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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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]
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.
Turnout is expected to be low for tomorrow’s Democratic Primary in Brooklyn, but there are a couple of very important Congressional races that particularly deserve people’s attention. In the 8th District, the big race is between Hakeem Jeffries and Charles Barron to succeed 30-year incumbent Ed Towns. If you’ve been living under a rock, this story in the Brooklyn Paper should help bring you up to speed on the difference between the two. Meanwhile, both The Observer and Daily News have vociferously weighed in in favor of Jeffries, highlighting Barron’s divisive rhetoric and governing style; pretty much every Democratic politician of note has backed Jeffries over the David Duke-endorsed Barron as well, except for Towns himself. Meanwhile, further north in the 7th District, incumbent Nydia Velázquez is trying to fend off challenges from three opponents, including one backed by party boss Vito Lopez. Read more about it on WNYC’s Empire blog.