Thursday, August 28, 2008


UP FRONT News August 14, 2008
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."


By Tom Weiss

While self-determination is a concept generally applied to international relations, it is just as relevant in connection with relations between local communities with each other and with our governments. Self-determination was the issue before the New York City Council in late May, 2007.

On May 30, 2007 as I was standing on Broadway by City Hall waiting to attend what proved to be an explosive City Council meeting on the Sonny Abubadika Carson street name change controversy, I ran into Councilman Tony Avella (D.-Queens) on his way to the meeting.

What follows is something of a digression but it is relevant to the Sonny Carson story. I am quite well politically acquainted with Mr. Avella, who may be the most independent-minded member of the Council, a body that is autocratically run Marie Antoinette-style ("Let them eat granola") by Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D.-Manh.) It was Mr. Avella who, after Quinn refused my urgings that she sponsor a City Council resolution citing the Chinese Communist Genocide in Tibet and calling for the removal of the 2008 Olympic Games from Beijing, agreed to meet with me, and later also with a group of Tibetan-Americans. After those meetings he introduced NYC Council Resolution #1299 (which cited Tibet and demanded the removal of the Games from China). The bill died in large part because it was suffocated by the silence of, among others, Christine Quinn. Quinn you see is essentially a major cog in the machine of Hillary Clinton, one of many politicians who put profit (e.g. in China and in New York) ahead of human rights.

Hillary and Bill Clinton are personally among those directly involved in the cover-up of the Genocide in Tibet. Much of the maistream media (which certainly includes the multi-billionaire Donald Newhouse-owned Staten Island Advance, the establishment paper in my home borough) is also involved in that coverup. Shades of the political and media (e.g. New York Times) coverup in the 1930's as Hitler's Holocaust against the Jews picked up much steam - even before the gas!

End of digression. I asked Mr. Avella if I could have a few minutes of his time and, unlike a host of other politicians with lots to hide, he said, "Sure." After Mr. Avella assured me that he was still a candidate for mayor (a political fact obscured by the machine-"controlled" Staten Island Advance and by much of the mainstream and "alternative" media but reported in some depth in UP FRONT News) I asked him about the upcoming Council vote on the Sonny Carson street name change issue.

The Council had before it a bill to change the name of a few blocks of Gates Avenue in Brooklyn to Sonny Abubadika Avenue. Sonny Carson, who died on December 20, 2002, grew from a young life in gangs and in prison into a very well-known and a rather uncompromising black nationalist who had been active for years in fighting police brutality, retail store discrimination, and the drug trade. He had played a major role in the establishment of Medgar Evers College.

As it turned out, some words Sonny Carson said years ago in what may be described as righteous anger became a political battle ground in the City Council. And as far as I am concerned, my City Councilman , Michael McMahon (D.-S.I.), voted wrong on this issue - as he does on many issues, not to speak of his unwillingness to do his job as representing all his constituents.

Carson was presumably not a popular man in the Jewish community, in part because of tensions between African-American tenants and Jewish landlords. (Indeed, for many years, I had one of the greediest, most violent, worst landlords ever, the very Orthodox Thomas Berger of Forest Hills, a politically connected - Ed Koch - real estate speculator, who cashed in on some Tribeca lofts, including the one I lived in from 1977 until 1993. This is a guy who, aside from using violence against me, kept me without heat and water for 5 1/2 years as he tried to force me out of my home on the top floor of 190-A Duane Street in Tribeca. One of his lawyers, perhaps anticipating the Michael Douglas-depicted "greed is good" character in "The Firm", at a Loft Board hearing on my case, actually said out loud, "What's wrong with greed?" Berger finally succeeded in displacing me with the major help of a corrupt "liberal" Democratic judge named Marilyn Shafer, who had me evicted for allowing someone to play a flute at a poetry reading at my home. Thomas Berger, very much a public figure in the Orthodox Jewish community, has gone to his synagogue on 108th Street in Forest Hills "religiously" for years while treating The Ten Commandments like trash, at least during business hours.) Carson was reportedly once asked if he was anti-Semitic. Perhaps tacitly acknowledging Semitic roots, Carson said he wasn't anti-Semitic and characterized himself as "anti-white."

On principle I am opposed to generalizations of this sort. At the same time, it might be quite understandable for a Jewish person (e.g. myself, part of whose family died in the Holocaust) to express dislike for Germans and Austrians. (Hitler was very, very popular in the Vienna from which my parents escaped in the nick of time, no thanks to French collaborators with the Nazis.) I've heard Tibetans express strong "anti-Chinese" sentiments. And, while I have nothing against Chinese people, I can very well empathize with the feelings and views often expressed by Tibetans. I am quite certain that many supporters of the Irish martyr Bobby Sands had "anti-English" feelings, perhaps similar to the anti-English views of Americans like George Washington, Paul Revere, Patrick Henry, and Tom Paine, et. al. When Quinn decided that she was not merely the Speaker but also the Queen of the New York City Council and pulled Carson's name out of the street name change list, several Councilmembers rebelled. The most vocal was Charles Barron, a black nationist and former Black Panther, who has done very important work in getting the drug traffickers out of East New York and in fighting police excess. He was a friend of Sonny Carson. (I've been acquainted with Mr. Barron for many years, having been introduced by Rev. Timothy P. Mitchell of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Flushing, Queens, of which I am a member. Rev. Mitchell is in his 70's and retired. He is something of a legend in civil rights, since he worked closely with Rev.Martin Luther King for decades.)

The Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, including the Community Board, rather overwhelm-ingly had expressed its support for the Carson street name change. That is very understandable in a largely African-American community that has a street such as Gates Avenue named for a slaveowner.

When the name change documents, along with a number of similar changes for other streets for other communities, came to the Council, which must approve all such changes, Speaker Quinn pulled out the Carson change, declaring that Carson was "divisive" and that there would be no streets named after Sonny Carson.

Back to Tony Avella. As he has heading towards the entrance gate to City Hall, I asked him if I could talk with him briefly. Unlike a bunch of politicians with something to hide - Christine Quinn and NYC Public Advocate Betsy ("CIA") Gotbaum being two cases in point - Councilman Avella said, "Sure."

We talked a little about Tibet, tenants rights and his candidacy for mayor. I then asked
him how he planned to vote on the Carson street name change bill. He said he had not decided. I asked him if I could give him my view and he said, "Sure." I told him that, while I was not about to vouch for Sonny Carson's diplomatic gifts, I felt that the main issue was self-determination and that the Bedford-Stuyvesant community had a right to honor its own heroes. I also suggested that he discuss the issue with Councilman Barron, hopefully before the vote. He then went inside. I later entered and sat in the balcony packed with Carson supporters.

Not too long after City Councilmembers wandered into the ornate City Council chambers, Mr. Avella went over to Mr. Barron and they chatted together for several minutes, as I observed from the balcony.

The debate was long and very intense. Sitting in positions of monarch-style authority were Gotbaum and Quinn and there were repeated admonitions to the balcony to be quiet.
Charles Barron most certainly did not keep quiet, stating openly his admiration for Sonny Carson and his education-related (helping to start Medgar Evers College) and anti-drug ac-complishments. Barron was eloquently supported by Councilman Al Vann, in whose district the affected street blocks are located and who introduced the bill to restore Carson's name to the list for Council approval. A number of African-American legislators kept silent and ended up voting against the Carson bill, which lost by an atypically close vote. (Under the autocratic Quinn the Council tends to vote monolithically, often with dissenting votes from Avella and/or Barron.) The only two non-African-American Councilmembers who voted in favor of Mr. Vann's bill were Tony Avella and Rosie Mendez. Avella has long made it clear to me that he is not afraid to stand up to Quinn (whom he regards as a "prima donna") on any issue, most certainly including opposition to the Beijing Olympics and opposition to over-development and gentrification. Rosie Mendez (D.-Manh.) is to be congratulated for signs of independence from Christine Quinn.

Several non-African-American Councimembers also spoke against the bill. Councilman Oliver Koppell made known his opposition in a brief speech. In the days preceding the vote Mayor Bloomberg expressed the view, reported in the Daily News on May 29, 2007, that the proposal to name a street after Sonny Carson was "probably the worst idea the City Council, anybody in the City Council, has had in recent memory." The Mayor also said, "I think there's probably nobody whose name I could come up with who less should have a street named after him in this city than Sonny Carson." Hmm! I personally have never been partial to naming streets, etc., after slaveowners, who included a number of our presidents. And so I have serious reservations about the mayor's value system. My City Councilman, Mike McMahon, is much better known for putting his name on almost every garbage can in his North Shore Staten Island district (parts of which are nonetheless litter-ridden) than he is for his open-mindedness, his oratory, and any shred of integrity he may possess. He is also known to take personally any meaningful criticism of his immediate political boss, Christine Quinn, the Marie Antoinette New York City. Indeed, in an angry December, 2006 e-mail to me in which McMahon refused my request for his assistance on some very serious constituent matters, he cited his resentment over my earlier UP FRONT News criticism of Quinn.) I do not recall McMahon's exact words on the Carson bill although they hardly showed any respect whatsoever for Sonny Carson's accomplishments. The Irish-American McMahon, a Democratic Party machine politician from Staten Island, declares that he has the right to decide whom a black neighborhood in Brooklyn has the right to honor. I hope he doesn't start to pontificate about the self-determination rights of Georgians and other oppressed peoples. I wonder how McMahon might respond to very theoretical African-American and Anglo-Saxon opposition to naming a street in an Irish neighborhood after Bobby Sands. I've met the macho McMahon on a number of occasions. Like his Republicrat role models, Bloomberg, Quinn and Hillary Clinton, Mike McMahon is a political chameleon who puts on his more civil and civil rights persona when in front of African-American audiences or dealing with people like my pastor, the very influential Rev. Demetrius Carolina of the First Central Baptist Church in Stapleton. Indeed at a recent meeting at the church, Rev. Carolina - without visible enthusiasm - announced that "the next congressman" (when I asked to whom he was referring, he said "McMahon") would be visiting the church. Terrific! Rev. Carolina, whom I regard as an eloquent civil rights leader, knows there is no way that I will vote for Mike McMahon and that I hope no member of his church votes for a guy who, aside from his refusal to assist this churchmember, seems to think he is a better judge of Sonny Carson's character than Charles Barron and thousands of other African-Americans. To me Mike McMahon represents the worst kind of political and indeed ethnic arrogance. All this should be an important campaign issue for Steve Harrison, a progressive anti-Iraq War Democrat challenging McMahon for the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 13th C.D., which covers all of Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. This district has become world famous as our Republican Congressman Vito Fossella, following the footsteps of such macho role models and Bill Clinton and Elliot Spitzer (but probably not however anticipating the fall of John Edwards), got arrested last May for DUI as he was automobile-careening his way to his lover's house in Virginia, as his (blissfully?) unaware wife and kids were at home in Staten Island. Within a few political moments of Fossella's fall from whatever "grace" he may have had, Mike McMahon, who had been after the Borough Presidency of Staten Island, announced his candidacy for congress. And, within a few political moments after that, the Clinton/Quinn-run Democratic machine that runs the North Shore of Staten Island like a colony lined up for McMahon as did some labor unions and political clubs. The Staten Island Advance, quite clearly New York's most politically censored newspaper, has pretty much endorsed its poster boy McMahon by editorializing that the next congressman should be from the Staten Island part of the district. Harrison lives in Brooklyn. I've discussed all this very directly with Steve Harrison. If he is ready to fully take on Mike McMahon and challenge him on his negligences vis as vis me, his cavalier attitudes about human rights (e.g. the Tibetans) and his shuffling of the race cards in the Council on the Sonny Carson issue, I'll support Harrison. If, however, Mr. Harrison wants to emulate John Kerry, who wimped out repeatedly in his run against George W. Bush in 2004, he will lose like Kerry, only probably by a significantly greater margin In that case Mike McMahon will also be up against me as a Democratic write- in candidate for the U.S. Congress.
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