01/09/14 10:45am

Robert Van Wyck, Ice Trust Scandal, Puck Magazine 1900 1On January 1st, 1898, Brooklyn officially became a part of Greater New York City. The consolidation of the five boroughs into one city, what many in Brooklyn called “The Great Mistake,” was now a reality. Brooklyn was no longer an independent city. There were a lot of good reasons to consolidate, as well as equally good reasons not to. One of the main reasons many Brooklynites did not want to be associated with Manhattan was political. Manhattan, throughout most of the 19th century, was run by Tammany Hall, the powerful and increasingly corrupt Democratic Party patronage machine.

To be sure, Brooklyn had its political corruption on both sides of the aisle, as well as its Tammany Hall bosses, but the Republicans managed to control the city from the end of the Civil War until the waning years of the 19th century, keeping Tammany Hall at bay. Everyone knew they ran Manhattan politics, and many prominent Brooklynites didn’t want to have anything to do with them. But it was not to be.

Consolidation had passed the legislature well before 1898, and the winner of the 1897 mayoral election always knew he’d be mayor of Greater New York City. Reformers eager to get rid of Tammany Hall put up wealthy Brooklyn businessman Seth Low as their candidate for mayor. He was the son of one of Brooklyn’s oldest and wealthiest merchant families, and was well respected as a man of integrity. Opposing him would be Robert Anderson Van Wyck, also a son of old New York stock. His Dutch ancestors had helped settle Brooklyn and Queens back in the 1600s.

Van Wyck, like Seth Low, was a Columbia College graduate, and a lawyer. He was a social animal, a member of many of the city’s best clubs, and was a prominent Freemason. He had gone into politics as a Democrat, and was elected Judge of the City Court of NY, and later Chief Justice of that same court. He resigned from the bench when Richard Croker, the Tammany Boss of NYC, picked him as the Democratic candidate for mayor.

Van Wyck might have liked to think that he was asked to be the Democratic candidate because he was the most qualified for the job, but the truth was that Tammany Hall picked him because they knew he wouldn’t give them any problems while Croker and cronies went about really running the city. He was a colorless and rather boring man with a big ego. With Tammany’s backing, he easily won the election, and became the first mayor of the metropolis of New York City. (more…)

11/25/13 10:00am

Harlem was long considered the epicenter of black political power in this city, but now Brooklyn, with three newly elected black candidates, has become the new home for much of the city’s black politics, according to the Daily News.

Public advocate elect Letitia James, the first black woman elected to citywide office (above); Ken Thompson, soon to become Brooklyn’s first black district attorney; and Eric Adams, who will become the borough’s first black president, are all natives of central Brooklyn. (more…)

11/06/13 9:00am

election day

There were few surprises in yesterday’s election, but a lot of Brooklyn:

Park Sloper Bill de Blasio won the mayor race by a landslide, although turnout at the polls was light. Fort Greene Councilwoman Letitia James will take his place as public advocate. “After demolishing a packed field of third-party contenders, [she will become] the first African-American woman to hold a citywide position,” said The Brooklyn Paper.

State Senator Eric Adams easily won Brooklyn Borough President over conservative Elias Weir. He will be the first black politician to occupy the office.

In his acceptance speech, de Blasio “reiterated his pledges to combat economic inequality by taxing rich people, providing universal prekindergarten, ending racial profiling by police, and fighting to keep hospitals from being closed to make way for luxury condos, as activists and judges have said the state wants to do with Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital,” said Brooklyn Paper.

“‘The feeling of a few doing well while the rest slip further behind is the defining challenge of our times,’ DeBlasio said to cheers. Fighting to keep the Cobble Hill hospital and Interfaith Medical Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant open in the face of state closure plans in his role as public advocate has been a signature effort of his campaign — he has gone so far as to get arrested protesting the shuttering — and a group of hospital staffers came out on Tuesday night to show their appreciation.”

On the controversial topic of stop-and-frisk, The New York Times quoted him as saying:

“Public safety is a prerequisite for the thriving neighborhoods that create opportunity in this city. And so is respect for civil liberties. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we must have both. We must work to promote a real partnership between the best police force in the world and the communities they protect from danger, be it local or global. New Yorkers on both sides of the badge understand this.”

Do you think he will make a good mayor? Did you vote?

Photo by Charles16e

09/12/13 9:00am

brooklyn-bridge-091213

We already touched on this topic yesterday in our reblog of primary news, but late yesterday the Times had a sweeping story about how this year’s primaries show the power of the new Brooklyn.

In New York City, few stories have gotten more attention in recent years than the ascendancy of Brooklyn. What was once a national punch line became a catch phrase for urban cool — and very costly urban cool, at that. But on Tuesday night, with Bill de Blasio emerging as the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary and Joseph J. Lhota winning the Republican nomination, Brooklyn moved to center stage politically in a way not seen in decades. Both candidates hail from the borough, and both were propelled by constituencies that populate it. It was like a variation on an often repeated line: Brooklyn is the new Manhattan. Now, Brooklyn is not only the new kingmaker, but also the borough of kings — or at least of the next mayor and the next public advocate, too.

New York City last elected a mayor from Brooklyn in 1973, when the borough was a very different place. “That Brooklyn would be almost unrecognizable today — grittier, poorer, more dangerous. Brownstone Brooklyn has evolved into a gentrified destination for growing numbers of upper-middle-class singles and young couples seeking intimate neighborhoods, artisanal shops and restaurants, and liberal politics,” said the story. The borough — which now, of course, has its own major-league sports team, arena, and tons of Brooklyn based businesses and brands — is seeing a major growth spurt in both jobs and population. The number of people living in Brooklyn is up more than 60,000 since 2010. We are nearing our population peak of 2.7 million, which occurred in 1950.

Another interesting demographic shift the story noted: Black people increasingly live in Brooklyn, not Manhattan. “The city’s black political center of gravity has shifted from Harlem to Brooklyn, which now accounts for more than 4 in 10 black voting-age New Yorkers (compared with a little more than 1 in 10 in Manhattan),” said the Times.

Lastly, the election perhaps signaled an exasperation with the Manhattan-centric Bloomberg mayorality. Do you agree?

In Primaries, Brooklyn Emerged as Big Winner [NY Times]
Photo by Anne Holmes

09/11/13 10:45am

election day

Brooklyn-based candidates won some of the most hotly contested seats in yesterday’s primary, noted The Brooklyn Paper, with “Park Sloper Bill DeBlasio claiming the Democratic nomination for mayor, Brooklyn Heights boy Joe Lhota grabbing the Republican line, and Carroll Gardens state Sen. Daniel Squadron and Fort Greene Councilwoman Letitia James heading into a runoff for Public Advocate.” Quite a few of the ballot hopefuls for citywide elections came from Brooklyn, including Bill Thompson, who was born in Bed Stuy, Sal Albanese and Anthony Weiner.

So far, DeBlasio has garnered more than 40 percent of the votes, necessary to win, but the ballots are still being counted. If there is a runoff election, it will be against Thompson.

The outcome of a number of closely watched Brooklyn City Council races are likely to affect development in the borough. In the 33rd District, incumbent Steve Levin of Greenpoint, who had ties to former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, beat challenger Stephen Pierson, who had promised to sue the city over developments Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial Street. No word yet on whether he still intends to do so.

In the nearby 34th District, relative newcomer Antonio Reynoso beat Lopez, who had been hugely influential on housing issues in Brooklyn and citywide until forced to resign from the state legislature because of sexual harassment charges. In the 35th District, Laurie Cumbo will replace Tish James as council member.

Cumbo said she will be more friendly to developers, according to The Brooklyn Paper. “It would be almost malpractice to be a council member and to have no relationship with the developers who are building this community,” she said. How do you like that?

Brooklyn Wins Big at the Primaries [Brooklyn Paper]
Antonio Reynoso Beats Vito Lopez and Stephen Levin Keeps City Council Seat [DNAinfo]
Photo by Charles16e

07/17/13 4:00pm


Tomorrow the Fulton Area Business Alliance is co-sponsoring a forum for candidates running for New York City Council to represent the residents and businesses of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Bedford-Suyvesant and Crown Heights. So far five candidates have agreed to participate: Ola Alabi, Laurie Cumbo, Ede Fox, Jelani Mashariki, and Frank Hurley. The panel moderators represent the Brooklyn Movement Center, Transportation Alternatives, the NYLCV Education Fund, and the Pratt Area Community Council. The event is tomorrow, July 18th, from 7:00 pm to 8:30pm at the Irondale Center, and it’s free.

05/22/13 11:39am

“For every developer who has seen an investment turn into a real estate bonanza, there’s a family in a neighborhood like Sunnyside trying desperately to keep up with a rising property tax bill. For every strip of stores that celebrated the opening of a more convenient Starbucks, there’s a hardworking middle class family struggling to put their kids through college on the profits earned by a family-run business,” writes Anthony Weiner in his “Keys to the City” [PDF], a policy document that was released a few weeks before Wednesday’s announcement of his mayoral candidacy.

The term “middle class” is prevalent throughout, as it was in the 2012 presidential campaign. But campaign-speak aside, Weiner does articulate a number of specific changes through a list of 64 reforms. For transit, he supports the expansion of ferry service to serve Rockaway, Sheepshead Bay, Riverdale and Harlem. He wats cell phone service on every subway platform – probably a daunting cost for the cash-strapped MTA. He wants city tax breaks for employees who bike to work.

Weiner’s real estate proposals would likely be contentious. He wants…

(more…)

05/01/13 12:00pm

participatory-budgeting-050113
A study of the participatory budgeting process that took place in Brooklyn’s District 39 this year revealed that it attracts traditionally disengaged or disadvantaged citizens, reported DNAinfo. “Through about 7,300 city-wide surveys and 82 exit interviews, the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center found that participatory budgeting, where community members can decide how to spend $1 million in taxpayer money on neighborhood improvements, attracts low-income, minority and women voters, as well as those disillusioned with the government,” the story said. More specifically, more than 60 percent of participants were women, a third were people of color and almost a quarter reported incomes below $35,000. More than half said they disapprove of how the City conducts business and a third said they rarely vote. The process also provides a way for the disenfranchized to participate in politics. About 600 of the participants are not allowed to vote, either because of age, citizenship or arrests. District 39 is repped by Council Member Brad Lander and includes Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, and Borough Park.
Participatory Budgeting Brings in Women and Minority Voters [DNAinfo]
Photo by South Slope News

04/01/13 12:00pm


It’s Participatory Budget voting week! Eight districts throughout New York City are participating, all of which you can see here. In Brooklyn, those districts are 33, 39, 44 and 45. Anyone who lives within the district and is 16 years of age or older can vote; the voting locations, days, and the ballots are listed here. Voters can choose up to five projects that have been selected by community residents during a year-long process. Each district has allocated at least $1 million to fund a number of the most popular projects. In total, about $10 million will be allocated through the Participatory Budgeting vote. Above, a video of last year’s voting process by Council Member Brad Lander, who spearheaded the participatory budgeting vote in Brooklyn last year. Since then Participatory Budgeting has doubled in size, with eight Council Members participating, who represent over one million New Yorkers.
PBNYC Voting — April 1-7, 2013 [Participatory Budgeting in NYC]

03/26/13 10:00am

suny-downstate-medical-center-032613
Now there is no money in the state budget for SUNY Downstate, the Central Brooklyn parent of Cobble Hill’s Long Island College Hospital, which SUNY Downstate officials just last week voted to shutter. “The state’s new budget — which the Senate began adopting Sunday — contains no new funds for the ailing Brooklyn hospital…SUNY officials…must submit a restructuring plan for the hospital by June,” said The New York Daily News. SUNY Downstate, located in East Flatbush, is the only academic medical center in Brooklyn and the borough’s fourth largest employer. SUNY Downstate is just the latest of Brooklyn medical centers to experience financial difficulties recently: Also troubled are Interfaith Medical Center in Bed Stuy and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Bushwick. Meanwhile, the Daily News reports, developers are salivating to get their hands on the prime Cobble Hill waterfront site currently occupied by SUNY Downstate’s Long Island College Hospital, and SUNY officials admitted real estate played a role in their decision to sell off the property. What do you think is ailing Brooklyn’s hospitals, and will we have enough to support the growing number of Brooklyn residents?
State Nixes Bailout for Ailing SUNY Brooklyn Hospital [NY Daily News]
Developers Licking Chop Over Cobble Hill’s LICH Site [NY Daily News]
Photo by Jim.henderson via Wikimedia Commons

03/25/13 12:00pm

participatory-budgeting-032513The team at Council Member Brad Lander’s office has compiled a list of Participatory Budgeting ballot projects. Now it’s up to the voters to decide how to distribute the $1 million and make some projects a reality! Residents of the 39th City Council District can vote from Tuesday, April 2nd to Sunday, April 7th. Voters are able to choose a total of five projects. While the list of projects runs long, here are a few:

    • John Jay High School Campus Media & Filmmaking Lab — Computer lab and auditorium projector will provide state-of-the-art technology and student filmmaking program for four schools
    • Groundswell Community Mural Project Media Upgrade — Multimedia capable computers and printers for an organization that brings communities together to create murals for social change
    • Equipment for Community Compost Program — Truck and shredder to enhance composting project funded last year, processing household and school food scraps and leaves
    • Additional Benches for Prospect Park — Provide additional park benches at selected sites along the interior of the park, mainly along ball field path
    • Bus Clocks at 10 to 20 Bus Stops Across District — Where is the next bus? Electronic signs at your stop tell you! DOT will install 10 to 20 displays throughout the district
    • Ocean Parkway Pedestrian Safety Improvements — Improvements to the streets, crosswalks, curbs and signage around Yeshiva Torah Temimah School on Ocean Parkway
    • Hicks Street Pedestrian Safety Improvements — Fixing a visibility-limiting fence, extending curbs or other additions on this high traffic street by schools and parks

See the full list of proposals here. The Council Member will post videos about each of the projects later this week. Which ones are you most excited about?
Photo of the group process via Brad Lander