Wednesday, September 07, 2005


The Times ignores Betsy Gotbaum's record on Atlantic Yards

A 9/7/05 Times editorial, Our Choice for Public Advocate, endorsing Betsy Gotbaum for Public Advocate, closes by praising the incumbent Gotbaum: And she railed against spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars for a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan.

Conspicuously absent is any mention of Gotbaum's indefensible record on Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards plan (which also would require hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars): in a nutshell (as she even told me when I ran into her on the campaign trail), she's for the project, unless there's eminent domain; then she's against it. But Bruce Ratner told her there wouldn't be any eminent domain, so she trusts him--even though several landowners within the proposed project footprint have vocally indicated their intentions not to sell, and that the Memorandum of Understanding between Ratner and the state includes eminent domain.

Then again, the Times coverage of the two Public Advocate debates, in which candidate Norman Siegel (who represents Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, among other clients) challenged Gotbaum vigorously on her Atlantic Yards stance, conspicuously failed to mention that Atlantic Yards issue. So maybe Times editorialists were unaware. I mentioned that debate coverage in my "High Rises & Low Standards" report (see link at left), issued September 1.

In the 9/2/05 Village Voice, Wayne Barrett dissected Gotbaum's failures in Save This Office : When [Norman] Siegel compared her "wonderful, wonderful" praise of the gigantic Atlantic Yards development planned in Brooklyn with her condemnation of the use of eminent domain for private projects, she insisted in the debates that she'd been told by developer Bruce Ratner that he was "not going to use it." In fact, a Ratner-tied group filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in the recent eminent domain case, the memo of understanding for the project explicitly authorizes "acquisitions by eminent domain," and it is the threat of such compelled sales that often makes its use unnecessary. While the project itself has compelling pluses and minuses, Gotbaum's rose-colored contradictions suggest a disquieting ignorance of well-reported fact as well as the history of publicly aided development.

Indeed. But I would like to hear more about the compelling pluses Barrett is talking about. Sure, we need housing and jobs, and a basketball team might be nice, but does he--does anyone--really know the cost? I do know that Ratner's projections, which city and state officials have relied on, are highly questionable. This project has proceeded without a full analysis of the costs in terms of subsidies, infrastructure, traffic, etc.

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