Thursday, June 30, 2005

McClean Running for City Council
By Lindsay Schubiner

Community Board 9 District Manager Lawrence McClean announced recently that he will take a leave of absence to run for a Queens City Council seat.

McClean, who lives in South Ozone Park, will challenge Councilman Allan Jennings (D-Jamaica) in the 28th District, which encompasses Jamaica and Ozone Park north of John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Jennings was formally censured by the City Council in May after inquiries into accusations that he sexually harassed female staffers. McClean, 55, is the eighth candidate to show interest in the seat, according to fillings with the City's Campaign Finance Board. McClean will seek the Democratic nomination in the September 13 primary.

"We cannot afford another four years of the kind of lack of service and lack of vision that we've been getting from our elected officials," McClean said. "I feel I can better serve that community. I know I can better serve it."

A long history of community-based activism has helped him crystallize his platform, McClean said. He emphasized a shortfall in city funding for his district and said he would push to increase allocations for basic services such as buses and police and fire departments. McClean also discussed how his experiences working at CB9 and cooperating with different neighborhoods in Brooklyn have shown him that the problems in his district correspond to larger issues that affect minority communities all over New York.

Accordingly, McClean said he believes his district will be disproportionately affected by the deficits city budget officials have projected for future fiscal years. He criticized Jennings for not providing effective leadership.

"He's not doing anything and we're about to lose everything," McClean said.

If McClean does not win the election, he will return to work at CB9 in July or September, depending on whether he obtains the legally required number of signatures to have his name placed on the ballot. �In the meantime, other CB9 staff members have divided up his duties. The board will begin looking for a new district manager in the fall if he is elected.

CB9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc said he was "super excited" that McClean was running and had few worries about how the office would function in his absence. At CB9, McClean is responsible for handling complaints, assisting board members, and making sure CB9's services reach the community.

"If he wins, then we have a friend in City Council," Reyes-Montblanc said.

McClean has worked at CB9 for 13 years. He attended Howard University and received a degree in public administration from Queens College. He previously worked for the Rockaway Merchants' Association and the Rockaway Boulevard West Local Development Corporation.

McClean has not raised very much money for his campaign--just over $500 compared to another opponent's $50,000--but said that he was focusing his immediate efforts on getting enough signatures to be listed on the ballot. If he is successful, McClean is confident that he will win "because I have a message that the community will understand and because I have a track record."

"They'll understand that what I'm saying is who I am," McClean said.

Celebrate 2012 Olympic Decision Day in Rockefeller Plaza

"General NYC News & Events," "Sports News" and Volunteer Opportunities"

Celebrate 2012 Olympic Decision Day in Rockefeller Plaza - the official viewing site in New York for all the Olympic decision day action

Tuesday, July 5th, 2005, 5:00 p.m.
Exclusive live viewing party of New York�s presentation with music, food, drinks and Olympian appearances. Open to the public. New York�s presentation will be at 10:15pm. Other bid city presentations will be shown live all night, beginning with Paris at 9:00pm.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005, 7:00 a.m.
2012 Olympic Decision Announcement
Appearances by Olympians, Paralympians and special New York celebrities.

NYC2012 giveaways and special prizes will be distributed both days.

New York City is competing with London, Madrid, Moscow, and Paris for the right to host the 20I2 Olympic and Paralympic Games. For more information about New York�s Olympic Bid visit NYC20I2.COM

Rockefeller Plaza is accessible by public transportation.
Subway: B, D, F, V trains to 47-50 Street/Rockefeller Center; N, R trains to 49 Street; 1, 9 trains to 50 Street
Bus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7 to 49-50 Street; Crosstown M27, M50 to Avenue of the Americas (6th Avenue)


Subject: Judge Ousted. Voters Excluded.
Date: 6/30/2005 6:15:40 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Note: 2065 words. If you can, print it out and read it when you have time. Let us know what you think. Thirty-five of you wrote us yesterday, all opposed to the new transit rules. The letters are on our blog. We will put your comments on the blog; initials only, unless you tell us you want to use your full name, your park name, or be anonymous. You can now enter your comments on our blog directly. Any technical questions, e-mail I hope you understand what I just learned.


By Henry J. Stern
June 30, 2005

Two major events have occurred in the last week relating to one of the city's most disturbing centers of official and unofficial misconduct -- the Brooklyn judiciary.

On Friday, June 24, in the waning hours of the session, the Governor and Legislature rushed through a bill creating a second surrogate for Brooklyn. They timed the effective date of the law to guarantee that the new judge will be chosen by the Brooklyn Democratic machine. Assemblyman Joseph Lentol is presumed to be the designee, which will create a vacant assembly seat. Nature abhors a vacuum.

On Monday, June 27 the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the decision of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct to remove Judge Michael Feinberg from the position of Kings County Surrogate (the judge who oversees estates of the dead). The Court of Appeals decided the case twenty days after the oral argument, and may have acted promptly in order to allow an open primary to select a successor to Judge Feinberg.



It is not yet widely known, but the New York State Legislature, as it rushed to adjourn, passed a bill drafted in concert with Governor Pataki, creating twenty-one additional judgeships in New York State, including a second Surrogate for Kings County. Of the 62 counties in the State of New York, only one (New York County) has two surrogates. All the others have one surrogate. Unless there has been a sudden increase in morbidity in Brooklyn, we see no justification for a new surrogate, except greed.

The new and superfluous position of second Surrogate, will pay $136,700 for the judge (likely to rise next year), with clerks, support staff, etc., It will cost taxpayers between $500,000 and a million dollars. Sweeter still, there will be an additional source of patronage for Brooklyn politicians and their favorites. This will provide more opportunities for jobholders to express their gratitude to those who have been helpful to them.

However, as if the waste of tax funds were not sufficiently egregious, the new law was precisely drafted to take effect August 1, 2005, which will preclude a primary election to fill the position..

Al Baker,, in an article on the legislature in the June 25 Times, wrote: "Indeed, with little discussion or chance for debate, a last-minute bill was passed to create several new judgeships, including adding a second surrogate's court in Brooklyn. Critics said that the timing of the measure meant that the political parties and their leaders, including Assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr., the Brooklyn Democratic leader, would have great sway in picking the nominees."

August 1 may be a busy day for Mr. Norman, because the Post reports today, in a short piece by Zach Haberman on p21, DEM BOSS READY FOR DAY IN COURT, that jury selection is supposed to begin that day in his trial for failing to report campaign expenses paid for by a political-action committee. But even people who believe that Norman is dishonest believe that District Attorney Charles J. Hynes' case against him is weak, and he may gain strength from an acquittal, or the dismissal of the charges against him by a grateful judge, who may even be right on the merits.

The August 1 effective date prevents lawyers who would like to run for surrogate in the September 13 primary from circulating petitions. Under the 2005 political calendar, petitions are due July 7, and on that day there will be no vacancy other than the one caused by the removal of Judge Friedman. The machine will most likely have its own candidate for that position as well. The winner will serve a 14-year term, unless he turns 70 sooner.

The Albany Times Union's James M. Odato wrote last Saturday that "Pataki will be able to fill 14 new Court of Claims posts, likely rewarding loyalists in his administration and other GOP benefactors... Four new state Supreme Court posts for the greater New York City region, three new family court posts in Orange County, and a new surrogate's court job in Kings County. Brooklyn Democrat Joseph Lentol, a veteran assemblyman, already said he'll run."

Lentol was first elected in 1972 to represent Flatbush, East Flatbush, and Canarsie, in central Brooklyn, and has represented Williamsburg, in north Brooklyn, since 1983. His father, Edward, was an assemblyman and later a state senator. His grandfather, Joseph, a barber, was an assemblyman from 1919 to 1920. In those days, legislators had other occupations which were not related to politics or public relations.

Today's Joe Lentol, now in his 33rd year, is a friendly, well-liked legislator, regarded as a faithful ally of Speaker Silver, who made him chair of the Codes Committee because he knew he could count on him. Since he was born in 1943, he will only be able to serve through 2013, which will mean an eight-year term. He will no longer be required to travel to Albany to shiver in the cold or swelter in the heat.. Driving to the Capitol is time-consuming and burdensome for many legislators, although it is a source of income for a few.



The second story was the unanimous affirmation by the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, of the removal of Kings County Surrogate Michael Feinberg for awarding a close personal friend since their Brooklyn Law School days, Louis Rosenthal, nearly $9 million in fees as counsel for the public administrator, at the rate of 8% of the estate, not the customary 6%.
These awards were made without the supporting affidavits which are required to be submitted by the attorney to show how much work he did on the matter.

The Court of Appeals cited a Daily News expos� in its opinion, which led the News to headline its story on the decision, NEWS HELPS GET DIRTY B'KLYN JUDGE AXED. The article, written by Nancie L. Katz, appeared at the bottom of page 14, which is not the most visible spot in the paper. But The News was the best of the five dailies in its coverage.

The Daily News had denounced Judge Feinberg in a June 8 editorial, with the colloquial but apt headline: BENCH THIS JUDGE PRONTO. Last year, the News ran a series on corrupt judges in Brooklyn. One went to jail, but kept his pension. Three others are embroiled with the law in one way or another outside of the fact that they hear cases.

Newsday covered the story on p18, in an article by Anthony M. DeStefano, HIGH COURT OUSTS B'KLYN JURIST OVER STATUTORY FEES. "One Brooklyn attorney ...said he believed the Court of Appeals acted quickly on the Feinberg matter -- just 20 days after oral arguments -- to make sure that primary election petitions can be filed in time. Otherwise, embattled Brooklyn Democratic party boss Clarence Norman would be able to pick the nominee..."

The Post gave the matter three long sentences at the bottom of p11, headlined B'KLYN JUDGE AXED IN $CHEME. Kenneth Lovett quoted the Court of Appeals: "The record reflects not mere lapses or errors in judgment but a wholesale failure of [Feinberg's] duty, reflecting an indifference if not cynicism toward his judicial office."

The Sun ran an Associated Press dispatch, COURT UPHOLDS BROOKLYN JUDGE'S REMOVAL FROM BENCH, under Albany in its New York Desk column on p4. "From January 1997 to May 2002, Mr. Rosenthal received more than $2 million in excessive fees despite never filing any affidavit of legal services that would have supported the fee requests, the Commission [on Judicial Conduct] said."

The Times ran the story as the fifth Metro Brief on pB6. The one-paragraph story, under Michael Cooper's byline, is headed: ALBANY: APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS JUDGE'S REMOVAL. Cooper quoted a powerful line in the court's opinion that Judge Feinberg had "debased his office and eroded public confidence" in the judiciary.

For the full story, read the opinion of the Court of Appeals.

One aspect of this case is that Judge Feinberg was not accused of taking money personally. He may or may not have received some financial reward from Rosenthal, the beneficiary of his largesse at the expense of the estates of people who had the misfortune to die in Brooklyn without leaving a will.

Judge Feinberg had been on the bench since 1982, and was elected Surrogate Judge in 1996. At the time, Rosenthal was regarded as a potential candidate for Surrogate. In the end, he actively supported Feinberg's nomination by the Democratic Party. Feinberg's chief backer was County Leader Clarence Norman, and Feinberg's victory in a sharply contested primary solidified Norman's hold on the Brooklyn Democracy (as the party organization was quaintly described years ago).

Before he was enrobed, Feinberg was a Democratic district leader in central Brooklyn. His predecessor as Surrogate, Bernard Bloom, had been district leader of the same club. Dynastic issues arise occasionally in the succession to political jobs and offices in Brooklyn.

The Democratic nomination is tantamount to election in Brooklyn, just as sixty years ago it was tantamount to election in Mississippi. That is no longer the case in Mississippi, where state offices are now largely held by Republicans. After Feinberg took office in Brooklyn, he appointed his buddy Rosenthal as Counsel to the Public Administrator, a position whose fees far exceed a judge's salary, although not necessarily his entire income.

The removal of a sitting judge is a milestone in the pursuit of judicial corruption. It is widely known that the Brooklyn judiciary, largely chosen with the concurrence of Clarence Norman, does not consist of pillars of rectitude.

Some are reported to have paid large sums to assure their nomination, ostensibly for the expenses of their campaign. They may well seek opportunities to recoup their investment in the robe. The situation clearly requires further investigation. It was the United States Attorney for the Eastern District whose office caught Councilman Angel Rodriguez as a bribe taker. He was convicted of a felony, removed from office and sent to federal prison. Our first articles, written on March 30 and April 5,, 2002 were written about this case. See how the columns have evolved since then.

Rodriguez, BTW, was Clarence Norman's candidate for City Council Speaker against Gifford Miller, the Bronx-Queens leaders' candidate. Fortunately, Miller won, and the city was spared the spectacle of its Council Speaker being arrested and convicted of bribery.

The Augean stables of Brooklyn have not yet been cleaned. Will it require a Hercules to perform the labors necessary to secure equal justice and fair treatment for litigants, free and open primaries, judges chosen on merit and competence rather than clubhouse connections? Manhattan has benefited from the reform activities of the last thirty years. In Brooklyn, although reform judges have been elected, e.g., the late Ted Diamond and the late Bernard Fuchs, the battered and disreputable county organization is still a major, often controlling influence in the selection of judges.

The struggle for honest government has gone on for hundreds of years, and will continue longer than we will be here. There have been victories and defeats, and there will be many more.
This is not a conflict between the left and the right, or capitalism against socialism. It is the effort to secure integrity and transparency in public affairs, and to promote the public welfare as opposed to the personal benefit of office holders, their relatives and their bosom buddies.

Entrenched power, however, is strong and highly organized, that is how it became entrenched. There is a disciplined cadre of those who live off the system and await preferment from those whose orders they follow, cheerfully or grudgingly. Reform movements wax and wane, because when reformers get power and jobs, they often morph into regulars, although they retain a greater degree of righteousness and indignation at the sins of others. When the sinners overreach, the public will replace them. No matter what schemes are employed to perpetuate political power (gerrymandering, the complex election law, arbitrary disqualification), we maintain a possibly primitive faith in the voters' desire to do the right thing, if they only knew.

Henry J. Stern
New York Civic
520 Eighth Avenue
22nd Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 564-4441
(212) 564-5588 (fax)

July 4th Children's Parade

Subject: July 4th Children's Parade
Date: 6/30/2005 9:04:21 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Hello Jordi,

I'm hoping you can do your magic and help get the word out about this fun neighborhood event for children.


Brad Taylor


JULY 4th


WHEN: July 4th; muster at 10:00 am, parade at 10:30

WHERE: Morningside Drive & 115th Street


Decorate your bike or stroller! Sing patriotic songs! Bring instruments!
(Wear bathing suit and water shoes, as fire truck usually sprays its water cannon.)

MORE INFO: (212) 662-6116 or 866-1598


The Buyouts Versus the Holdouts

Subject: The Buyouts Versus the Holdouts
Date: 6/30/2005 10:02:20 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

June 30, 2005
The Buyouts Versus the Holdouts
NY Times

IN a suburb of Buffalo, a developer wants to knock down more than 300 homes
to make way for a traditional-style town that he says he believes will
alleviate blight. In Norwood, Ohio, three property owners are the lone
holdouts against a developer's plan to build shops and parking garages on
the site where some of them have lived for more than 30 years. And in
Brooklyn, recently converted lofts are in the path of a proposed basketball

In the week since the Supreme Court gave cities the right to buy out
residences to foster economic development, homeowners across the country
have been wondering whether they will be forced out to make way for malls,
hotels and even other residences. Historically, eminent domain has applied
to civic projects like dams and roads. This ruling more explicitly gives
cities the right to knock down houses in favor of private projects. The
controversial decision - allowing New London, Conn., to push ahead with
offices, a hotel, new homes and a walkway, generating tax revenue and jobs
- is fueling political and legal battles at the state and local levels.

Because the decision left states free to restrict government powers to
seize homes for economic development, the Institute for Justice, the
nonprofit law firm that argued the case in front of the high court on
behalf of homeowners in New London, yesterday vowed to take their campaign
to state and local courts and legislatures.

Local activists are already busy. In Long Branch, N.J., some homeowners are
fighting an effort to replace aging beachfront cottages with luxury condos
that would start at $550,000. "It's just un-American," said Lori Ann
Vendetti, who owns a house there. "How anyone's property could be taken for
someone else's profit is just ludicrous."

Not, of course, from the point of view of City Hall, which is confronting a
worn beachfront and a need for new tax revenue. "Governments never look
good when elderly people are being told 'You're going to lose your house,'
" said Adam Schneider, the mayor of Long Branch. "But what's a town
supposed to do? Are we supposed to just sit there and watch everything fall
down and collapse around us and watch a dilapidated area get bigger and
bigger every year and do nothing about it?"

Homeowners argue that "dilapidated" may be in the eye of the beholder. "The
mayor keeps calling our area a slum," said Ms. Vendetti, who rents out her
house across the street from the brick ranch house where she grew up and
where her parents, now in their 70's, still live. "But it's not a slum."

Denise Hoagland, who owns a three-bedroom house in the neighborhood with
her husband, Lee, said that even if the developers, Matzel & Mumford, pay
above-market prices for their house, which was assessed for tax purposes
two years ago at about $201,000, her family would never be able to afford a
new one near the beach.

Mr. Schneider said the city was working with the developer to help existing
homeowners buy into the new project with creative financing like reverse

Ms. Hoagland said she hoped attention generated by the Supreme Court
decision would rally other homeowners. "Maybe people will start doing
something about it because they will say, hey, that could affect me," she said.

Under the slogan "Hands Off My Home," the Institute for Justice, which is
financed by individuals and foundations, said it was asking governors to
sign a pledge to stop governments from taking homes and small businesses
for private development. It said it would also push for changes in state
constitutions to prohibit such actions.

The efforts would "turn what was a disastrous decision by the Supreme Court
into victories for private homeowners and small business owners," said
Scott G. Bullock, a senior lawyer at the institute.

This week John Cronyn, a United States senator and Texas Republican,
proposed a bill that would prevent the federal government, or any state or
local government using federal funds, from condemning homes and small
businesses solely for the purpose of promoting economic development.

Legislators in states including Georgia, Missouri and Oklahoma, as well as
local governments like Westchester County in New York, have said they are
considering similar bills.

Proponents of the court decision argue that governments need the power to
condemn homes and businesses if they are to revitalize cities and prevent
sprawl. "It's one of our most important economic development tools," said
Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, New
York State's economic development authority. Without it, he said, projects
like the cleanup of Times Square would not have been possible.

For displaced home and business owners, such maneuvers can be devastating.

Carl and Joy Gamble, who retired from running a small grocery store four
years ago, have fled their home of 35 years in Norwood because they fear
eviction by developers of a retail, office and public parking complex.

"That was our home and we had plans to just stay there," said Mrs. Gamble
from her daughter's home in northern Kentucky, where she and her husband
are now living. Their belongings are in storage and Mrs. Gamble mourns the
loss of peonies and lilies of the valley that she imported from her
grandmother's garden to her spacious yard.

The couple, along with two other property owners, have fought the city's
efforts to use eminent domain to force them out of an area it designated as
"deteriorating." A county and appellate court ruled against them, though
the county court awarded them a price of $280,000 for their house from the
developer, which the couple turned down. The Gambles say they are staking
their hopes on the Ohio Supreme Court, which issued an injunction in
February preventing the developer from tearing down their home. The
Institute for Justice is filing an appeal on their behalf with that court
next week.

Their house, meanwhile, is isolated in the middle of an empty plot where
about 65 other homeowners sold to the developer.

Bill Pierani took an offer of $230,000 for the two-bedroom house where he
and his wife, Polly, raised their two sons and lived for 28 years. Mr.
Pierani said they were willing to sell partly because an interstate highway
had cut through the neighborhood, and the traffic bothered him.

With the proceeds they bought a larger house in the town for $162,000. "It
came out real well," he said.

Richard Tranter, a lawyer who represents the developers, said their project
would generate $2 million in annual income tax in a city that is running a
budget deficit of about the same amount.

Arguments of civic good do not move some homeowners. Hank Dowski, who has
owned his home in Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo, for 20 years, said a
developer's plan to demolish hundreds of houses and apartment buildings in
the Cedargrove Heights neighborhood was part of the "greed that's
permeating America."

Dominic Piestrak, the developer, wants to build apartments, brownstone town
houses, malls and offices. Starting from scratch, he said, would help
eliminate crime and abandoned homes. "If you're going to stop urban blight
you have to start somewhere and draw a line in the sand," said Mr.
Piestrak, who has enlisted the support of the town government.

Although Mr. Piestrak said he would offer homeowners 10 to 15 percent above
fair market value, some residents said it's not about the money. "We picked
this for our retirement," said Barbara Dunn, who with her husband, Stan,
moved back to Cheektowaga this year to a house near her parents and
sister's family. "It's a peaceful, nice community and it's just not a money

Pamela Walters, a Cheektowaga homeowner who has lived in Cedargrove Heights
for 25 years, said she understands such emotional attachments. But she
supports Mr. Piestrak's plan. "I think something drastic needs to be done
there," said Mrs. Walters, a pharmacy assistant who lives with her husband,
Robert, a tractor-trailer driver. "It is decaying before our eyes."

In Brooklyn, residents are fighting a proposal by the developer Forest City
Ratner Companies to build a new arena for the New Jersey Nets along with
retail shops, office space, a hotel and 6,000 condo and apartment units.
(Forest City Ratner is a partner with The New York Times to build its
headquarters near Times Square. As part of that deal, the state has
condemned 11 properties that housed some 55 businesses that included sex
shops, trade schools and fabric dealers.)

Daniel Goldstein, a condo owner in the footprint of the proposed arena and
a spokesman for Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, said he believes that
favoritism is involved. In the Supreme Court case, Justice Anthony M.
Kennedy, in a concurring opinion, said that projects could be questioned if
favoritism is suspected.

James P. Stuckey, an executive vice president at Forest City Ratner, denied
any preferential treatment. He said the developer was trying to work with
the community by offering to buy out homeowners at or above market rates,
adding, "We would like to not have to condemn anything as part of this
project." He said 92 percent of the condo and co-op owners who fell within
the area designated for the project had already sold their homes to the

Mr. Goldstein responded that "the threat of eminent domain, and the limbo
that that puts you in until that happens, is frightening and something that
nobody wants to live with." He added, "The way to avoid that limbo is to
accept a buyout."

Vince Bruns, a 53-year-old fishmonger who two years ago bought a loft just
steps from the proposed arena site, is one of the holdouts. A sign in his
window proclaims: "I love my home and my neighborhood. I intend to stay here."

He acknowledged he might someday be forced to sell. "I'm not going to stop
it by myself," he said.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Subject: Did you hear that, Bertha Lewis? (of Acorn/Wrecking Families Party)
Date: 6/29/2005 4:13:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)


It's not every day that we find ourselves muttering "amen" as we read a Supreme Court opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas. In fact, last Friday was the first time it's ever happened.

Last week's historic ruling opens the door to the widespread use of eminent domain on behalf of big, private real estate developers. In Kelo v. New London, the Court deemed that local governments have the right to seize property from one private owner and hand it over to another as long as the new owner plans to use the seized property to foster "economic development." In other words, if you're looking to build a big box retail center, basketball arena, casino or some other mega-project and you can argue that it will create jobs and expand the local tax base, you can pretty much go ahead and seize whatever property you need to make it happen. This land is your land, indeed. �

Most immediately, the 5-4 decision starts the wrecking ball swinging in Fort Trumbull, a shabby residential section of New London, Connecticut, and next-door neighbor to a gleaming $350 million global research center recently built by the Pfizer Corporation. In 1998 the town promised to clear 90 acres and build a hotel, office space and "river walk" alongside the new Viagra mill. They argued that the project was necessary for nothing less than New London's "economic survival."

One hitch: The owners of 15 Fort Trumbull houses refused to leave. Sure, the Fifth Amendment says that the government can seize private property for "public use" as long as "just compensation" is provided. But since when does an erectile dysfunction laboratory count as "public use?" And how do you determine "just compensation" for Wilhelmina Dery, the 87-year-old woman who lives, at least for a few weeks more, in the house where she was born and that her family has owned for more than 100 years?

For New Yorkers who live and work within the "footprint" of Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards project, these questions are not academic. Last week's Supreme Court ruling makes it all the more likely those who have not yet succumbed to the intense pressure to sell out will eventually be forced out. They will be required to make way for a 19,000-seat luxury pleasure dome and 19 high-rise towers that will all be owned and operated by one very big, wealthy and well-connected real estate development company. Could this possibly be the sort of "public use" the Founders had in mind when they wrote the constitutional language that enables eminent domain?

Justice Thomas certainly doesn't think so. "I cannot agree," he writes in his dissent, that "a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a public use." Change "Pfizer" to "Forest City Ratner" and Clarence Thomas is talking about Brooklyn.

Poor and minority communities, Thomas notes, have traditionally been hurt most by eminent domain. "The consequences of today's decision are not difficult to predict, and promise to be harmful," Thomas writes. The majority opinion "encourages those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms to victimize the weak." Urban renewal, he bluntly reminds us, was once referred to as "Negro Removal."

Did you hear that, Bertha Lewis?

Volume 18, Issue 26

NYC Charter Revision Commission -- Public Meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday

Subject: NYC Charter Revision Commission -- Public Meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday
Date: 6/29/2005 4:32:01 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The New York City Charter Revision Commission will meet Thursday, June 30 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at Spector Hall, located on the first floor of 22 Reade Street. As this is a public meeting and not a public hearing, the public will have the opportunity to observe, but not to testify.

Directions to the meeting location: Spector Hall is located between Broadway and Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. Spector Hall is accessible by public transportation. The 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, C, J, M, R, W, and Z trains are all within a five-block radius of the facility. For more information on accessing this location, call (212) 720-3300.

The New York City Charter Revision Commission's Preliminary Recommendations for Charter Revision is now available on its website,

Anyone wishing to comment on the Commission's Preliminary Recommendations for Charter Revision, or to offer other proposals or comments for Charter revision that they would like the Commission to consider for inclusion in its final report, must do so by Tuesday, July 5 at 5 p.m.

For further information about this meeting, as well as notices about future events, please visit us online at

This is the news you requested for:

Charter Revision Commission Updates

Comment on this news service:

Help make the Pieces for Peace Mosaic in Hamilton Heights!

Subject: Help make the Pieces for Peace Mosaic in Hamilton heights!
Date: 6/29/2005 1:02:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)


Thank you for your interest in participating on the creation of the permanent outdoors mosaic in Jacob H. Schiff Playground this summer! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you but preparation and so forth has taken a bit longer than expected. Finally, however, we have an actual starting date for the work on the wall & we will have a little workshop prior to that. Please see below for more details.

I also was curious to find out from you your availability this summer and to what extent you would like to take part in the project.

Please email or call me ((212) 966 0377, ask for Maria) with any further questions and / or concerns and with your answers.

Thanks - looking forward to hearing from you!

Hello dear Pieces for Peace Summer volunteers!

The time has finally come and the first day working on the wall will be Tuesday, July 5th!!!!! Therefore a few things:

I would like to invite all of you to join the CITYarts crew together with Artist Pedro Silva, (who created the Grant�s Tomb mosaic in 1972 for CITYarts) at the wall located in Jacob H. Schiff Playground for a technical 3h work shop / training session:

Mr. Silva will give a special �how to create a mosaic� one on one.

When: Thursday, June 30, 2005 Start: 10am (Please try to be there 15 minutes before 10 if possible)

Duration: 3h

Where : Jacob H. Schiff Playground at Amsterdam Ave & 138th St. in Hamilton Heights

Directions: Take the 1 train to 137 Street - City College /Broadway stop

R.S.V.P. to: so drinks and other refreshments can be arranged

So long. Enjoy the weekend and we�ll be in touch!

Thanks, Maria

PS: I know that some of you won�t be able to join do to other obligations, which is no problem, but for those of you who are available and want to play an active part at the wall this summer, please try to make it. The more people know what to do at the wall once the �crowds� arrive, the better. J

Maria Hoffmann

Pieces for Peace Coordinator
CITYarts, Inc.
525 Broadway, Ste 700
New York, NY 10012
t: 212 966 0377
f: 212 966 0551

Help make the Pieces for Peace Mosaic!

Watch us! Coming soon, Pieces for Peace Mosaic with Youth from around the World


Subject: Rights of Passage
Date: 6/28/2005 9:37:27 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)


By Henry J. Stern
June 28, 2005

Public issues are often quite complex, with the preferred outcome depending on expert testimony, economic projections, statistical probability studies accompanied by spreadsheets, cost-benefit analyses and evaluation of various alternatives. The human factor easily becomes submerged in the technical potpourri.

That is why it is refreshing to deal with one issue that can be understood relatively easily, and its merits evaluated by citizens on the basis of their own experience and personal preference.

The question is: Should subway riders be allowed to move from car to car, without let or hindrance, or be fined $75 for attempting the passage? Under what circumstances is changing cars reasonable? If not the rider, who is to make that determination?

The MTA Transit Committee considered the matter yesterday morning at a hearing in the Board's meeting room, on the fifth floor of an office building at 347 Madison Avenue, a structure considerably less costly than 2 Broadway, a crime scene in which the hapless agency sank hundreds of millions of dollars for the privilege of leasing an office building with views of New York Harbor. The hearing took place two days before the MTA Board is scheduled to take up the issue and adopt the proposed rules. The public was invited to testify, although there was no notice in newspapers of general circulation. Attendance was sparse, primarily officials of other agencies, security personnel, and reporters (five newspapers and Channel 2).

The proceedings are described competently and extensively in today's Times. Sewell Chan's account is on pp A1 and B7, with the droll headline (for the Times): WATCH THOSE CHANGING RULES: FINISH SODAS ON THE PLATFORM. Chan's lead: "Subway riders afflicted by broken air-conditioning, foul odors, children selling candy bars for occasionally dubious causes and even the random groper have long sought relief by quickly switching cars. No more."

The Sun's Jeremy Smerd's informative story starts on A1, MTA READIES FINE FOR RIDERS WHO CHANGE CARS: Approval Due Today of New Subway Rule. "Among the compelling reasons to change subway cars while a train is in motion are a threatening situation, a malodorous neighbor, and the eternal hope of a rush-hour seat. Soon, however, riders may face a $75 fine for moving between cars. It will be up to a police officer to decide whether a rider was justified in flouting the new prohibition, under a plan scheduled to be ratified tomorrow by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and take effect October 1."

The possibility of different interpretations of the proposed rule appeared in a news story by Pete Donohue on p8, MTA PUTS BRAKES ON CAR HOPS. The News quotes NYPD Transit Bureau Chief Henry Cronin who said "officers will use common-sense discretion asking riders why they are moving between cards before handing out the $75 fine. Moving between cars to avoid foul odors, or to get to the front of a train because a rider's station exit is near the front of the train, would be 'reasonable' explanations, he said. 'That's not going to be summonsed', he said But that seems to fly in the face of exactly the type of unauthorized movements Transit Authority officials said they want to stop."

The question of what movement of passengers is 'reasonable' is clearly yet to be determined. Also unknown at this time is who will decide that question: the police officer on the train, Chief Cronin, NYCTA president Reuter, or the MTA board. They may have differing views on the subject. The proposed rule permits enforcement, but it does not require it.

In Newsday, pA12, COMMITTEE OKs RULES FOR SUBWAY, Joshua Robin wrote: "The MTA moved yesterday to outlaw a series of underground activities familiar to most any subway rider: walking between cars and putting feet on seats. ... Riders see walking between cars as a familiar escape from smelly or hot cars, menacing people or to position themselves closer to a particular exit at their destination."

Sam Gustin, p8 of today's Post, MTA PLANNING SOME RAIL-Y TOUCH NEW RULES, listed the new offenses, "putting one's feet on a seat, straddling a bicycle, wearing roller skates and moving from one car to another" Since 1996, thirteen people have died and 117 were injured riding between cars, according to NYCT.

Only one witness spoke at the public hearing. As luck would have it, it was your reporter, who, in the two minutes allotted to him delivered what he thought was a spirited attack on the proposed new rule restricting subway riders' changing cars. "We are creating a nanny state," he warned, using a pejorative phrase which indicates an objection to government interference with an activity usually regarded as traditionally within the discretion of a sane adult individual.

These are numerous circumstances in which passengers might want to move from one subway car to another: danger or the threat of danger from hoodlums, pickpockets or flashers; the sight or smell of garbage or decaying food, other odors more vile or nauseating than might normally be anticipated, obscene or ethnic graffiti or scratchitti, passengers shouting or playing boom-boxes, excessive charitable solicitations (either direct or involving the sale of M & Ms or other food or merchandise), horseplay, jostling, loud or unexpected noises, shouts or shrieks, other persons paying so much attention to you or your attributes that you, reasonably or unreasonably, feel uncomfortable, the presence on the floor or seats of various human secretions, fluid or solid, no longer confined to the body whence they originated.

Another motive for prompt departure from a subway car would be mechanical failure in the lighting or air-conditioning, in consequence of which the car would become hot, dark or both.

A reasonable passenger might also wish to leave an overcrowded car, in search of another car which might have an empty seat, especially helpful if the subway trip were lengthy. One could be trying to meet a friend who said that he/she would be on the train, or a passenger could be en route to a car closer to his or her intended exit. Stations are 700 feet long, and people may not want to traverse their length at night. It is safer to move on a train, in the presence of other passengers, than on a lonely platform. These are legitimate reasons for wanting to change the car in which one is riding.

What we have tried to say, in the preceding paragraphs, is that subway cars can be pretty gross, and people can have sound and sufficient reasons for wanting to leave them at once, without waiting until the train arrives at the next station. Please forgive our indelicacy of expression, but the passengers we describe are likely to be in the midst of it, rather than simply reading about it.

With regard to the risk of injury, the speaker pointed out that the cheerful but legless beggar who rides the Lexington Avenue subway on a wooden dolly, propelling himself by his hands, one of the more successful panhandlers on the system, manages to go from car to car so he can reach more potential donors.

If a man without legs can do it, certainly healthy people with two legs should be able to manage.

The witness knew that he was not a nimble American, one of those gifted by God with the agility and grace that many of us so admire in others. However, despite these limits, he had found the passage between subway cars to be simple and safe since he was ten years old, at which time the fare was five cents, and his mother allowed him to ride the subways and elevated lines without fear.

According to MTA figures, there were 41 deaths on the transit system last year caused by encounters between trains and people. Of these, only two were definitely attributed to passenger movement from car to car, although the number may go up to six. No specific evidence was offered as to how these accidents occurred, for example whether alcohol was involved.

The speaker feared that, with passengers caged in the moving cars at the mercy of whoever else was riding there, subway cars would become prison cells for New Yorkers and tourists who have done nothing wrong. As we were recently reminded at a series of centennial celebrations, the New York City subway system is over one hundred years old. Why is it suddenly necessary in 2005 to deny passengers a right of transit that they and their forbears have enjoyed since most of them came to America - the land of freedom.

As far as the lawyers' unending fear of potential litigation, that's why the MTA has hundreds of lawyers - to handle litigation. And even if the practice of moving from car to car were to be officially forbidden, the agency could, and would, still be sued for failure to enforce the prohibition, or for not posting the rule in English and Spanish, or in letters of insufficient size or above or below the eye level of the passengers to whom it is addressed. Take warn, this is not a joke although it sounds like one. I learned about this first-hand when Parks was sued in similar situations while I was Commissioner.

No city agency, or defendant anywhere, is immune to the ingenuity and effrontery of trial lawyers, and in some cases the plaintiffs are in the right. The Corporation Counsel has done relatively well on behalf of the City in recent years, because of early settlements of cases, and possibly because the tide of anti-government sentiment may have yielded somewhat to people's realization that it is their taxes that pay the judgments which some juries, particularly those in the great borough of the Bronx, award with such cheerful abandon.

To sum up: reasonable rules for passenger conduct are appropriate. The many confusing issues of enforcement make it impossible to predict how the proposed rules will work in practice. But we believe that a passenger who wants to change cars should not be subject to the whim, or possibly the greed, of a police officer as to whether he will have to pay $75 (about the price of a full month's Metrocard) for the privilege of proceeding peacefully from one subway car to another.

Henry J. Stern
New York Civic
520 Eighth Avenue
22nd Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 564-4441
(212) 564-5588 (fax)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bloomberg Survives the Kiss of Death

Subject: Wrecking Families Party and City Loonies Magazine
Date: 6/28/2005 6:06:24 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

For those who may not be aware, Bertha Lewis heads up ACORN which has
made a deal with Brunce Ratner for the Nets Arena in Brooklyn that is
expected to displace up to 1,000 people and small businesses. Ms. Lewis is
also one of the heads of the Working Families Party (which many call
"Working Phonies" or "Demapublicans")which,according to Brooklyn activists,
is giving unofficial support to the Ratner plan as well as to Inclusionary
Zoning, a mechanism that results in a net-loss of affordable housing and
overwhelming overdevelopment adverse impacts on communities, but creates
poverty-pimp management contracts under the guise of Community Benefits

City Limits Magazine, up until recently, was an intelligent journal. In the
last year or so -- some would say with the closer involvement of its
alter-ego Center for Urban Future under Jonathan Bowles -- has become an
apologist for bad development.


Publication: The New York Sun; Date:Jun 28, 2005; Section:New York; Page:3

ANDREW WOLF on the Mayoral Race

Bloomberg Survives the Kiss of Death

The famous photograph of a tightlipped Mayor Bloomberg being kissed by Bertha Lewis, the executive director of the far-left activist group ACORN, is displayed in glorious color on the front page of the current issue of City Limits magazine. A few weeks ago, the same liplock was featured on the
editorial page of the Sun. That a Republican mayor, Mr. Bloomberg, is the recipient of this �bacio della morte�from the far left�s diva of dependency is astounding.

Even more surprising is that Mr. Bloomberg is lionized in much of this issue of the magazine as �the people�s mayor.� But amazingly, Mr. Bloomberg appears to be able to move as far to the left as he wants, without paying any price from Republicans, who can�t possibly agree with even a small part
of Ms. Lewis�s agenda.

The campaign of Thomas Ognibene, the former Queens council member, seems to be on life support. The mayor has aggressively moved to prevent the Ognibene forces from gathering the requisite number of signatures he needs to win a spot on the Republican primary ballot. At the beginning of the petition period, Bloomberg forces descended on the very areas of strength
that Mr. Ognibene was counting on to provide him with petition signatures.

Under the election law, once you�ve signed one petition, you cannot sign another. Mr. Ognibene is also lagging in fund-raising. This spells big trouble for the Republican challenger.

Under normal circumstances, favorable notices in City Limits would doom a Republican among members of his own party. For those unfamiliar with it, City Limits could be described as the official house organ of the crowd that believes that it has been all downhill in New York City since Mayor Dinkins left office.

In the world of City Limits, the worst mayor Gotham has ever had is clearly Rudolph Giuliani. In starting their editorial asking if Mr. Bloomberg is the �people�s mayor,� the editors make this clear. �If being an improvement from the Giuliani era were the only criteria, Michael Bloomberg would have been anointed the People�s Mayor a long time ago,� the editorial reads.

Mr. Bloomberg won praise for abandoning what they termed the �punitive� welfare programs of the past,�softening the city�s approach.� More welfare for less (or better yet, no) work is a central tenet of City Limits and its partisans.

So is �affordable housing,� the reason why Ms. Lewis was feeling so amorous toward Mr.Bloomberg.Affordable housing is today�s shorthand for heavy government subsidies. The mayor is praised for what the magazine terms the �modest� plan to �protect or create 65,000 affordable units.�

While excoriating Mr. Bloomberg�s �predilection toward stadiums and giveaways to big business,� the magazine notes that �the mayor�s [sic] also quietly pushed economic revitalization from the bottom up in the boroughs.�

Could all this translate into an endorsement from the political arm of the folks who run City Limits magazine, the Working Families Party? That ballot line is currently occupied by a �placeholder,� a candidate who can be removed almost at will by party leadership, which includes the lip-locking Ms. Lewis. This would be a valuable ballot line for the mayor, a place
where the furthest left wing of the Democratic voter base could comfortably pull the lever for Mr. Bloomberg without dirtying its hands on the Republican or Lenora Fulani�s Independence Party lines.

Lest the mayor get too captivated by Ms. Lewis�s charm and the adulation of her minions, City Limits makes note of the things that it doesn�t like: �consolidating power in the school system � a love of big tax giveaways to megacorporations � a secretive management style inherited from his private sector days that doesn�t work well in the public sector.�

But as the editors look at Mayor Mike and remember Rudy, they sum up the reality of the Republican mayor who shares so many of their goals: �Yet seeing light notes in a dark era reminds us that our work in communities, or laboring quietly for good in seemingly immovable bureaucracies, need not always be in vain.�

Can you imagine what they might say, and indeed what they might expect, if their Working Families Party provides Mr. Bloomberg with the margin of victory in November?

West Side Stadium Likely to Return in 2006

Subject: West Side Stadium Likely to Return in 2006
Date: 6/28/2005 5:32:44 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

West Side Stadium Likely to Return in 2006

The stadium rests in peace.

Emphasis on "rests": sadly, it's likely to come back next year.

But no sooner than that: the mayor's team used a nasty poll to get him to drop the issue during his campaign. The mayor spoke of the stadium as "history" (though he now discusses the issue more clinically). If only it was completely dead. The West Side stadium was terrible for the bid, and terrible for such a prime section of the city's waterfront.

For over a decade, West Side stadiums have come and gone. Then come back again. In 1993, Governor Cuomo first suggested one for the Yankees (the idea came from a 1980s arena proposal). Then Mayor Giuliani took up the cause in 1994. NYC2008 brought in the Olympic rationale in 1996. After losing the Yankees, NYC2012 recruited the Jets and turned it into a football stadium in 2001. Mayor Bloomberg became head booster in 2003.

The stadium needs a series of events to break its way in 2005 to have another chance in 2006: the courts must continue to rule in their favor; the MTA must stay on board; Bloomberg must get reelected, etc. At the moment, the odds favor each.

There remains a great deal of energy for the project among construction unions. Real estate heavyweights, most council members, several editorial boards, and most of the city's elite, from the Guggenheim to Charlie Rose, have signed on.

The Olympic cudgel is likely to return. There's been an NYC2008 and NYC2012, count on an NYC2016. After Oceania, Europe, Asia then Europe again, the Americas are due for the next Games, and the U.S. nominee will start as the front-runner. While NYC2012 only had 10 votes in April, reports (from the Times to WFAN) have suggested the city is in second place. NYC2016 could seize upon a poor finish: 'We were in second place and closing until we were forced to Plan B. We must return to Plan A to win, and we'll get it done before the IOC's 2016 process starts in 2007' (which also happens to the last year of Pataki's term). Never mind that it was Plan A that dragged New York down in the first place.

The Jets would need to fade into the background until after the election. New Jersey wants a quick answer, but discussions are likely to never quite ... reach ... closure. The Jets have leverage over the Giants and Xanadu deals, so they can hold off, and apparently will.

The mayor would have to reverse course after going to Queens. Even though the current plan is clearly superior, he might argue he went with the Mets to save the 2012 bid after the state rejected Manhattan, and there wasn't time to do a city approval process before the IOC vote. A reversal has happened before: when Bloomberg first took office four years ago, he said no stadiums. He ended up proposing three of them.

Would the mayor try again?

After such a stinging defeat, he should think "good riddance" to something that hurt his � and the bid's � chances. Except he's compared the stadium to Central Park (on multiple occasions), Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, the Triborough Bridge, water tunnels, airports, and subways, concluding that the stadium is "one of the most important economic things for this city" and will create the "the premiere destination of 21st century New York."

After all the hyperbole, how could he not?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Columbia University e i suoi vicini

La StampaWeb

Columbia University e i suoi vicini
Seconda parte: Manhattanville

22 giugno 2005
di Viviana Mazza

Un documentario online ricorda la storia della rivolta studentesca alla Columbia University nel 1968 (clicca per vedere la seconda parte del documentario o la prima parte di questo articolo). Gli studenti protestavano allora contro la guerra in Vietnam e per i diritti civili, ma alla Columbia c�era una ragione in pi� di protesta: la costante acquisizione di propriet� immobiliare nell�Upper West Side di Manhattan. Cineweb prende spunto dal documentario per raccontare le recenti evoluzioni dell�espansione dell�universit� nel quartiere e del rapporto coi suoi vicini, migliorato in tempi recenti ma tuttora non privo di diffidenza e problemi.

Quasi trent�anni sono passati dalla �rivolta� degli studenti della Columbia nel �68, ed oggi sembra improbabile che una nuova protesta li unisca ai residenti nel quartiere, i quali tuttavia non hanno smesso di guardare con sospetto alla ricca universit� Ivy League che sorge ai confini di Harlem, un quartiere economicamente povero.

Columbia University continua a crescere nell�Upper East Side, stimolata dalla necessit� di trovare alloggio ai suoi 19.0000 studenti e 2.600 professori e di disporre di nuovi edifici per i propri dipartimenti. Negli ultimi tre anni, la Columbia ha acquistato o affittato interi isolati tra la 125esima a sud e la 133esima strada a nord, e tra Broadway ad est e la 12esima avenue ad ovest. In 15-20 anni, l�universit� intende costruire un campus satellite in questa zona (delle dimensioni di met� dell�attuale campus che ha gi� a Morningside Heights). La zona � parte di West Harlem, anche se l�universit� la chiama col vecchio nome di Manhattanville. L�architetto Renzo Piano ha progettato i nuovi edifici che dovrebbero rimpiazzare gli attuali magazzini di mattoni rossi che ancora recano a grossi caratteri i prezzi per l�immagazzinamento di prodotti alimentari.

Poche voci pro o contro l�espansione di levano da Manhattanville in s�, dal momento che quasi nessuno ci vive o ci lavora. Negli anni 20, nella zona c�erano mattatoi e industrie dove si impacchettava la carne, e vi lavoravano residenti di Harlem; ma negli anni 80 l�industria decadde. Oggi, solo pochi spazi a pian terreno sono utilizzati � come garage o officine.

Ma coloro che risiedono intorno a Manhattanville � nei sei grattacieli popolari di Manhattanville (che contengono circa 10.000 appartamenti) e a Morningside Heights � vedono la nuova espansione dell�universit� con sospetto: se da un lato non provano nostalgia per la prossima distruzione dei vecchi mattatoi ed anzi nutrono speranze riguardo possibili nuovi impieghi, dall�altro sono preoccupati da un probabile aumento del costo della vita e dalla sempre pi� ridotta disponibilit� di alloggi per chi non lavora o studia all�universit�. Ristoranti e supermercati costosi come D�Agostino dicono con la loro stessa presenza ai residenti: �questo non fa per te�, spiega Afua Atta-Mansah, una ragazza di Harlem. I residenti, inoltre, sanno che l�amministrazione cittadina ha in programma di restaurare i due vecchi porticcioli sul fiume (sulla 12esima avenue) e temono che solo gli studenti e i professori ne godranno i benefici.

Il gruppo che protesta pi� attivamente si � dato il nome �Coalition to Preserve Community�: � composto per lo pi� dai pochi residenti rimasti a Morningside Heights (vedi prima parte). La Coalizione � convinta che, dal momento che la Columbia non paga tasse sulla propriet� immobiliare che sfrutta per scopi educativi o residenziali e poich� otterr� enormi benefici da questa nuova espansione, dovrebbe dare qualcosa in cambio alla comunit�: ripagarla per gli errori commessi in passato e aiutarla a crescere.

Diverse priorit�
L�interesse dell�universit� in Manhattanville � cominciato molti anni fa: nel 1949, quando l�universit� acquist� i primi due edifici sul lato sud della 125esima strada, dove sorgono anche due torri in cui risiedono professori, spiega Geoffrey Wiener, che lavora al dipartimento Pianificazione della Columbia. Ma solo nel 2000, l�universit� cominci� a far sul serio: acquist� una dozzina di edifici in pochi anni, subito dopo l�annuncio che la City Planning Commission di New York aveva intenzione di promuovere lo sviluppo di Manhattanville. Alcune fonti all�universit� attribuiscono la nuova espansione anche alla presenza del nuovo presidente Lee C. Bollinger, il quale dichiar� nel suo discorso di inaugurazione nel 2002: �Per realizzare le nostre responsabilit� e aspirazioni, Columbia deve espandersi in modo significativo nel prossimo decennio.� Nel presentare il �progetto Manhattanville� al Senato accademico nel 2004, Bollinger lo defin� �il futuro della Columbia�, e spieg� che per sviluppare i dipartimenti di Chimica, Biochimica, Fisica e Neuroscienze sono necessari almeno altri due laboratori e che l�universit� ha bisogno anche di una nuova sede per le facolt� umanistiche.

Queste sono le priorit� della Columbia. Quanto alla possibilit� di dialogare coi propri vicini, l�universit� ha cambiato approccio rispetto al passato. Ha organizzato due �open house� per presentare i propri piani alla comunit�, invitando varie associazioni locali. Ha anche lanciato un sito web per spiegare le modalit� dell�espansione (per esempio, l�accesso al fiume, la crescita economica del quartiere, il design degli edifici). �S�, � una manovra di pubbliche relazioni,� ha osservato il Columbia Spectator, il quotidiano degli studenti del campus. �Ma una buona manovra, che mostra chiaramente un maggiore impegno da parte dell�universit� nel tentativo di comunicare coi suoi vicini e ascoltare le loro ragioni�. Oltretutto negli ultimi anni, la Columbia ha mostrato di potere e volere giungere a compromessi riguardo alle proprie priorit� e quelle dei suoi vicini. Nel 2000, l�universit� costru� sulla 113esima strada un palazzo di appartamenti per docenti di 14 anzich� di 22 piani (come aveva originariamente progettato); ci vollero oltre 40 incontri con la comunit� per giungere a tale compromesso, ma nondimeno si giunse ad un accordo. Inoltre, al piano terra di quell�edificio, c�� una costosa scuola elementare concepita per i figli dei professori (un anno di frequenza costa $22.000): ma quando i residenti protestarono considerando la scuola un �affronto elitista�, l�universit� promise di riservare met� dei 650 posti a bambini della comunit�, aiutandoli anche a pagare la retta.

Resta il fatto che la presenza della Columbia causer� probabilmente un aumento del costo della vita a Manhattanville (come gi� accaduto a Morningside Heights in passato). Ci� significa che molti residenti di Harlem non potranno accedere ai servizi offerti. �Se lavori ad Harlem, dove il salario di media � di $6.25 l�ora ($1000 al mese), non puoi permetterti di vivere in questa comunit�, dice Afua Atta-Mansah. �Non puoi permetterti di pagare $750 al mese per un appartamento e di spendere $3.60 al giorno da Starbucks�. Seguendo una pratica in vigore dal 1999, l�universit� probabilmente continuer� ad assumere residenti locali per gli impieghi di supporto all�universit�. Il sito web della Columbia promette l�impiego di 3.700 carpentieri nei prossimi 10 anni e di 2.400 persone per lavori a lungo termine, ma quest�ultimo dato � spiega Hugh O�Neill, consulente economico nel team per Manhattanville � include anche lavori di professore e ricercatore post-dottorato, che probabilmente non andranno ai residenti di Harlem.

L�universit� tende anche ad affidare la gestione dei servizi (alimentari, d�ufficio, fiorai, eccetera) a imprenditori locali. Ma i negozi devono essere in grado di pagare l�affitto di mercato, dice Carol Shuchman, direttore dell�ufficio di Propriet� Immobiliare alla Columbia. Rob, che possiede il negozio di alimentari Tamarind Gourmet su Broadway e la 125esima, dice di aver dovuto lasciare la sua vecchia bottega sulla 115esima strada perch� i prezzi triplicarono quando l�universit� cominci� a restaurare gli edifici. Rob � certo che i prezzi aumenteranno presto anche a Manhattanville.

Tuttavia, confrontati con l�alternativa dell�intervento di imprenditori privati nella comunit�, molti residenti preferiscono la Columbia. Che cosa potrebbe fare l�universit� per loro? Il quartiere ha bisogno di scuole e lavori migliori. Secondo dati dell�amministrazione locale, il 26% degli adulti di West Harlem � analfabeta o semi-analfabeta e il 40% della popolazione in et� da lavoro guadagna meno di $10,000 l�anno.

Inoltre, la Coalition to Preserve Community, capeggiata tra gli altri da Tom Kappner e Tom DeMott, ha ottenuto l�approvazione da parte della Community Board locale di un documento che chiede che le istituzioni no-profit nel quartiere (e cio� la Columbia) smettano di convertire appartamenti ad affitto fisso disponibili a tutti in unit� esclusivamente destinate ai propri dipendenti e studenti, in quanto ci� ha gi� causato a Morningside Heights una drammatica carenza di alloggi (oltre ad una minore diversit� etnica e socio-economica tra i residenti). Ma il loro documento non � legge. �Lascia che ti dica la realt� della vita�, dice Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, il presidente della Community Board 9. �La realt� della vita � che la Columbia possiede quegli edifici. La gente crede che la Commuinty Board abbia un potere che non ha. La Community Board offre raccomandazioni, sostegno, ma non decide�. Anche Reyes-Montblanc ha le sue idee su come la Columbia potrebbe contribuire nel quartiere: potrebbe acquistare e trasformare in appartamenti a bassi costo disponibili ai cittadini alcuni dei numerosi edifici inutilizzati ad Harlem (i cui proprietari hanno perso i diritti per mancato pagamento delle tasse). L�amministrazione cittadina, con legge del 1999, stabil� che istituzioni no-profit possono restaurarli, ma devono prima pagare tasse che ammontano a milioni. Il problema, osserva Wiener all�ufficio Pianificazione della Columbia, � che il presidente Bollinger e i suoi consulenti pi� stressi dovranno valutare quando spendere per l�espansione dell�universit� e quanto per scopi non istituzionali.

Finora l�universit� ha mostrato una maggiore capacit� di dialogo coi suoi vicini, ma al momento di mettere mano al portafogli potrebbe rivelarsi assai pi� timida.

Le foto sono tratte dal sito:

Everybody Out?

Everybody Out?

Tenants of a rent-stabilized building at 47-49 East Third Street in the East Village; the building's tenants are fighting a decision by their landlords, Alistair and Catherine Economakis, not to renew their leases.

Published: June 26, 2005

NEARLY two years ago, Alistair and Catherine Economakis became the owners of a six-story tenement building at 47-49 East Third Street, between First and Second Avenues, in the East Village. The building has 15 apartments, with tenants paying rents of $500 to $950 a month.

Within weeks, the Economakises began notifying tenants that their leases would not be renewed, even though the apartments were rent stabilized, because the couple planned to live in the building with their infant son and take over all 11,600 square feet.

The notices said the new owners planned to renovate the building, which has a total of 60 rooms, to create five bedrooms, six bathrooms, a den, a playroom, a gym, a library, a study area, a dining room, a kitchen and a living room.

Under the law, landlords have the right to terminate the leases of rent-stabilized tenants if they plan to use the space for themselves. They must notify the tenants at least four months before their leases expire.

"It needs to be remembered that an owner owns his or her building and has a constitutional right to reside in that property," said Sherwin Belkin, a landlord lawyer in Manhattan. "A tenant, on the other hand, has a privilege to occupy. And rights are superior to privilege."

The tenants at 47-49 East Third Street are fighting hard against being evicted. "We were absolutely stunned when we got the first nonrenewal notice," said Ursula Kinzel, the president of the tenants association. "It was totally unbelievable that someone would get a 15-unit, rent-stabilized building in order to turn it into a private home. The natural thing would be to just go out and buy a house."

In November, four tenants in the East Third Street building who have not yet received nonrenewal notices filed suit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, asserting that the Economakis plan violates the rent-stabilization law on the ground that the law never contemplated an owner taking over an entire building for personal use.

"The idea," said Stephen Dobkin, the lawyer for the tenants association, "is to prevent the landlord from starting proceedings against these tenants while the judge decides whether it is legal for a landlord to try to get an entire tenement building for his own use." Acting State Supreme Court Justice Paul G. Feinman has not yet ruled in the case brought by the four tenants.

Tenant lawyers say they have seen increasing numbers of such cases as neighborhoods gentrify. But there is no way to determine if there has been an upsurge because no government agency monitors how many are filed or whether the owner or a family member actually occupies the apartment or apartments. State Supreme Court Justice Fern A. Fisher, the administrative judge for the city's Civil Court, which includes Housing Court, said the system's computers are not programmed to specify owner-occupancy cases.

The rent-stabilization law does state that an owner can claim one or more apartments for his or her personal use. "I don't believe the law is vague," said Todd Rose, the lawyer for the Economakises. "It says that the standard for recovering all the apartments in a building is the same standard employed by the courts if a landlord is going to seek only one apartment - the landlord must prove that he has a good faith intention to live in the apartments."

But Andrew Scherer, the author of "Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York" (West Group, 2005), said: "The size of the space that somebody claims they intend to live in must pass what lawyers call the 'giggle test' - the notion that the claim is believable and will not cause a judge to start to giggle. The idea that someone would take 15 units with 60 rooms as a primary residence is absurd."

By law, said Mr. Scherer, who is also executive director of Legal Services for New York City, which represents poor people in civil cases, a building owner can recover an apartment or apartments for use by himself or herself, a spouse, a child or stepchild, a parent or stepparent, a parent-in-law, a sibling, a sibling-in-law, a grandparent or a grandchild. And the apartment must be occupied by the family member for at least three years.

Although there are no hard numbers, Mr. Scherer believes there has been an increase in owner-occupancy litigation in recent years, including several high-profile cases like the one on East Third Street in which landlords have attempted to empty entire buildings.

"Anecdotally, at least, it appears that owner-occupancy proceedings are becoming increasingly common," he said.

Samuel J. Himmelstein, a tenant lawyer in Manhattan, said he has handled 75 to 100 owner-occupancy cases in the last eight years. Previously, Mr. Himmelstein said, most of his cases involved claims by landlords that tenants were not using the apartment as their primary residences. But two to three years ago, he said, owner-occupancy proceedings became the bulk of his caseload.

The litigation over 47-49 East Third Street, which has five residential floors over one commercial, may help answer the question of how many apartments an owner can recover.
During pretrial depositions, Mr. Economakis testified that the only permanent residents would be himself, his wife and their infant son, but that they hoped to have other children.
In an interview, Mr. Economakis, a real estate management consultant, said, "Absolutely, I intend to make 47 East Third Street my home for my family." He said he had offered to post a bond to assure that he would occupy the building, "and, to date, we have never had one response from the tenants to our proposals on how we can guarantee our good faith."

The Economakises, who had been partners with 12 other people in a corporation that owned the building, would not disclose how much they had paid for the property in August 2003, after the corporation was reorganized under federal bankruptcy laws. By law only an individual owner, not a business entity, can recover an apartment or apartments for personal use.

They decided to live in the building, Mr. Economakis said, after looking for a new home and finding nothing that appealed to them. "When my wife became pregnant, we began looking for a home," he said. "

It is at that point it dawned on me that we already own a building. Once we decided to make this building our home, quite frankly there was nothing else that compared."

Mr. Economakis said the tenants have refused to meet with him. "I believe my wife and I have approached this whole process with sensitivity and respect for the tenants affected," he said.

Mr. Dobkin said, however, that he and several members of the tenants association did meet with the Economakises. "We've listened to their settlement proposals," he said, "which always involve all the tenants giving up their apartments, which is something that the tenants will not do."

The fight has taken its toll on the tenants, many of whom have lived in the building for decades, and who were planning a rally in front of the building on June 25 to call attention to such battles. "It's pretty much been a nightmare, the insecurity," Ms. Kinzel said. "It's really turning our lives upside down."

"I wake up around 4 in the morning and I can't sleep," she said. "My thoughts are just turning around. How are we going to sustain the legal bills?" So far, the 11 tenants represented by Mr. Dobkin have paid equal shares of the approximately $85,000 in legal fees.
"Should we lose, where are we going to go?" Ms. Kinzel asked. "We'll probably have to leave Manhattan."

There is no precise way to determine whether landlords or tenants tend to prevail in owner-occupancy litigation. But of the 75 to 100 cases that Mr. Himmelstein has handled in the last eight years, he said, about one-fourth resulted in the landlord losing on procedural grounds. Almost all of the others, he said, were settled, with the tenants moving out after receiving payments of at least $10,000 (and, in six cases, more than $200,000). In a Brooklyn case not handled by Mr. Himmelstein, five of six tenants facing eviction received rent waivers or settlements of up to $6,500.

There were, however, no settlements in a convoluted case, won by three Manhattan tenants last year, in which the legal standard that the owner prove his intention to occupy the apartments was sorely tested.

In that case, Mr. Himmelstein originally represented four tenants at 450 West 57th Street, where the landlord, Abe Haruvi, sought to recover all of their apartments so that he and his wife could create a 6,000-square-foot quadriplex. (For technical reasons, the Haruvis soon dropped one of the four cases.)

During the trial, Mr. Himmelstein demonstrated that the Haruvis had a long history of owner-occupancy petitions. "Other than the four at 450 West 57th Street," he said, "there had been six prior owner-use cases commenced by the Haruvis in three other buildings."

In three of those earlier cases, the Haruvis simultaneously sought, in 1996, three apartments in different buildings for the same family member, Mr. Himmelstein said. In one of those cases, he said, "they actually recovered possession, but never moved into the building and subsequently re-rented the apartment at a destabilized rent of at least $4,000."

Since then, the Haruvis have brought two other owner-use cases, he said, "and in only one case did a family member, a daughter, actually take occupancy."

In her April 2004 ruling denying the Haruvi eviction requests at 540 West 57th Street, Judge Maria Milin of Housing Court wrote that the Haruvis had "engaged in a pattern of commencing meritless owner-occupancy proceedings."

In a written statement read by his lawyer, Bruce H. Lederman, Mr. Haruvi said, in part: "We strongly disagree with Judge Milan's decision. We believe she drew the wrong conclusion from completely lawful and proper actions on our part."

Mr. Haruvi pointed out that his brother, Arthur, had offered to post a $1 million bond to guarantee that the family would occupy the three recently sought apartments, at 450 West 57th Street. The prior owner-occupancy cases, Mr. Haruvi wrote, "were dismissed for very technical reasons, or prior cases were settled or abandoned because of changed circumstances in the years it takes to go to trial."

"The fact that we have kept trying unsuccessfully to enforce our rights to live in homes in property we own has been unfairly held against us," he wrote.

Notable owner-occupancy cases are not restricted to Manhattan. In a four-story, 20-unit building in Borough Park, Brooklyn, six tenants received nonrenewal notices from the landlord, Harry Stern, in late 2003 and early 2004, so that Mr. Stern could give apartments to his two sons, two daughters, his wife's sister and her brother, even though four apartments were already vacant.

Since then, said Irene Ginsburg, the Legal Services lawyer who represented one of the six tenants at the building, at 973 47th Street, the case against her client was dropped. But the other five, Ms. Ginsburg said, accepted settlements giving them varying combinations of a delayed move-out date, a rent waiver until they had to move out or a payment of $5,000 to $6,500.

Two other apartments in the building became vacant after Mr. Stern sued the tenants on grounds other than owner-occupancy. "So, that's a total of 11 apartments vacated in a 20-apartment building," Ms. Ginsburg said.

"To our knowledge," she continued, "of the five apartments that the landlord obtained under owner-use, two have gone to new tenants who are not family members; one has gone to the landlord's daughter, who already lived in the building but expanded into the next apartment; a fourth apartment is still being renovated; and the fifth apartment, the tenant hasn't left yet."

Pointing out that the landlord also obtained six other apartments on grounds other than owner's use, Ms. Ginsburg said she wondered, "If his family members needed to move into the building, why didn't he give those other apartments to his family?"

Mr. Stern's lawyer, Scott Gross, said: "Each and every owner's-use case brought by my client was settled amicably without the need for a formal trial. In each situation, my client has complied with his obligations under the rent-stabilization laws, and continued to comply with these laws."

Asked how many of Mr. Stern's family members have moved into the building, Mr. Gross said he had to check with his client, but then did not respond to four telephone messages.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Privatization of Public Space Comm. Meeting

There is a public meeting on the Privatization of Public Space in New York on Sunday at 6 pm.
at the Theater for the New City
on 1st Ave. & 10th Street.

Complete info is here

(Also to be discussed is Eminant Domanin issue) -- Mary

Friday, June 24, 2005

New York Council Calendar for the week of 06/27/2005 to 07/01/2005:

Subject: RE:Council Calendar
Date: 6/24/2005 4:31:26 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Sent from the Internet (Details)

New York Council Calendar for the week of 06/27/2005 to 07/01/2005:
COMMITTEE: Education, Chairperson(s):Eva S. Moskowitz
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall

Oversight - 2005 Standardized Text Scores

COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Fire & Criminal Justice Services, Chairperson(s):Yvette D. Clarke
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 14th Floor
DETAILS: Agenda to be announced

COMMITTEE: Transportation, Chairperson(s):John C. Liu
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall

Oversight - Laws and Regulations Enforced By City Traffic Agents

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Veterans, Chairperson(s):Hiram Monserrate
TIME: 10:00 AM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 16th Floor

Oversight - An Overview of New York City Benefits for Veterans: Civil Service Credits and Military Leave Policies

COMMITTEE: Joint Meeting. Contracts; Small Business , Chairperson(s):Michael C. Nelson, Robert Jackson
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Council Chambers - City Hall

Oversight - What will become of the Bronx Terminal Market and Its Vendors?

COMMITTEE: DEFERRED* Environmental Protection, Chairperson(s):James F. Gennaro
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Committee Room - City Hall
DETAILS: Agenda to be announced

COMMITTEE: Health, Chairperson(s):Christine C. Quinn
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 14th Floor

Oversight - Systems and Structures of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation

COMMITTEE: ADDITION* Economic Development, Chairperson(s):James Sanders, Jr.
TIME: 1:00 PM LOCATION: Hearing Room - 250 Broadway, 16th Floor

Oversight - New York City?s Biotech Industry: In Search of Room for Growth

*Selected Commitees are not listed.
This is an automated mailer, so please confirm these dates by checking the Hearings and Meetings Calendar on our website, for the schedule may change at the last minute. Thank you.
The Webmaster of the New York City Council

The Limits of Property Rights : JRM's Commentary to the New York Times

kingmont2 - 6:43 AM ET June 24, 2005 (#1462 of 1462)

The Limits of Property Rights

The US Supreme Court decision on the Kelo case was most disappointing.

Eminent Domain should be limited to the Framers of the Constitution original intent and view.

Far too often Eminent Domain is used for the benefit of private institutions of great prestige, money and political influence to the detriment of the rightful property owners.

"a forced sale in which the seller is given appropriate compensation" as the NY TImes indicates is not a good enough reason to take someone's hard fought property rights. Of course the NY Times would feel this way as itself has been the beneficiary of the use of Eminent Domain.

Currently in New York City a similar fight is in the offing in West Manhattanville where Columbia University has decided that it will acquire certain properties through Eminent Domain id it cannot acquire it in the market place.

Fortunately the situtation here is not the an action or design of the municipality or the State, therefore the narrow scope of the US Supreme Court decision makes it unapplicable to the Columbia University efforts which are neither a City nor State plan but purely a private institutions desires and ambitions.

Additionally in West Manhattanville the community is strongly and heavily supportive of the property owners in danger of Columbia's actions and efforts to influence the State to use Eminent Domain for their private benefit.

The much vaunted 9000 jobs that Columbia's plan promised are hardly compensation enough for the community which will lose not only the loss of property taxes paid now to the City of New York as Columbia is a not-for-profit and will not pay property taxes or any other taxes at that, but most importantly the community will lose over 1200 jobs now filled by many local residents.

The greatest majority of the new jobs to be created by Columbia will be technical, scientific and academic, most residents of Manhattanville, Hamilton Heights and Morningside Heights will not be able to even qualify for those jobs leaving only low clerical and janitorial type-jobs to community residents if that.

Community Board 9 Manhattan firmly opposses Eminent Domiain for the benefit of any private institution and particularly for the benefit of Columbia University whose historical relationship with the community has been less than cordial.


Jordi Reyes-Montblanc
Community Board 9 Manhattan
(212) 864-6200