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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

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“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…)

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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

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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]

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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

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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]

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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

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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.

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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.