Tuesday, July 08, 2008


UP FRONT News June 24, 2008
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."

By Tom Weiss

This is part of what is likely to be a continuing series focusing on for the most part the politically fraudulent. By that I am referring to people, mostly in politics, who present themselves as human rights advocates but are in fact only in it for themselves.

In light of the conclusion of the most recent immorality play known as the NYC Rent Guidelines Board hearings, which predictably worsened the "rent-flation" crisis, and the consequent and inevitable "tenants rights" grandstanding by the Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn, this article on political frauds focuses on Ms. Quinn, a major component of what I refer to as the Quinnberg Administration.

Among the reporters who serve essenatially as press agents for the Quinnberg Administration is Sally Goldenberg. Ms. Goldenberg until recently was the City Hall reporter for the
Staten Island Advance, perhaps the most politically censored daily paper in New York. The Advance, whose lead censor is political editor Tom ("Wrongleski") Wrobleski, is owned by media mogul Donald Newhouse, one of the 100 richest men in America and a guy who seems to regard the First Amendment as perhaps an attachment to the Communist Manifesto. I've talked by telephone with the Conde-Nast-connected Newhouse; the guy is a robot and it is no surprise that his Staten Island paper is widely known as the Staten Island Retreat because of its habitual suppressing of stories that can change the system. The Advance has been protecting a entrenched clique of (mostly Democratic) politicians on the North Shore for years and only began to uncover the corrupt Republican Vito Fossella after Dick Cheney's favorite Congressman from New York City got busted for DUI on the way to his lover's house.

Sally Goldenberg, presumably for more mogul money, is now working for Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. In her story on the recent Rent Guidelines Board hearing, Goldenberg asserted that Quinn "fiercely" spoke of for tenants rights. Yeesh!

It is a fact that the very, very, very, very developer-friendly Quinn has made something of a rhetorical career out of spouting anti-landlord militance at tenants rallies and meetings. In this she is joined by her ally, the self-purported tenants rights spokesperson Mike ("The Knife") McKee.

During the years of the Quinnberg Administration, New Yorkers have been assaulted, and sometime killed (e.g. crane accidents), by what has become a tsunami of development of what New York City least needs, luxury housing. Bloomberg and Quinn have essentially told the most rapacious real estate developers and their corporate allies (e.g. in the sports world, such as George Steinbrenner and the Quinn-supported mega tax giveaway known as the new Yankee Stadium), "The City is yours, build and the rich will come. We have shelters and drop-in centers for the poor and the displaced working middle class can go to New Jersey." Bloomberg and Quinn are giving the most economically and culturally diverse city in the world away to the developers and turned our town over to the people who constitute the true "Gangs of New York."

In order to be at least somewhat politically correct in a city where there are large numbers of tenants who vote, Quinn and her "same hex" marriage partner Bloomberg offer small per-centages of what is euphemistically called "affordable" housing.

At the same time, tottering and lethal cranes help to erect obscene and unneeded high rises while acres of apartments are warehoused. The MTA moguls get free EZ passes so they don't have to ride the subways as they consider the next totally unjustifiable fare increase. And Queen wannabe Quinn presides over a slush fund operation that would do another Queen, Marie Antoinette, proud.

Working class neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side/Chinatown in Manhattan and Stapleton (where I live) in Staten Island have the developers literally salivating as they finance the campaign funds of people like Christine Quinn. The Lower East Side has experienced an onslaught of luxury housing and hotelization with the accompanying commercial gentrification that has led to bar proliferation. That greed-motivated phenomenon has generated protests led by people like LES community activists Rebecca Moore and Susan Howard, among others. Indeed the musician Moore, with whom I am personally acquainted, recently led a protest (covered briefly in The New York Times and the New York Post) in front of the grotesquely upscale Varvatos boutique that replaced the ousted CBGB's night club. Also a rather conspicuous beneficiary of the mass gentrification in Lower Manhattan has been the Bowery Poetry Club run by poetry-profiteer Bob Holman who, along with his Green Party publicity stuntman Sander Hicks ("Vox Pop"), is one of the voices of cover charge socialism in New York.

The tenants "movement" in NYC is in big trouble since it in fact remains hostage to operators like the aforementioned McKee, who is largely responsible for the Rent Guidelines Board giveaways to the landlords in the first place. An effort started over one year ago to generate a true New York-wide tenants organization called the Union of New York Tenants (UNYTE)
remains on life support because of internal divisions not to speak of McKee-generated infil- trations. Unfortunately one of the more effective and key UNYTE organizers, Monte Schapiro, a tenant in a building on East 5th Street owned by the profiteering Ben Shaoul, has apparently been struck silent as regards UNYTE.

The existing euphemism known as rent stabilization is a loophole-riddled safety net of sorts. It is better than nothing. Indeed, if the laissez faire "libertarians" had their way and removed statutory rent protections entirely, one would have to house the homeless in stadiums, perhaps in the manner employed by Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet, who kept political dissidents in a soccer stadium in Santiago.

The fact remains however that under rent stabilization the landlords are getting away with economic murder. At the Rent Guidlines Board the landlords predictably make rent increase demands so exhorbitant they know they won't get, fully aware that they will be allowed to pick tenant pockets incrementally anyway. My former landlord, the very politically connected (Ed Koch, et. al.) Thomas Berger (founder of the loftlord lobbying group called the Association of Commercial Property Owners), cooked his books at for example 190-A Duane Street in Tribeca (where I Iived as a loft tenant for 16 years) so effectively he should have been a chef.
Cooking the books and concealing profits is a way of life in the landlord-developer community. "Rent stabilization" lets them get away with it.

As readers of UP FRONT News are aware, on multiple occasion late in the 20th century two state legislators State Senator John Flynn (R.-Yonkers) and Assemblyman John Dearie (D.- Bx.) introduced the Flynn-Dearie Rent Protection Act. Flynn-Dearie would have required any landlord or landlady seeking a rent increase for any reason to prove need by opening his or her books for auditing by the state. Flynn-Dearie was backed by a number of tenants organizations, most importantly the large New York Metropolitan Council on Housing, led in those days by leftists such as Esther Rand and Jane Benedict.

Since Flynn-Dearie was co-sponsored by a veteran Republican, the tenant-sensitive John Flynn, it could have passed and become law. Among the people who killed Flynn-Dearie was the nefarious right wing (Manhattan Institute?) plant Mike McKee. McKee lined up with the landlord lobby and denounced the "open the books" provision as "too cumbersome." Flynn-Dearie as a result died multiple deaths in Albany. McKee then went on to do what he always does and denounced Republicans.

In fact, I did my best to save Flynn-Dearie by, among other travels, visiting my past hometown of Binghamton and leaving some mail at the Riverside Drive (that's Binghamton, not Manhattan) home of then Republican State Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson, with whom I exchanged correspondence in Albany. Indeed my efforts were the subject of a story in the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin (by Mike Gormley, later with the Albany-Times Union and now at the Albany bureau of the Associated Press). Sen. Anderson was no tenants rights advocate but it was McKee and his landlord-connected "liberal" Democrats who killed Flynn-Dearie and who have given us the Swiss Cheese law called rent stabilization, which even allows for "owner occupancy" evictions, as the beleaguered tenants of 47 East 3rd Street in Manhattan have found out.

Christine Quinn and Mike McKee, consistently avoiding the key question of opening the landlord books, yammer about the fact that, as far as rent protection legislation is concerned, the laws are made in Albany and we don't have "home rule." That begs the issue. In fact, I am not at all certain that placing rent protection legislation under the control of a slush fund-baptized City Council very much under Quinnberg control, would constitute an improvement.

Christine Quinn gets tons of campaign cash from the developer lobby. If she were to endorse the "open the books" principle central to Flynn-Dearie, that cash flow would dry up. Quinn wants to be the mayor of New York City, which, from a tenants rights perspective, would be an unmitigated disaster. The only beneficiaries would be the developers and fifth columnists like McKee, who would probably get a very well-paid job in a Queen Quinn Administration.

At this point, while Christine Quinn's chances of getting my vote are about as good as John McCain's, I am not certain whom I will endorse.

I am, however, glad the the anti-gentrification, pro-tenant and pro-Free Tibet City Councilman Tony Avella is running for mayor.
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