“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…
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
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]
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
The 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
Has any one else noticed the unusual series of bus-shelter billboards in Bed Stuy about race and such topics as fast food, stop and frisk, and real estate? Colorlines Press has done a story about the series, although they were not able to uncover the identities of the creators of the series and its accompanying Tumblr blog. Whoever they are, the group, Racism Still Exists, or RISE, clearly has some resources because it’s not free to rent billboards, as Colorlines points out. “RISE is a project designed to illuminate some of the ways in which racism operates in this country,” explains the group on its Tumblr. While we would hasten to point out that fast food chains do in fact exist in white neighborhoods — absolutely! — we think their characterization of the effects of subprime lending is pretty spot-on, even if some of the details of the causes could be debated. You should see the junk mail we get.
Series of Bed Stuy Billboards Puts Racial Inequity on Display [Colorlines]
Racism Still Exists [Tumblr]
The Department of Transportation has formally responded to Assemblyman Joseph Lentol’s request for a dedicated bike lane on the Pulaski Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Queens via Greenpoint and Long Island City. In late November, the DOT revealed it was undertaking a feasibility study, and that is pretty much what they told Lentol, but with more details: The DOT investigation is being conducted by the Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs unit. It will examine “traffic conditions on the roadway, the structure of the movable bridge and the connections on the Brooklyn and Queens sides of the bridge,” according to a press release on the matter sent out by Lentol’s office. The investigation will be completed by March 2013. The bridge currently has a lane that both pedestrians and cyclists share. Lentol has said he hopes that decreasing the three lanes of car traffic to only two would slow cars on the bridge. “I have long advocated for traffic calming measures on McGuinness Boulevard and this proposed bike lane would undoubtedly slow drivers down, while making the Pulaski Bridge safer for pedestrians and cyclists who travel along this road everyday,” he said.
Photo by New York Shitty
The village of Breuckelen was established in 1646 by the Dutch, as just about everyone knows. Over the next several centuries, this small village on the river’s edge grew to become the fourth largest city in the nation. The City of Brooklyn was incorporated in 1836, and over the years had many mayors. The early mayors, up until 1839, were appointed by the Common Council and served a term of a year. They could be re-appointed, if necessary, but no one served for all that long. In 1854, the office of mayor became an elected one, originally with a two year term. This was the case until Brooklyn became a part of the greater City of New York, in 1898.
Whether appointed or elected, Brooklyn’s mayors, like political leaders anywhere, were a mixed bunch. There were great mayors, placeholders, and disasters. Honest men, greedy and unscrupulous men, and men who made so little difference, they have long been forgotten. One of Brooklyn’s earlier appointed mayors was one of the great men. Not so much because he was in office when great things happened, but because he was an honest man with a desire to help his fellow man, no matter the personal cost. In this holiday season, here’s the story of Mayor Francis B. Stryker. (more…)
General Benjamin Franklin Tracy, General James Jourdan and Mr. Silas Dutcher were known as the “Three Graces” back in 1870s Brooklyn. The three of them, all elected officials, had Brooklyn and the Republican Party firmly in their very competent and powerful grasp. Working together, as the state’s attorney, police and health commissioner, and chief tax collector, respectively, these men were able to control not only their political party but the affairs of one of the nation’s fastest growing cities. The United States was recovering from the Civil War, and industries once making weapons and war materials were now making consumer goods for a new middle class that wanted to buy. Brooklyn’s factories were humming, and thousands of immigrants and native born people were pouring into the city, coming here to work and live, joining the population already here. It was an exciting time to be in Brooklyn, but it was also a time when crime, corruption and urban ills were on the rise. Strong leaders were needed, and the men known as the “Graces” were in the perfect position to gain and hold power. (more…)
Today the city council is set to look at whether or not developers of Downtown residential buildings need to include parking with their new buildings, as currently required by zoning laws, The New York Times reported. Some city officials, developers and public transportation advocates say Downtown already has too much parking! (Is there any such thing?) Council Member Letitia James said she was not convinced it’s a good idea to scrap parking already built, since developers will likely just transform it into more luxury housing rather than, say, community space or affordable housing. Borough President Marty Markowitz’s call for increased bike parking, already covered by this blog, will not be addressed today. What do you think? Is this a giveaway to developers, or would Downtown be better off with less parking in new residential developments?
City Takes up Zoning to Erase Downtown’s Glut of Parking Spaces [NY Times]
Photo by Benzadrine
The War Between the States was well over by 1870, and Ulysses S. Grant, the victorious general of the Union Army, was now President of the United States. In Washington, Grant was finding out that it is often a lot easier to run a war than to run a country. Here in Brooklyn, a war still raged, but this one was not between states, but between factions of Grant’s own political party, the Republicans, now the de facto rulers of Brooklyn. Two Civil War era generals and a civilian businessman formed a powerful triumvirate, nicknamed by the press the “Three Graces.” These three men, General James Jourdan, General Benjamin F. Tracy and Silas P. Dutcher, had wrested control of the Republican Party and the city of Brooklyn away from everyone else, and they ruled Brooklyn throughout Grant’s entire administration like a medieval fiefdom. (more…)
The latest proposed redistricting plan for the Brooklyn City Council reflects increased populations in Park Slope and Williamsburg, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The process, with public input, has been ongoing since September; the latest map was given the thumbs-up by the council’s redistricting commission last week. The City Council will vote on the revised plan today. To even up the number of people voting in each district, under the proposal, parts of Park Slope will switch from the 33rd district represented by Councilman Steve Levin to the 39th, represented by Brad Lander. This will help make up for population increases in both Park Slope and Williamsburg. Meanwhile, the 43rd district, which includes parts of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, will expand to include a section of Bath Beach, formerly represented by Staten Island Councilman James Oddo.
New Council Map Reflects Population Changes [Brooklyn Eagle]
Map via Brooklyn Eagle
Politics have taken up our front pages for months now, and now that the election is over, in the spirit of Tip O’Neill, who famously said “All politics is local,” I bring you the story of three politicians who ruled Brooklyn in the years after the Civil War. Two were Civil War veterans, highly decorated generals in the Union Army. The third was a civilian, a merchant and career civil servant, and a canny player in the game of politics since he was a teenager. As they took control of Republican Brooklyn, they were known as the “Three Graces,” a name that they probably didn’t like. The mythological Graces were goddesses symbolizing beauty, charm and joy, and Silas B. Dutcher, General Benjamin Franklin Tracy and General James Jourdan had little of any of those qualities. They were tough, determined and efficient. For Brooklyn, in the 1870s, that was enough. (more…)
Due to the hurricane, the Board of Elections has changed some polling sites for tomorrow’s election. In Kings County alone, 104 sites have changed. Check out this PDF of the most recent list of sites and go vote tomorrow! You can also double check your polling location by calling the Voter Phone Bank at 1-866-VOTE-NYC, emailing your complete home address to email@example.com with your borough listed in the subject line, or by visiting this link. Update: there will be more changes to the polling sites still to come. Keep track at the Board of Elections website. And according to Bloomberg, shuttle transportation on Election Day is being arranged for residents of Coney Island, Far Rockaway and Staten Island.
The most high-profile of the local Brooklyn primaries last night was too close to call, the Brooklyn Paper reported. In the fight for Williamsburg’s Democratic district leader, Chris Olechowski was leading by 200 votes over one-term incumbent Lincoln Restler (pictured above) at midnight last night. Olechowski was supposedly hand-picked by embattled Assemblyman and former party boss Vito Lopez to take out Restler, seen as a reformer and longtime Lopez critic. Insiders claim Lopez got the Orthodox Jewish community to come out in force to vote for Olechowski, who has said he opposes gentrification. Restler has made a name for himself fighting for parks, community gardens and centers, and access to fresh food for underserved communities, among other things. Restler has been endorsed by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, State Senator Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights), and Representative Nydia Velazquez (D–Williamsburg). In other races, Walter T. Mosley won the Democratic primary for state Assembly in the 57th Assembly District, making it likely that he would replace Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries in that role. Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz won the Democratic primary in Sheepshead Bay in a close race against challenger Ben Akselrod, according to the Brooklyn Daily. For more information on all the races, check out the Board of Elections Website.
Photo from Lincoln Restler
This past Saturday, political satire group the Tax Dodgers played a crooked game of baseball with kids in Sunset Park, literally stealing bases from the children — the “99 percent” — while parents looked on. “We make the rules,” explained one of the Tax Dodgers. When the game wrapped up, a group of mostly Occupy Wall Street activists marched to the Sunset Park Rent Strike building where residents and activists briefly spoke to the crowd. (more…)
When the New York State Assembly censured long-time Brooklyn Democractic Party head Vito Lopez for sexual harassment on Friday, it augured the end of an era if not a career. As punishment for allegedly touching and attempting to coerce two young female interns (on the heels of the Assembly authorizing the payoff of another alleged victim this spring), the 28-year Assemblyman from North Brooklyn (and head of the influential Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council) will lose all his seniority privileges, including his $450,000 a year staff budget (which will go down to $85,000) as well as his chairmanship of the Assembly Housing Committee. This latter position (along with the fact that his longtime girlfriend sits on the New York City Planning Commission) has enabled Lopez to wield great power in the real estate decisions affecting Brooklyn. While there are potentially big implications for the political landscape and plenty of schadenfreude in the air, it’s harder to know what this demotion and possible ouster mean for development and land use in the borough going forward. Lopez was a big advocate for affordable housing, so is that’s an area that could be hurt. He has also been a big supporter of expanding both the 421-a program and the loft law. And how about both Broadway Triangle and Domino–how will Lopez’s absence impact the future of those mega projects? Lots to chew on. Any thoughts?
Lawmaker Is Censured Over Sexual Harassment [NY Times]
Assembly Paid $103,000 in Harassment Case [NY Times]
Vito Lopez, Powerful Assemblyman, Stripped of Leadership Post [NY Daily News]
Amid Calls to Quit, Vito Lopez Says He Won’t [NY Daily News]
Vito Lopez Engaged in “Verbal, Physical Sexual Abuse” [NY Post]
Photo by J.C. Rice for NY Post
In what can only be interpreted as a slap to State Assemblyman Vito Lopez, thirteen Brooklyn politicians came out yesterday to endorse the youthful Lincoln Restler in his bid to retain his unpaid position as district leader in the 50th District. Restler is being challenged by the Lopez-backed Chris Olechowski in a race that is bringing a rift in Brooklyn’s Democratic Party bubbling to the surface. The list of supporters includes folks like Borough President Marty Markowitz, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and State Senator Daniel Squadron. (See this NY Post story for the complete list.) “This race is about the future of Brooklyn politics,” Restler said on the steps of Borough Hall yesterday. “I am inspired by this groundswell of support from the leading elected officials in our borough against the status quo of machine politics.” As reported in the Daily News, Markowitz called Restler “a real Brooklyn character — with a style all his own [who] has brought fresh ideas to issues ranging from mass transit and education reform to open space, affordable housing and securing a much-needed supermarket in Fort Greene.” Olechowski is no stranger to local politics — the current chairman of CB1 has been involved in community boards for over 20 years.
Hakeem Jeffries and Nydia Velázquez both handily won their Democractic party Congressional primaries yesterday, striking a blow against homophobia and North Brooklyn party machinery, respectively. Jeffries, who won by more than a 2-1 margin, had this to say at his victory party: “I’m going down to Washington to stand up for our children, to stand up for job creation, to stand up for civil rights, to stand up for senior citizens, and to stand up for our president, Barack Obama.” Not surprisingly, Barron did not go down graciously, blaming his defeat on “the white media,” “the Wall Street elite,” and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, according to The Times. Velázquez received 58 percent of the vote, while her three challengers split the balance. “Clearly the voters and constituents sent a clear message, that they are the ones who decide who represents their communities,” said Velázquez in reference to North Brooklyn party boss Vito Lopez’s attempt to block her from an 11th term.