps even sharing a jail cell with his alter-ego outgoing congressman.

The meeting was devoted primarily to a presentation by Dan C. Marrotta, Esq. of the Downtown Staten Island Council (DSIC) of the so-called "Urban Design Plan" for downtown Staten Island. "Downtown" in the plan includes the North Shore Communities of St. George, Tompkinsville, Stapleton (where I live) and Clifton.

It soon became apparent that the plan, described in one of the publicity pieces as a "vision for the future of downtown Staten Island", is in fact a blueprint for over-development, gentrifi- cation and, certainly in connection with very ethnically diverse Stapleton, a form of economic ethnic cleansing. Indeed, the plan includes a proposal to extend the borders of Tappen Park at least one block eastward toward the waterfront and the real estate magnet known as the Homeport. The park would go through the easternmost block of Canal Street and would dis- place an entire block of residents - including me - and some small businesses.

When during a lively Q&A I asked Mr. Moratta what would happen to the residents, e.g. me, his response was direct. He said, "I don't know." My response, which will be echoed by lots of other people from Stapleton and other communities in Staten Island and beyond (UP FRONT News is widely read in all the boroughs and beyond), is "fuhgeddaboudit!."

The plan is a classic Michael Bloomberg/Christine Quinn-style "green"-camouflaged pre- scription for the upscale transformation of several working class communities in increasingly real estate-"hot" Staten Island. I told those present about my close involvement with communities such as the East Village, the Lower East Side, Tribeca, Soho and Noho, which, thanks to a series of mayors of both political parties, have experienced repeated tsunamis of over-development and gentrification. Those interested might read my UP FRONT News accounts of the efforts of people like Lower East Side musician/activist Rebecca Moore. Ms. Moore, with whom I have been personally acquainted for several years, is the founder of the Ludlow/Orchard Community Organization (LOCO) and an organizer of the anti-gentrification network known as "Take It to the Bridge." Indeed, Ms. Moore and her group recently got some unexpected mainstream media coverage in The New York Times and the New York Post for a demonstration against the offensively upscale boutique "Varvatos" that replaced the legendary CBGB on the now increasingly glitzy Bowery.

Mr. Marrotta manifested at best a superficial awareness, certainly of Stapleton, which he described as a crime-ridden backwater full of nothing but poor people and in need of some upscaling. He cited NYPD statistics reporting a "spike" in crime in Stapleton and St. George. There is no question that there is more street crime in Stapleton than perhaps in Sutton Place (where the off-street crimes often escape the attention of the NYPD). As far as I am concerned, the NYPD is not always a reliable source, especially taking into account the reality
that what the NYPD considers "crime" tends to be race and class-based.

I was very glad that among those in attendance was Democratic City Council candidate
Rev. Tony Baker, Pastor of the St. Phillips Baptist Church in Port Richmond, another ethnically diverse community and one very much victimized by subprime lender predators. In my brief conversation with Rev. Baker (who can be expected to end the white monopoly of elected political power in Staten Island) he expressed agreement with my views on the "plan" and assured me that it is not one of those "done deals."

As far as I am able to tell, the anti-gentrification movement in Staten Island can expect the support of one of the most important human rights forces in Staten Island (who was not at the meeting) Rev. Demetrius Carolina, Pastor of the aforementioned First Central Baptist Church, of which I am a member.

As might be imagined there was much discussion of the "Fall of Fossella." What emerged at this meeting is that peace activist Steve Harrison is definitely the popular front runner among progressive Democrats. Harrison drew 43% of the vote against Fossella in 2006 while being substantially outspent by the Bill Clinton romance-emulating "family values" Republican.

Mr. Harrison is backed by several Democratic clubs including the potent SIDA. In his talk at the event, he stressed not only his opposition to the Iraq War but also his readiness to take on the real estate developers and other corporate predators (only he didn't say "predators").

I just did something I rarely do and that is to essentially throw away 50 cents and purchased a copy of the multibillionaire media mogul Donald Newhouse-owned Staten Island Advance, New York's most politically censored and, as Rev. Carolina once succinctly put it, "controlled" paper. The resident censors include political editor Tom ("Wrongleski") Wrobleski and editor Marjorie Hack. This is a newspaper that, aside from suppressing the story of my Democratic write-in candidacy for the U.S. Senate against Republicrat Hillary Clinton (visit http://www.tomweissdemocratforussenate.blogspot.com/), is directly involved in the political (e.g. Bill and Hillary Clinton) and media coverup of the Genocide in Tibet. The Advance (aka the Staten Island Retreat) also protected the reactionary and uncaring Vito Fossella for years and now Wrobleskli is journalistically jumping on Fossella's political grave.

Wrobleski, who consistently cowtows to the Staten Island poliitcal establishment, is trying to breathe life into to the opportunistic aspirations of others such as Slush Fund Queen Christine Quinn's representative in Staten Island, City Councilman Michael McMahon, a very ambitious guy with a record of putting politics ahead of principle. Wrobleski also gives State Senator Diane Savino some free publicity. Until Ms. Savino does something about her anger-management-challenged Chief of Staff Robert Cataldo, who is under the totally mistaken impression that the voters elected him to the State Senate, she should abandon any higher political aspirations and do a better job constituent services-wise in her current position.

Perhaps, from a somewhat personal standpoint, the most startling development was that the man who gave me a ride back to Stapleton and then helped return to me my dropped cell phone was Staten Island Democratic Party leader Chris Bauer, who is about to become Chief of Staff to my State Assemblyman Matthew Titone. That has to be an improvement over the mercifully departing Keith Parascandola, whose negligence with regard to my very serious constituent needs has caused Mr. Titone considerable embarassment in the pages of UP FRONT News.

And so politics in this so-called "forgotten borough" has its "mysterious ways." Under any circumstances, Staten Island, which has a grass roots cultural and art life that Manhattan could learn from, is really interesting.
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