Thursday, January 05, 2006


Errol Louis responds to "smear," but still fudges the issue

In his latest column in the black-oriented Our Time Press, headlined Atlantic Yards and Black Business Development, Errol Louis attacks me for a "smear" in a recent posting. However, as noted below, he ignores the contradictions in his own writing.

Louis writes:
Oder complains that "the minority-owned engineering firm that will oversee air monitoring and safety requirements during asbestos abatement at several buildings is based in Staten Island, and the minority-owned plumbing company that will disconnect water and sewer lines to the buildings is based in Queens."...Oder is pretending to be concerned that the minority businesses getting in on Atlantic Yards happen not to be based in Brooklyn. In reality, opponents of Atlantic Yards have demonstrated that they couldn’t care less about black businesses or black economic empowerment in Brooklyn or anywhere else.
Last year, for instance, on the busiest shopping day of the year, a group of misguided ministers joined Councilwoman Tish James in an attempted one-day boycott of stores in Atlantic Terminal Mall, which is run by the same developer behind the Atlantic Yards Project. The boycott flopped, but if it had succeeded it might have harmed local residents: of the 1,688 employees who worked in the mall at the time, 81% lived within 5 miles of Atlantic Terminal and 48% within 2 miles.
The pro-boycott people didn’t mind putting other people’s jobs at risk. Today, in much the same way, opponents of Atlantic Yards like Oder seem perfectly willing to attack the idea of development dollars going to black and Latino firms in Queens, Manhattan and Philadelphia. We should all recognize this divide-and-conquer tactic for what it is.
Like most true advocates of black business empowerment, I would be overjoyed to see any minority- or women-owned businesses — from any borough or city — secure contracts and subcontracts as Atlantic Yards develops. Those who truly want to see more development dollars go to local companies should quit complaining, quit trying to hinder the project and put their favorite firms in touch with Forest City Ratner, the project developer.
But don’t expect the antidevelopment complainers to lift a finger to help.

Louis, however, contradicts himself. Here he says he'd "be overjoyed to see any minority- or women-owned businesses — from any borough or city — secure contracts and subcontracts." But in the previous column, he wrote, "At this stage of the game the question should be how and when the dollars will begin flowing into central Brooklyn."

And he seems unwilling to confront an important issue raised in my previous posting. I pointed out that the Community Benefits Agreement was signed by Brooklyn-based groups but seems to benefit many outside Brooklyn. The CBA process raises the question of how to define the “community”: the geographical area? minority groups? African-Americans? And who speaks for that community?

Maybe he needs to go see August Wilson's Radio Golf.

Also note that Louis's figure of 1,688 jobs--which comes from an 11/23/04 Daily News editorial that he likely wrote--seems contradicted by a news story in the 11/9/04 Daily News, in which company spokesman Joe DePlasco, said that the mall "has created a thousand jobs."

As to Louis's calling me "anti-development," let me say that taking a critical stance on the Atlantic Yards project doesn't mean I'm against development; rather, it means that I'm pro-transparency and pro-democracy. Long before I got involved in studying this project (July 2005), I wrote a letter that the Brooklyn Papers published in its 6/19/04 issue (p. 4), which noted: Many of us may welcome a project such as Atlantic Yards, but not on the terms Forest City Ratner has at this point presented.

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