Friday, June 30, 2006

Final two holdouts in eminent domain case reach agreement

Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2006 23:39:10 -0400
From: "Tenant"
Subject: Fort Trumbull falls to enemy forces


Final two holdouts in eminent domain case reach agreement
Associated Press Writer
June 30, 2006, 4:46 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The last two holdouts in New London's Fort
Trumbull neighborhood agreed Friday to give up their land to make way
for private development, ending an eight-year battle that went all
the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Suzette Kelo, the lead plaintiff
in the case, agreed to have her pink cottage moved elsewhere in New

"Even though she lost her land, the little pink home that launched a
national revolution is safe, and it's going to stand as a testament
to her heroic struggle and the struggle against eminent domain abuse
throughout the country," said Scott Bullock, a spokesman for the
Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners.

Pasquale Cristofaro, the other holdout, has agreed to give up his
home but is entitled to purchase a new one in the neighborhood at a
fixed price if new homes are built. He also has the option to build
on the Fort Trumbull peninsula, as long as whatever he builds
complies with a plan of development.

"I'm relieved, but it's a sad day because the city doesn't want us
there," said Michael Cristofaro, Pasquale's son. "I'm going to have
to see that house be torn down and you can bet I'll be there when
they tear that house down. I'm not going to let them get away with
thinking that day is just going to come and go."

The amount of money involved in the settlements was not released.
Cristofaro said his family won some concessions in the final
negotiations that mean a lot to them personally. The city must erect
a plaque on the planned Fort Trumbull riverwalk honoring Cristofaro's
mother, Margherita, who died in 2003. The city and its development
arm must also transplant rhododendron bushes and arborvitae from
Cristofaro's property. He does not expect the house to be torn down
until after October, when the plants can be moved safely.

Cristofaro credited Gov. M. Jodi Rell and a representative from the
state Department of Economic and Community Development with getting
involved in the final negotiations, treating the homeowners with
compassion and understanding that small concessions were important.

"That's what the city didn't understand," he said. "People have
personal attachments to their property and money is not always what
people want. These were concessions that the city didn't even bother
to try to make. They just wanted you out."

The Cristofaros and Kelo had faced the possibility of forced eviction
from their homes to make way for a riverfront project slated to
include condominiums, a hotel and office space.

But last week, Rell announced a tentative agreement between the
city's development arm, the New London Development Corp., and the

Rell, in a written statement, said Friday that she was pleased the
final agreements have been signed. She thanked Kelo and the
Cristofaro for their willingness to "negotiate and responsibly settle
this very difficult and painful issue."

"Now these families can have some closure and the Fort Trumbull
economic development project will go forward without delay, infusing
new jobs and vitality into the region," she said.

The five other property owners in the case had already settled with
the city and handed over their properties. The New London Development
Corp. first condemned the properties in 2000, and the U.S. Supreme
Court ruled 5-4 on June 23, 2005, that New London had the right to

The court also said states were free to change their eminent domain
laws. Legislatures in 20 states have since passed some form of
legislation limiting eminent domain. The Democrat-controlled
Connecticut General Assembly was not one of them, despite pleas from
Republicans to prevent eminent domain seizures for projects such as
shopping malls or condominiums that benefit private developers.

Rell said Friday that Connecticut should work to limit eminent domain
when the next legislative session opens in January.

Cristofaro said he is not giving up on the issue.

"It's a happy and sad day. I'm now able to get my life back, but the
thing is, I will never stop fighting for people's property rights
across this nation," he said. "There's a lot of good things coming
out because of our fight here in New London. People are uprising
across the nation."

The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.



New property rights ombudsman, other laws taking effect
Associated Press Writer
June 30, 2006, 7:58 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The day after the last two holdouts in New London's eminent domain case settled their challenges, a new state law creating a property rights ombudsman takes effect on Saturday.

It's one of several new laws that kick in on July 1.

The new ombudsman law does not reform the eminent domain property-taking process, which many Republicans in the Democratic-controlled legislature hoped for this year. Rather, it compromises by setting up an office to help property owners navigate eminent domain proceedings, mediate disputes and recommend changes in Connecticut's eminent domain laws.

"I think if the ombudsman was in place when this process started eight years ago, we would have avoided all of this because the city's early bullying would have been brought to a halt," said House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, an advocate for eminent domain reform.

Ward said he's optimistic that Gov. M. Jodi Rell's appointee for the ombudsman job will be in place by January. Ward said he'd like the person to be an attorney who is committed to property rights and has experience with eminent domain issues.

On Friday, the two remaining homeowners in New London's Fort Trumbull neighborhood agreed to end an eight-year battle to save their property from being razed for private development _ a fight that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Susette Kelo, the lead plaintiff in the case, agreed to have her pink cottage moved elsewhere in New London.

Pasquale Cristofaro, the other holdout, agreed to give up his home but is entitled to purchase a new one in the neighborhood at a fixed price if new homes are built. Rell, who helped to broker the settlement, said she's committed to changing the state's eminent domain laws next year if she wins the November gubernatorial election.

"We must now focus our efforts on joining with the other 25 states in the nation that have passed eminent domain reform legislation to protect our citizens from expanded, unnecessary property seizure," said Rell, a Republican. Some Democrats have hesitated to change state laws on eminent domain, arguing that the issue is complicated and that they don't want to hurt municipal redevelopment efforts.

Ward said he believes Friday's settlements in New London might help garner more support for eminent domain reform next year, when the legislature convenes in January. "In some ways, for some legislators, it will be easier for them to move forward," he said. "It won't be viewed as them picking on New London."

Among the other laws that take effect Saturday: a plan to establish a new corporation tax credit for qualified Connecticut film and digital media production, pre-production and post-production expenses over $50,000. It is part of an effort to encourage growth of the film industry in the state.

Although school is out for the summer, a new law banning Connecticut's public schools from selling soda and other sugary drinks takes effect.

Saturday also marks the start of a law that allows state taxpayers to deduct contributions to the Connecticut Higher Education Trust, the state-sponsored college savings plan. It allows a $10,000 annual deduction for joint filers, and $5,000 for single filers for the current tax year and beyond.

A new law against trafficking humans also takes effect Saturday, applying to people who coerce others into prostitution or work. They could face up to 20 years in prison, a fine up to $15,000 or both.

Also, the second phase of a statewide transportation bonding initiative kicks off on Saturday. The $2.3 billion package includes numerous projects, such as restoring commuter rail service between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, Mass.; and improving rail stations and parking areas along the Metro-North and Shore Line East commuter lines.

Chelsea seminary drops 4 stories off its tower plan

The Villager
Volume 76, Number 6 June 28 - July 4 2006

Chelsea seminary drops 4 stories off its tower plan
By Albert Amateau

General Theological Seminary last week scaled back its plans to build a 17-story tower on the Ninth Ave. side of its Chelsea campus.

The new plan to build a 13-story building to replace the four-story Sherrill Hall has won only a few converts from the neighbors who opposed the first proposal.

The Seminary’s land-use lawyer, Stephen Lefkowitz, sent a letter on June 19 to Robert Tierney, Landmarks Preservation Commission chairperson, saying the Seminary intends to amend the application it had filed at the end of last year.

“As a result of many discussions with members of the Chelsea community and elected officials, the Seminary has decided not to pursue the application in its present form,” the letter says. “Instead, the Seminary is reviewing its needs and plans … and expects to amend the application.

The current thinking, following discussions with the community, is to reduce the size of the building on Ninth Ave. by transferring certain program space to a new building to be constructed on 20th St. between Ninth and 10th Aves. on the site of the Seminary’s tennis court,” the letter said. The courts are in the middle of the campus and a small building there has not drawn opposition.

Chris Ballard, a Seminary staff member involved in community outreach, said the move to amend the L.P.C. application would require less time and trouble than withdrawing it and filing an entirely new application.

In response to neighborhood opposition to the 17-story mixed residential and academic uses project, the Seminary on June 15 presented an alternate scenario for a 13-story building with residential condos on the Ninth Ave. end of the campus and a three-story building with 35,000 sq. ft. for the academic uses on the tennis court within the walled campus on the 20th St. side between Ninth and 10th Aves.

While a few neighbors at the June 15 meeting were willing to consider the alternative, most of them were not receptive.

“The community doesn’t want anything taller than the 75 feet allowed by the zoning,” said Robert S. Trentlyon, a founder of Save the Chelsea Historic District, a group organized in response to the project.
“Many of the people into neighborhood preservation are trying to preserve the Seminary right out of existence by being so inflexible,” Ballard said later.

Founded in 1819 on land donated by Clement Clark Moore, a Seminary professor of oriental languages and author of the verse that begins, “Twas the night before Christmas,” the first building was completed in 1827.

G.T.S., the oldest Episcopal seminary in the U.S., needs a Landmarks Commission Certificate of Appropriateness for the project because the campus, known as the Close, between Ninth and 10th Aves. from 20th to 21st Sts., is within the Chelsea Historic District. The zoning of the Close mandates a height limit of 75 ft., about seven stories.

The Ninth Ave. project, a partnership of the Seminary with the Brodsky Organization, originally called for the 17-story mixed-use complex with 82 residential condos and space for the Seminary’s administrative offices, the dean’s residence and the G.T.S. library. The site is the current location of the four-story Sherrill Hall, which is in bad condition despite having been built in 1959.

The proposed luxury residential condos are intended to generate $15 million that the Seminary needs to restore and maintain its 19th century buildings, which are badly deteriorated because maintenance has long been deferred. The Seminary’s agreement with the Brodsky Organization guaranteed that G.T.S. would receive the $15 million in return for Brodsky’s control of the residential and commercial income from the project.

At the June 15 meeting, Trentlyon said he consulted several real estate developers, who assured him the Seminary could realize the $15 million it needs by building its own replacement of Sherrill Hall with high-rent ground floor retail space on Ninth Ave.

However, Maureen Burnley, G.T.S. vice president for finance and operations, replied that the Seminary did not want to create “a commercial mall” on any part of the Close. She also said that if the Seminary developed its own non-academic profit-oriented uses, it would have to pay considerable real estate and income taxes from which it is now exempt as a religious and educational institution.
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S.L.A.’s Daniel walks into Soho lions’ den

Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2006 11:51:05 -0400
From: "Tenant"
Subject: SLA Dog & Pony Show in Soho

NB- This is an interesting development, but also says
this is not the time to let up on any pressure.
While there seems to be an inkling of response to
complaints in Soho and the Village, I don't think
it's translated to the rest of the city.

The June 26 summit as detailed below must have
been limited to downtown or Soho residents. The
rest of us were not notified or invited.

For Boyle to claim the SLA has a new policy in
that it is holding 500 foot hearings, is
disingenuous. They have always been held whenever
someone appears for one. The problem is that the
SLA then rubber-stamped applications, or in the
rare case where one was rejected, they were
almost always granted on follow-up applications
even if the basis for complaints or rejection still existed.
How many times have we seen the SLA grant a
license because the community is deprived of
Italian cuisine and therefore the granting of a
license would be in the public interest?

In areas north of 14th Street, Tom Duane (the
only one who attended who represents areas north
of 14th) has been completely asleep on any SLA issue.
The May 5th hearing, like others before it, may
be relegated to energy wasted on domestic
consumption. You know Silver isn't serious on an
issue when it's a one-house bill. -Tenant

The Villager
Volume 76, Number 6 June 28 - July 4 2006

S.L.A.’s Daniel walks into Soho lions’ den
By Albert Amateau

The State Liquor Authority chairperson came to a
public forum Downtown on Monday and promised a
new era in which the agency would be tougher on
applications in neighborhoods where bars and
clubs are shattering the late night peace.

Daniel Boyle, a former Upstate police chief,
picked Soho for his first large community meeting
since Governor Pataki appointed him chairperson
of the S.L.A. in January, although he had met
with in smaller groups across the state. It was
the first time in recent memory that an S.L.A.
chairperson met with community members in the
city to talk about problem bars.

Boyle introduced the newest S.L.A. member, Noreen
Healey, a Brooklyn Heights resident and the first
member from the city in more than a decade. She
recently served as principal State Supreme Court
attorney in Brooklyn and has 13 years experience
as an assistant district attorney in Queens,
Brooklyn and Nassau County. She thought her city
residency and prosecutorial experience were the
two reasons she was appointed.

For the past few years, neighborhood groups and
elected officials have demanded that Gov. Pataki
appoint a New York City resident to the three-member
S.L.A., hoping for an agency with a better understanding
of a city that has 29,000 of New York State’s 70,000
licensed premises. Pataki named Healey two weeks ago
and the state Senate confirmed her on June 22.

In neighborhoods including the East Village, the
Lower East Side and Chelsea, quality of life
forums during the past several years have
denounced the S.L.A. for making almost automatic
exceptions to the 500-ft. rule. The rule prohibits
granting a license within 500 feet of three other
licensed premises unless it can been shown at a
hearing that another establishment is : “the
public interest.” The S.L.A. had been defining
public interest so broadly that denials were rare.

Boyle told the June 26 “Quality of Life Summit”
forum attended by about 70 invited community
representatives and election officials that the
agency has already embarked on its new policy.

“Since I’ve been chairman we’ve had ten 500-ft.
rule hearings and we denied seven. Three were
granted, one with no opposition,” Boyle said.
“We’re not going to please everyone – people
have the right to hold licenses.”

Responding to a question by Zella Jones,
president of the Noho Neighborhood Association
who organized the forum at the Puffin Gallery,
Boyle said the S.L.A. would define “public
interest” in 500-ft. rule hearings after
listening to community representatives, law
enforcement officers and the license applicants.
“We’ll try to be fair and consistent,” he said.

The agency is short-staffed, with a total of 150
employees of which 28 are assigned to New York
City and Westchester, said Richard Mann, S.L.A.
enforcement chief who accompanied Boyle and
Healey. There are only about 10 S.L.A.
enforcement agents working in the five boroughs.

Nevertheless, Mann said the agency would put
personnel where it is needed.

“I can assure you that we’ll make every effort to
address your concerns,” Mann said. “The chairman
is making us much more responsive than we’ve been
in the past. If we can show that clients of a
particular bar are continually disruptive we can
give the evidence to our attorneys to take action.”

But proving that clients of a particular bar are
the ones causing problems might be difficult in
Manhattan where revelers walk from bar to bar,
Mann conceded.

Councilmember Alan Gerson, State Sens. Martin
Connor and Tom Duane and Assemblymember
Deborah Glick spoke at the event.

Earlier in June, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
sponsored a package of bills intended to
drastically curtail the “public interest” exception,
to control rowdy bars and to allow the S.L.A. to
enforce conditions of operations that community
board negotiate with bar owners. The bills passed
the Democratic-controlled Assembly but failed to
pass the Republican-controlled state Senate.

Boyle said there is a new Rapid Response Unit in
the S.L.A. that will respond to problem bars. “We
can’t fix the past. We can fix the future. We’re
going to put as many investigators in the field
as we need,” Boyle said to general applause.


Deputy mayor: Bloomberg will push for a city S.L.A. commish
... By Albert Amateau. More than 200 residents of Noho, Soho and the Lower East Side — neighborhoods overwhelmed by bars ... 17k - Cached - More from this site - Save

Pataki ignores outcry for city S.L.A. member; sheriff gets nod
... By Albert Amateau. The hopes of Village, Soho, Lower East Side and Chelsea community advocates and elected officials that ... - 14k - Cached - More from this site - Save

[HK-Online] Hell's Kitchen Online - 4/22/00
... 30 p.m. SORRY, NO GUNS AT THE SLA (Villager) Leave your AK-47 at home the next ... Villager, 4/12/00 By Albert Amateau While the last remnants of ... - 24k -
Cached - More from this site - Save

Authority Liquor New State York
... Board 3 sends the State Authority a message. By Albert Amateau. The Villager 487 Greenwich St ... was hopeful the newly confirmed Chairman of the State Liquor Authority (SLA) Daniel - 8k -
Cached - More from this site - Save > TMB Press Links
A project of the Lower East Side Alliance, NYC. Monday 08th of May 2006 ... "Residents rail against bars at an L.E.S. town hall" By Albert Amateau ... that end, they're pressing the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to enforce its own rules about issuing licenses ... - More from this site - Save

new york state liquor authority - new york state liquor authority Information
... the State Liquor Authority a message ... By Albert Amateau ... "The New York S.L.A. has failed this ... year, in order to challenge the state liquor authority (SLA) regarding its ... - More from this site - Save

V.A. Laptop Is Recovered, Its Data Intact

New York Times Washington

V.A. Laptop Is Recovered, Its Data Intact
Published: June 30, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 29 — The government has recovered a stolen laptop computer and external hard drive that contains the birthdates and Social Security numbers for millions of veterans and military personnel, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Thursday.
Skip to next paragraph

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement from its Baltimore field office that it appeared that the data had not been copied or misused.

"A preliminary review of the equipment by computer forensic teams has determined that the database remains intact and has not been accessed since it was stolen," the statement said.

Michelle Crnkovich, a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Baltimore, said the computer was turned over to agents there on Wednesday. The person who delivered the laptop has not been charged, Ms. Crnkovich said. A $50,000 reward had been offered for information related to the computer.

Ms. Crnkovich said the United States Park Service had helped in the recovery of the equipment, which will be further tested by F.B.I. officials in Washington.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said on Capitol Hill on Thursday that there were no reports that the stolen data had been used for identity theft. But he acknowledged that the situation had "brought to the light of day some real deficiencies in the manner we handled personal data."

The laptop computer and a detachable hard drive were stolen in a burglary on May 3 from the home of an agency employee in Aspen Hill, Md. Some officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs learned of the theft almost immediately, but Mr. Nicholson said he was not notified until May 16.

Because of the delay, the F.B.I. did not find out about the theft until about two weeks after the burglary, which was under investigation by the police in Montgomery County, Md.

Officials at the veterans agency have said the employee violated department procedure by taking the information home. But The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that agency documents showed that the employee had approval to work on his laptop from home.

A spokesman for the agency, Matt Burns, said the employee had been put on administrative leave while the agency sought his dismissal. Mr. Burns declined to comment on the report by The A.P. "because it is an ongoing personnel matter."

Mr. Nicholson has said he wanted to dismiss the employee outright but was told he could not because of federal job-protection rights.

The records included names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers for millions of people, although the exact number has not been clear. At first, the department said information on 26.5 million veterans was affected. Later, it said the number included forces on active duty, as well as veterans.

Last week, the agency lowered the number of people at risk to 17.5 million, saying the earlier estimate had not taken into account deaths and duplication of records.

The data theft and the confusion about the scope of the breach have caused the agency to be sharply criticized by veterans' groups, and several have joined a class-action lawsuit. Federal lawmakers have also been critical.

Representative Steve Buyer, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he hoped that the recovery of the computer would allow veterans to "breathe a sigh of relief." But he added that it would not diminish concerns over the department's handling of personal information.

"We will hold the V.A. responsible and accountable," Mr. Buyer said.

The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho, said in a statement that the recovery of the equipment was "wonderful for veterans and active duty personnel," adding, "We have all learned, as well, that serious changes are needed in data protection governmentwide."

The department offered to pay for a year of free credit monitoring for the veterans, which it said would cost about $160.5 million. The director of the White House Office of Management, Rob Portman, suggested Wednesday that the department pay for such monitoring with about $130 million from a food stamp employment and training program, a farmers' assistance program, student loans and a program for young people released from prison.

Asked whether the department would carry out its plan for credit monitoring now that the data has been recovered, the V.A. spokesman, Mr. Burns, said the "next steps are going to be determined after receiving additional information on law enforcement's analysis of the recovered equipment."

Senators Criticize Payment Plan for Monitoring Veterans' Credit (June 29, 2006)
Panel Tries to Protect Veterans in Breach (June 23, 2006)
V.A. to Atone With Free Credit Monitoring (June 22, 2006)
Vast Data Cache About Veterans Is Stolen (May 23, 2006)

Identity TheftGo to Complete Coverage »

Readers’ Opinions
Forum: Stolen Lives

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Power Control For D.C. Houses - 'Smart Meter' Test To Manage Usage

Power Control For D.C. Houses
'Smart Meter' Test To Manage Usage
By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 19, 2006;
Page D01

Pepco Holdings Inc. is planning to install "smart meters" in 2,250 District homes as part of a $2 million pilot project to give Pepco more information about residential electricity usage and give homeowners greater ability to manage power consumption and curb monthly bills.

"As energy prices go up, customers want more control over their electric bills," said Michael J. Sullivan, Pepco's vice president of customer care. "How can they get that control? One way is to involve them in direct control over their electrical appliances."

The meters will measure customers' electricity use at 15-minute intervals and transmit the data to Pepco through a wireless communications link. Customers will get more detailed bills.

About half the residences in the program will also get "smart thermostats" that will provide customers with information about real-time electricity prices and running usage so they can adjust air conditioning or the use of other appliances.

The price of electricity can vary widely depending on time of day and season. Summer rates at peak hours are 64 cents a kilowatt-hour; rates during non-peak hours are 6.81 cents.

Pepco would also have the ability to adjust the thermostats to prevent demand from overloading the transmission system. There are 15 "critical peak" days during the summer and three during the winter. Customers would be able to override Pepco's adjustments.

Pepco said it will select the homes for the pilot project at random in all eight wards of the city and will install the new meters at no charge.

The utility will experiment with different approaches to the smart meters. One will give households information a day ahead about hourly pricing in the wholesale market for the regional power grid. Another will focus on giving customers advance information about four peak hours on "critical peak" days either through the smart thermostats or by automated phone messages. A third will offer customers rebates for reducing consumption during those peak hours.

Peak electricity is more expensive because utilities have to turn to generating plants that can be fired up quickly, and they tend to rely on more expensive fuels such as oil and natural gas.

Phil Franklin, director of business development at Advanced Metering Data Systems LLC, the maker of the meter communications system, said that the devices have been installed in 50,000 homes in Birmingham, Ala., and that there are pilot projects in Gulfport, Miss.; Charlotte; New Orleans; Covington, La.; Jasper, Ga.; and two towns in Ontario.

Franklin said the meters' wireless communication capability will enable them to tell central utility offices when power fails at individual houses. "The utility knows immediately when the power's out and doesn't have to rely on the customer calling in," Franklin said. "It allows the utility to know about the problem faster and therefore restore the power faster."

The new meters also mean that utilities would not have to send people out to read meters. Pepco employs 100 people to do that in the District.

The experiment is being run by the Smart Meter Pilot Program Inc., a nonprofit company comprising Pepco, the District's Office of the People's Counsel and Consumer Utility Board, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1900 and the D.C. Public Service Commission. The program will be funded by Pepco.

NB - This is a very interesting article but 4 members of the Cooperative Coalition to Prevent Blackouts, are actually doing load controsl and Real TIme Pricing using Interval ("smart") Meters. One of the buildings in the CCPB is my own co-op, 601 West 136th Street, HDFC which 1998 was the first residential, multi-family building in the country to install a Interval master meters and Interval sub-meters. JRM

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Preservation of Randall's Island

Environmental Justice Legal Summit:

Preservation of Randall's Island,
and the privatization of our public spaces.

Introduction to the issues and
brainstorming community and legal strategies.

Hosted by NYC Environmental Law Project and
NYC Chapter of National Lawyer's Guild

Thursday June 29 6:30 PM

113 University Place, Manhattan, near NYU

tel. 212 334-5551 for more information and to rsvp
More and more community organizations, residents and activists are joining
the effort to stop the destruction of 22 acres of public park land on
Randall's Island. What about you?

The latest is:

East Harlem Preservation

With the most comprehensive links to articles and commentary since 2001!



Yankee Stadium Proves To Be Undoing of a Bronx Board

Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 10:47:10 -0400
From: "Kitchen"
Subject: Yankee Stadium Proves To Be Undoing of a Bronx Board

NB- Perhaps what happened at Bronx CB4 is the logical conclusion of the
real purpose of community boards: to provide political cover for
elected officials making bad decisions. In some ways it's similar to
what occurred at Manhattan Board 4 with echoes also at Manhattan
Boards 2 and 3.

Former Manhattan Borough President was quick to remove board members
who didn't agree with her or criticized her. Last year at Manhattan
CB 1 Fields removed chair Madeleine Wils.

So far this year, despite his promises to the contrary, the new
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer is going right down the
path of Fields and Carrion. His new appointments shine with political
hacks. He's left many of the conflicted members -- those who rubber
stamp large developments, noisy nightclubs, etc. -- stay in place. So
the boards stay the same, covering the ass of the elected officials
by not doing the due diligence that's required. - Tenant

Publication: The New York Sun; Date: Jun 27, 2006;
Section: New York; Page: 2

Yankee Stadium Proves To Be Undoing of a Bronx Board
Andrew Wolf

Bronx Community Board 4 has in recent days become among the best
known of the city's 62 community boards. This is the board that voted
against the plan to build the new Yankee Stadium. These boards only
have advisory power. But having the weight of these "official"
representatives of the local neighborhoods behind a project can
influence the higher officials who really make the decisions.

Tonight, at Bronx Lebanon Hospital on the Grand Concourse, the
board will hold its final meeting before old terms expire and new
ones begin. Fireworks are expected. The board that will be in place
next week will look quite different from the one that will meet
tonight. Members of the board who ignored the wishes of the Bronx
president, Adolfo Carrion, have been removed, and new, presumably
more pliable members will take their place.

It is the Yankee Stadium matter that has proven to be the
undoing of the current board. All of those who voted against the plan
and whose terms expire failed to win reappointment. Even the chair of
the board, Ade Rasul, who actually voted for the Carrion-backed
Stadium plan, was removed. It is said that Mr. Carrion was displeased
that he couldn't keep the other members in line. Since the boards'
powers are so limited, there is little precedent in the Bronx for
such an approach. Usually board members who show up on a regular
basis are retained without question.

The controversy over the board appointments has begun to seep
from the immediate area into the citywide press. This is because Mr.
Carrion is viewed as a potential candidate for higher office, perhaps
even mayor.This has become the first widely publicized glimpse at Mr.
Carrion in action.

To many of us in the Bronx, the idea of Mr. Carrion taking over
City Hall is ludicrous. But Mr. Carrion has assumed the mantle of the
city's leading Hispanic politico from his predecessor in borough
hall, Fernando Ferrer. Yet while Mr. Ferrer was tolerant of opposing
positions taken by his community board appointees, Mr. Carrion is not.

Each community board can have up to 50 members. Members serve
for two years, with half of the board appointed or reappointed each
year. All of the appointments are made by the borough president,
although half are chosen from among nominees of City Council members.
In most districts, the full complement of 50 is appointed. But in
some neighborhoods, such as the area served by Community Board 4,
finding people to serve in what is usually a thankless, often boring
position for no pay is nearly impossible.

Mr. Carrion's "Memorial Day Massacre"has drawn additional
criticism because Board 4 is down to only 39 members. Mr. Carrion
could have added all of the new appointees without removing a single
incumbent. Some of the axed members have served for decades.

Mr. Carrion has done this before. In 2002, he refused to
reappoint Mary Lauro to Community Board 12 in the northeast Bronx.
Ms. Lauro had blown the whistle on an episode in Mr. Carrion's career
that continues to haunt him. In 2000, while Mr. Ferrer was still
borough president, a rezoning plan for the Board 12 area was proposed
by Mayor Giuliani, designed to limit the possibility of more "hot sheet
motels" from being constructed. At the time there were 18 such
establishments, viewed as hotbeds of prostitution and other crimes,
within the area served by the board.

A small number of property owners, eager to keep the option to
develop their properties for these motels open, hired an attorney
named Linda Baldwin, then a law partner of Bronx Democratic boss
Roberto Ramirez. Ms. Baldwin convinced the community board to
narrowly reject the Giuliani plan to thwart the motels.It was
Ms.Lauro who disclosed that Ms. Baldwin was also Mrs. Adolfo Carrion.
Mr. Carrion, then a city council member, had received a $2,000
contribution from one of the property owners, Oscar Porcelli.

In Riverdale, Mr. Carrion packed the board with supporters and
then contrived to have his campaign treasurer, Anthony Perez Cassino,
made chairman. Mr. Cassino resigned his campaign post, but he remains
board chairman.The perception grew that the road to approval of land
use projects becomes smoother when the way is greased with campaign

This kind of inside baseball rarely sees the light of day,
particularly in a borough in which the district attorney has shown no
inclination of investigating any Democratic machine loyalist. But the
harsh light of a mayoral campaign is different. That is why there
will be close attention paid to this final meeting of Community Board
4 tonight.

Downtown Comes to Harlem

New York Times

Thursday Styles

Downtown Comes to Harlem

John Lei for The New York Times
N, a clothing boutique near Seventh Avenue north of Central Park.

Published: June 22, 2006

TALKING up N, his new fashion emporium in Harlem, Larry Ortiz posed a question: "If we had to put Harlem in a bottle, what would the scent be?" He then answered with no prompting. "It would obviously be a little retro, a little 1930's." An infusion, in short, evocative of Harlem's glory years, an era of artistic ferment that spawned Cab Calloway, Dorothy Dandridge and Nat King Cole, fused with a modern street-inflected sensibility.

Skip to next paragraph

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
So Hunter owns the Denim Library,

which has an extensive stock of detailed jeans.

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
Clothing boutiques like B. Oyama have

found a home near Seventh Avenue
north of Central Park.

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times
Montgomery Harris moved her clothing

boutique, Montgomery, to Seventh
Avenue from SoHo.

For Mr. Ortiz, one of N's three partners, capturing the essence of the neighborhood is not just rhetoric. To succeed as a merchant, he maintained, he will need to distill Harlem, not just in a fragrance but in all of the upscale fashions, home accessories and cosmetic lines sold at his gracious two-level store in a town house on 116th Street between Seventh and Lenox Avenues.

His objective in showcasing brands like Nicole Miller, Hugo Boss, Marimekko and Jonathan Adler to the increasingly affluent enclave north of Central Park is partly to cater to a fashionably hip local population that has until now traveled downtown in search of popular fashion labels. He is also the latest in a growing number of retailers to invoke Harlem's multilayered heritage to put their wares on the fashion map.

"One of the things that is compelling to us is the idea of branding Harlem," Mr. Ortiz said. It is an idea he hopes to render concrete by offering a mix of local labels and African-American designers like Byron Lars and Tracy Reese with more established, upscale brands. "It's very important to push a lot of black designers who wouldn't get the same attention elsewhere," he said.

"This store is not about hip-hop," he added emphatically.

At 4,000 square feet, N, which opened in April in Mount Morris Park, is the largest upscale retailer to descend on the area. Like N, other newcomers are pointedly distancing themselves from the brash hip-hop aesthetic and offering fashion that deliberately summons Harlem's fabled past, along with current fashion trends being interpreted by downtown outposts like Scoop, Intermix and Big Drop and also by a clutch of stylish men's stores.

As well they might. They have arrived in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Mount Morris Park, a 16-block area from 118th Street to 124th Street between Fifth and Seventh Avenues, has the highest concentration of Harlem households with incomes exceeding $100,000, said Nikoa Evans, a partner in the store and a former vice president for finance for the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, a federal economic development initiative. Affluent residents pay about $750,000 for a one-bedroom condominium and $2 million for the traditional brownstones that are in high demand.

But Mount Morris Park, and much of Harlem, remains a relative bargain for boutique owners, who pay rents varying from $75 a square foot to as much as $150 on 125th Street, compared with $700 on prime blocks along Madison Avenue.

Flaunting an aura of exclusivity, the new shops offer a high-style — and pricey — alternative to the wares on 125th Street. That crowded, populist thoroughfare is now home to, among others, a MAC cosmetics store; Atmos, a Japanese-owned store specializing in hard-to-find sneakers, with a flagship in the Harajuku district of Tokyo; Old Navy and H & M.

"Harlem is so much more than just 125th Street," said Faith Hope Consolo, the chairwoman of the retail leasing and sales division at Prudential Douglas Elliman. "There is so much retail potential there," said Ms. Consolo, who is scouting sites for several clients. "The challenge is to choose the right location."

Springing up along and just off Seventh and Lenox Avenues, from about 114th Street to 135th Street, are stores like Pieces of Harlem, on West 135th Street, a boutique that sells denim skirts and jackets with Victorian-inspired ruffles and pearl buttons designed by the owners, Latisha and Colin Daring. It also carries draped jersey dresses ($354) by Rachel Roy, who is married to the rap entrepreneur Damon Dash, and ribbon-trimmed T-shirts ($185) by Gwen Stefani.
Montgomery, on Seventh Avenue, sells handbags, T-shirts and lingerie emblazoned with the image of Jolinda, a head-wrapped rag doll that recalls the Southern roots of its designer, Montgomery Harris, who moved her store from SoHo to Harlem about three years ago. Ms. Harris is also known for her whimsically hand-embroidered, one-of-a-kind skirts and dresses, many in a vintage mood ($400 to $500).

Another new store is Denim Library, on Seventh Avenue, a repository for premium jeans like People's Liberation, Citizens for Humanity and Ciano Farmer, all of which are displayed folded with rear pockets on view in a series of library shelves, and sell for $130 to $750. Hats by Bunn, on Seventh Avenue, sells waxed-straw chapeaus and flat-top felt hats by Bunn, the Trinidad-born milliner.

Bernard Oyama, the owner of B. Oyama, an elegant old-world style haberdashery on Seventh Avenue, sells his own designs of suits, shirts and neckwear, which are displayed amid a collection of black-and-white photographs of dapper greats like Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, each a reminder that the Harlem of the 30's through the 60's was a thriving style capital.

"The idea was to bring back the sense of quality to Harlem," said Mr. Oyama, a native of Gabon who studied fashion design in Paris. His store draws locals and, he said, even greater numbers of clients from the Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey, who drop in from time to time to be fitted for custom-tailored suits ($800 to $2,200), and to pick up bow ties, cravats and kaleidoscopically colorful gingham and paisley pocket squares.

Not every store is so rarefied. Harlemade, which has been at 116th Street for six years, is stocked with books and photographs offering glimpses of the historic area and its architecture. It also sells handbags, dolls and an assortment of T-shirts bearing Harlem logos.
"I was the first to brand Harlem," insisted Murphy Heyliger, an owner. "Since then I've seen other companies realize you can get cool by putting your neighborhood on a shirt."

Mr. Heyliger is typical of the merchants catering to both residents and visitors drawn to a Harlem that is increasingly perceived as romantic and vibrant enough to draw several thousand tourists on weekends, many of whom place boutique-hopping high on an itinerary that might also include dining at Emperor's Roe or Settepani, and touring the Studio Museum, which exhibits the work of contemporary African-American artists.

Despite those attractions, some skeptical local merchants and residents wonder if importing fancy wares to Harlem is not premature. The new boutiques are interspersed with bodegas, hairdressers and discount stores, and not all of the retail landscape looks promising. Stores like N "may be too early," said Minya Quirk, the owner of Brand Pimps, a fashion consulting company, and a Harlem resident.

Ms. Quirk also frets that the goods may not be relevant to a local population. "Harlem residents have a deeply ingrained sense of personal style," she said. "They know what they want, and I think a lot of retailers might underestimate that."

Not Mr. Ortiz, who argues that his inventory was conceived expressly to appeal to style-driven locals. N offers fashion at prices that vary from $165 for a cotton shirt with grosgrain detailing to $1,000 for a leather coat. Sizes range from 0 to 16.

"We have a market here that has certain needs when it comes to sizing," he said. "We're offering larger sizes mixed in with smaller ones in a very unapologetic way. And we're always making sure we'll accommodate a variety of body types."

The fashions are often more boldly patterned than those at shops in other neighborhoods. "They reflect the way our uptown customers would like to wear clothes, and an understanding that this market is more heavily into color," Mr. Ortiz said.
Harlem shoppers also are serious fragrance consumers, which is evident from the proliferation of shops displaying ever-widening selections of designer scents. That infatuation attracted Laurice Rahmé, the entrepreneur behind Bond No. 9, with scents named after New York neighborhoods. Ms. Rahmé, who was prescient in branding the area with New Haarlem, a scent introduced in 2004, plans to open a store in Harlem this year. Her flagship is on Bond Street in Lower Manhattan. "But what happened to retailing and tourism downtown is going to happen uptown," she predicted.

Bud Konheim, the chief executive of Nicole Miller, a line with hothouse colors and animated prints that are popular at N, is confident that a presence in the neighborhood is healthy for the bottom line. The collection at N is expected to generate $300,000 to $500,000 in its first year, he said.

"Harlem is an undiscovered secret for now, but that won't last," Mr. Konheim went on. "Things are moving too fast."

The Specter of Condemnation

From: "Nick Sprayregen"
To: "Anne Z. Whitman" , "Tom DeMott" , "Jordi (George) Reyes-Montblanc"
Subject: WSJ Column - Please Read, Pass Along...
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 05:18:15 -0400

The Specter of Condemnation
June 24, 2006
Wall Street Journal

When I got the call from the Supreme Court clerk's office telling me that the court had decided Kelo v. New London -- and that the city had won -- I and my colleagues who had worked on this case from the trial court up to the Supreme Court sat together in stunned silence. First I felt shock at the damage done to the Constitution; then I winced at what the decision meant for people who had fought so hard for their rights. Susette Kelo could lose the dream home for which she had worked so hard; 87-year-old Wilhelmina Dery might be evicted from the only home she had ever known. Finally, we all shuddered at what this decision meant for home and small business owners across the country.

What a difference a year makes.

Kelo is the most universally despised Supreme Court decision in decades. And it touched off a nearly unprecedented, grass-roots backlash against eminent domain abuse -- where land is taken, not for a traditional public use like a road or a public building, but from poorer folks and given to wealthier folks, all in the name of "development."

Americans are virtually united in opposition to this practice. Polling on this matter is off the charts. Consistently, 80% or more of the people are opposed to the Kelo decision and want something done about it. The opposition cuts across the usual political divides that separate Americans today. Property owners in blue states oppose eminent domain abuse just as much those in red states. Republicans such as Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. James Sensenbrenner stand shoulder to shoulder with Democrats such as Bill Clinton and Reps. John Conyers and Maxine Waters.

Indeed, about the only people who support the abusive practices are those who stand to benefit from it: local political officials, including big city mayors such as New York's Michael Bloomberg; and planners and developers. What these beneficiaries lack in numbers, however, they more than make up for in political muscle. The result is a massive struggle in state legislatures.

The stakes are high. In the five years between 1998 and 2002, more than 10,000 properties nationwide were threatened or condemned for private development through eminent domain; in just the past year since Kelo, more than 5,700 properties have been similarly threatened or taken. Unless the laws are changed, these unconscionable practices will continue.

So far the results have been encouraging. Legislatures in 25 states have responded to public outcry by restricting eminent domain in a variety of ways. Three other states passed similar legislation, only to have it vetoed by the governor. Six states -- Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- have constitutional amendments to reform eminent domain that will go before voters this fall.

Importantly, last year the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill that would prohibit federal economic development funds from going to state and local agencies that use eminent domain for private commercial development. The Private Property Rights Protection Act (HR 4128) could make a big difference -- if the Senate Judiciary Committee would only allow it to be voted on by the full Senate.

The new state laws vary in the level of protection they provide. Still, even modest reforms would have been impossible before Kelo put a national spotlight on the disgrace of cities taking homes, small businesses and churches all in the pursuit of more tax revenue and an improved local economy.

Although the tide is turning, a great deal remains to be done. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor warned in her prescient Kelo dissent, "the specter of condemnation now hangs over all property." Since Kelo, cities have pushed out motels for commercial development and replaced small businesses with upscale hotels; bulldozed houses to make room for shopping malls. There's an even stronger and uglier trend: Towns and cities are taking modest-sized houses from their owners and handing them over to the builders of trendier, more upscale homes and condominiums (whose new owners will pay higher taxes).

Meanwhile, agricultural land has been taken by eminent domain to make room for retail establishments, and members of congregations have been forced out of their houses of worship to make room for businesses that yield taxes to municipalities.

In addition to political changes, it is still vitally important that courts do not roll over and play dead. Even the majority of the Supreme Court recognized in the Kelo decision that, regardless of the U.S. Constitution, state courts are free to interpret their own state constitutions to afford a greater measure of protection to citizens against the reach of eminent domain. And many state courts, after years of neglect, have strengthened protections for people challenging eminent domain abuse.

Although most of the litigation will be directed toward state constitutional claims in the near future, I am confident that one day, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, the Supreme Court will reconsider and overturn its disastrous Kelo ruling, consigning it to the same fate as other discredited decisions like Plessy v. Ferguson (which upheld "separate but equal" treatment of the races) and Korematsu v. U.S. (which upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II).

Meanwhile, in New London, where this battle began back in 2000, folks there are still fighting to keep their homes. Wilhelmina Dery passed away in March of this year but she was able to do so in her home, a few feet from where she was born the year World War I ended. Susette Kelo's little pink Victorian house -- now a symbol of the fight against eminent domain abuse nationwide -- still proudly stands.

The political officials and their big business allies who benefit from eminent domain abuse will not give up their power without a fight. This is a fight that must be faced squarely. But if it is, we will, in the end, all be more secure in our homes, small businesses, farms and churches.

Mr. Bullock, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, argued the Kelo case before the U.S. Supreme Court.


Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 06:02:27 -0400
From: "Tenant"
Subject: You're now a target of Hillary

NB - Hillary ... when pigs fly - Tenant

NY Post

June 27, 2006 -- WASHINGTON - After months of
fierce attacks against her on the Internet, Sen.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is ready to meet her Web
enemies head-on - by hiring a political-blog guru
who worked on John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Clinton tapped Peter Daou, Kerry's director of
blog outreach and online rapid response, to rehab
her battered image among left-wing Internet surfers.

Clinton has been pummeled in the liberal
blogosphere for her centrist stance on the Iraq
war, for backing a pro-life Democratic Senate
candidate in Pennsylvania and for being the
co-sponsor of a GOP measure to ban flag-burning
without amending the Constitution.
Daou is a political operative who runs the Daou
Report, a Web log that tracks political blogs and
news organizations to chronicle the latest Beltway buzz.

His stated goal is to build connections between
the party establishment, the media and the
blogosphere. He did not respond to an e-mail
request for comment from The Post.

On his blog, Daou wrote that he's "joining
Senator Clinton's team as a blog adviser to
facilitate and expand her relationship with the netroots."

Netroots refers to politically oriented Internet bloggers.

"There are endless possibilities for
Clinton-netroots collaborations, from Net
Neutrality to the Privacy Bill of Rights to
voting reform to so many other critical issues," he added.
Daou is working for Clinton's Senate re-election
committee, Friends of Hillary, to help the
campaign better "communicate" with supporters on
Democratic blogs, said campaign spokeswoman Ann Lewis.

His enlistment comes as the former first lady's
support on the Web founders while the stock of
likely 2008 Democratic White House rivals Kerry
and Sen. Russ Feingold soars for their aggressive anti-war stances.

The announcement of his arrival also comes four
days after the's influential
founder, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, reported on his
site that Clinton had not "reached out" to the netroots.

"So how would Hillary ingratiate herself to the
netroots if she was so inclined? Here's how, and
this applies not to just Hillary, but every
single politician seeking netroots love and
respect: 1. Be a leader. 2. Get people involved.
It's that simple," Zúniga said.

Lewis said Daou's role as a blog adviser is a new
position in the Clinton campaign army - already a
staff of more than 40 political pros.

Experts say Clinton's massing of top-rate
political operatives, despite facing no serious
re-election challengers, is a tip-off of her Oval Office ambitions.
Her political staff, spread between her
re-election committee and her HillPAC political
action committee, dwarfs that of any other
potential 2008 White House hopeful on either side of the aisle.

Daou will be rolling up his sleeves to undo the
netroots damage Clinton caused by her vote last
week against a plan to pull U.S. troops out of
Iraq by July 1, 2007 - a measure that won Kerry
and Feingold the praise of party liberals.
The Tenant Network(tm) for Residential Tenants
Information from TenantNet is from experienced non-attorney tenant
activists and is not considered legal advice.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

BP Stringer Releases 1st Study of Community Education Councils Since Their Inception

BP Stringer Releases 1st Study of Community Education Councils Since Their Inception

Report Says DOE Violated State Law by not Providing Parents with Adequate Training and Support

(June 14, 2006) New York, NY – Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today released the results of a ground-breaking new report on Manhattan’s Community Education Councils (CEC) that finds significant failures by the City’s Department of Education (DOE) and violations of state law as it pertains to their obligations to adequately provide support and training for the parent councils.

Stringer’s study, titled “Parents Dismissed,” is the first critical analysis of New York City’s CECs since they convened in 2004, through state law to replace Community School Boards as part of the shift to Mayoral Control over the public school system. The report finds that a striking 92% of respondents are not being trained on one or more of the CECs state-mandated functions and 61% indicated their council was not fulfilling one or more of its responsibilities mandated by New York State Education Law.

Borough President Stringer was joined at a press conference on the steps of the Tweed Courthouse by CEC members, parents and education advocates to announce the results and call on DOE to immediately take action to address the inadequacies and violations of the law pointed out in the report.

“There is no doubt parental involvement is an essential part of any child’s education,” Stringer said. “Sadly, this report shows that DOE is failing to deliver on their most basic duties and in doing so they are further quieting what is already the muffled voice of parents in our education system. The facts of this study speak loudly and resonate across the city: CECs are not performing their legally mandated functions, not receiving adequate training, are crippled by high turnover rates and low participation and DOE is to blame. It is time for DOE to face the facts, find solutions and uphold their obligation under the law to see that parents have a real seat at the table.”

Other key findings of Stringer’s report include: - 37% of CEC members did not hold or participate in legally mandated capital hearings.

42% stated their council did not make quorum at least once this past year.

92% said that 25 or fewer members of the public attend their monthly council meetings.
50% of CEC members stated that DOE has failed to provide them with contact information for other parent leaders in their district.

37% do not believe CECs meet their mission to promote parent engagement.
74% believe the CEC election process can be improved.

84% stated that CECs should have powers and duties they do not currently have.

Stringer’s report also proposed possible solutions to the problems plaguing the CECs that DOE could initiate, including:
Dedicating additional time and resources to parental engagement by taking steps such as increasing the number of staff assigned to engaging parental involvement.
Clarifying and improving CEC duties and training including the issuing of Chancellor’s regulations on training

Improving communication between DOE and CECs, other parent leaders and groups
Broadening the eligibility criteria for CEC members and selectors

Stringer’s study was based on one-on-one oral interviews with current members of Community Education Councils representing School Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in Manhattan. The survey was conducted over the phone by Manhattan Borough President’s Office staff between April 13, 2006 and May 12, 2006. Participation was voluntary and the response rate was 68%.

A complete copy of “Parents Dismissed” can be read clicking here (PDF).

# # #

Monday, June 26, 2006

Frank Wilkinson's Legacy

Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2006 21:09:39 -0400
From: "Tenant"
Subject: This is worth reading ... the other stadium fight

NB - This was sent by a friend...
The following snippet is from a documentary about him done by the BBC:
"I think the greatest irony in reviewing these monstrous FBI files is
that, to quote them, 'It does not appear that Wilkinson has shown the
willingness or capability of engaging in any act that would
significantly interfere with or be a threat to the survival and
effective operation of our government.' That was their *own* judgment
at a time [when] they were wasting millions of dollars on 132,000
pages of surveillance and disruption of my work.

The records you see on this table show that it all began with my work
in housing. We had a dream that Los Angeles would become the first
city in America free of slums. That entire dream was ended with this
beautiful stadium. The BBC documentary shows Wilkinson walking around
the field in Dodger Stadium." - Tenant

Robert Sherrill. First Amendment Felon: The Story of Frank
Wilkinson, His 132,000-Page FBI File, and His Epic Fight for Civil
Rights and Liberties_ (New York: Nation Books): 14 - 15.

January 7, 2006 by

Frank Wilkinson's Legacy
by Peter Dreier

The obituaries for Frank Wilkinson, who died January 2 at 91,
primarily focused on his role as a leading opponent of McCarthyism,
the House Un- American Activities Committee, and government spying on
citizens. In 1958, Wilkinson was one of the last people ordered to
prison for defying HUAC. He appealed his contempt citation all the
way to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 against him. After
spending nine months in federal prison in 1961, Wilkinson through the
National Committee Against Repressive Legislation, spend more than a
decade fighting to dismantle HUAC, which was finally abolished in
1975. Wilkinson also fought the FBI. He sued the FBI to obtain its
files on him, eventually getting 132,000 documents, which revealed
that the agency had been spying on him for 38 years. A federal judge
ordered the FBI to end its surveillance of Wilkinson.

At a time when the Bush Administration is conducting an assault on
civil liberties in the name of national security, Wilkinson's battles
to protect free speech are worth recalling. But it is often forgotten
that Wilkinson began his career as an activist for affordable
housing. His crusade for civil liberties began when he was fired from
the Los Angeles Housing Authority -- the city's public housing
agency, where he was a high-ranking official -- during the McCarthy
era because of his radical politics.

Today, many consider public housing to be a failed experiment in "big
government" social engineering. But for Wilkinson's generation of
idealists -- who came of age in the Depression of the 1930s -- public
housing was part of a broad movement for social reform and economic
justice. To the extent that public housing now bears the stigma of
failure, it is due not to the progressive values that inspired
Wilkinson and others, but to the political influence of right-wing
forces who fought to undermine public housing from the beginning.
Los Angeles and other cities again face a severe shortage of
affordable housing. Many of the same battles that Wilkinson fought 50
years ago -- -- over land use, government subsidies for the poor,
racial integration, and ?not in my backyard? opposition to low-cost
housing -- confront the current generation of public officials and
civic leaders.

Until the Depression, most American opinion leaders believed that the
private market, with a helping hand from private philanthropy, could
meet the nation's housing needs. Reformers who wanted government to
play a major role in housing were a lonely voice in the political
wilderness. In the first three decades of the 20th century, a few
unions and settlement house reformers built model housing
developments for working class families, but without government
subsidy. The nation's economic collapse provided reformers with a
political opening to push their "radical" ideas that the federal
government should subsidize "social housing" and help create a
noncommercial sector free from profit and speculation. Like their
European counterparts, they envisioned it for the middle class as
well as the poor.

These reformers - economists, planners, architects, social workers,
and journalists - had faith in the positive role of government on
people and communities. They believed that well-designed housing with
adequate amenities (such as playgrounds and child care centers) could
uplift the poor.

Led by housing activist Catherine Bauer (who later became the first
woman professor at Berkeley's urban planning school) and progressive
labor unions (through the Labor Housing Conference, founded in 1934),
they pushed for well-designed, mixed-income, noncommercial,
government subsidized housing projects, sponsored by unions, church
groups, other non-profit organizations, and government agencies.
During its first few years, the New Deal build a few model
developments that reflected this vision. They included day care
centers, involved residents in cultural and educational activities,
and were physically attractive enough so that middle-class families
wanted to live there. The reformers hoped to turn these prototype
projects into a permanent government program.

But the reformers were soon outmaneuvered by the real estate
industry, led by the National Association of Real Estate Boards. The
industry -- worried that well-designed and affordable
government-sponsored housing would compete with the private sector
for middle-class consumers --warned about the specter of "socialism."
With the enactment of the Wagner Public Housing Act in 1937, the real
estate industry began to sabotage the program by restricting its
funding and by giving local governments discretion over whether and
where to locate developments. After WW2, recognizing the pent-up
demand for housing and fearing competition from public housing, the
industry mobilized a major campaign against the program. It
successfully. pressured Congress to limit it to the very poor . From
1950 to 1970, the median income of public residents fell from 64
percent to 37 percent of the national median. Senators from the South
made sure that local governments had the authority to keep public
housing racially segregated.

With limited budgets, many projects were poorly constructed and/or
badly designed - ugly warehouses for the poor - stigmatizing
"government housing" as housing of last resort. Local housing
authorities -- typically dominated by business and real estate
representatives -- often located public housing developments in areas
without adequate stores, transportation, or schools, and isolated
from middle-class neighborhoods, contributing to the concentration of
poor people in cities. The problems we now associate with public
housing were not inevitable. They were due to political choices made
in Congress and at the local level.

By the time Wilkinson -- who grew up Beverly Hills, had been a
Republican as a student at UCLA and originally intended to become a
Methodist minister -- joined the LA Housing Authority in 1942, public
housing was already controversial. Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron,
a reform minded liberal Republican elected in 1938, nevertheless
supported public housing and later backed Wilkinson's idea to promote
racial integration within the city's developments. A number of large
developments were constructed in the early1940s, starting with the
610- unit Ramona Gardens in 1941.

After World War 2, Bowron sought to expand the program, especially
for the many veterans who faced a desperate housing shortage. He
endorsed a plan to raze many homes in the tight-knit Chavez Ravine
neighborhood replace them with a large public housing development to
be designed by world-class architect Richard Nuetra that would
include two dozen 13- story buildings and more than 160 two-story
houses, as well as new playgrounds and schools. Bowron, Wilkinson and
other reformers viewed the housing plan for Chavez Ravine as a way to
improve living conditions poor Angelenos, especially
Mexican-Americans who lived in the neighborhood's substandard homes.
The ?battle of Chavez Ravine? has become a legend of urban planning,
inspiring a recent album by guitarist Ry Cooder, a play by the
Culture Clash theater group, and many books and academic articles.
In July 1950, Chavez Ravine residents received letters from the city
telling them that they should sell their homes to make the land
available for the proposed project. The residents were told that they
would have first choice for the new homes. A few residents resisted
but most left quietly.

The city's landlords, homebuilders, and business leaders, along with
right-wing political groups, mobilized to oppose building any more
developments, including the Chavez Ravine plan. They, too, wanted to
bulldoze the neighborhood, but they had other designs for the area,
so close to the city?s downtown. They utilized the era's
anti-communist "Red Scare" paranoia to characterize the Chavez Ravine
proposal -- and public housing in general -- as socialist planning.
One way to attack public housing was to attack its leading advocate,
Wilkinson, as a dangerous Communist. Brought before the House
Un-American Activities Committee, he refused to answer their
questions on First Amendment grounds and was fired from his job and
sent to federal prison, starting Wilkinson on a new career path as a
civil liberties activist.

The same business leaders who opposed Wilkinson and public housing
also ended Bowron's political career. They handpicked Congressman
Norris Poulson to run against Bowron and orchestrated his mayoral
victory in 1953. During his campaign, Poulson vowed to stop the
Chavez Ravine plan and other examples of "un-American" spending.
Under Poulson, the city bought back the Chavez Ravine site from the
federal government at a cut-rate price. Several years later, City
Councilmember Ken Hahn gave Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O?Malley a
helicopter tour of the area and pointed to the empty 300 acre Chavez
Ravine site adjacent to downtown and at the intersection of major
freeways. The team moved to Los Angeles in 1958 and opened Dodger
Stadium two years later. The city obviously broke its promise to the
former residents of the neighborhood, scattered by the city?s
bulldozer, to relocate them in better housing.

Versions of LA?s battle over public housing were repeated in cities
across the country. In the 1950s and 1960s, lobbying by the real
estate industry and conservatives assured that public housing would
be targeted exclusively for the very poor. Public housing became
identified with drug wars and crime, places where children are afraid
to walk to school, and elderly tenants, for whom hallways and
elevators are as dangerous as streets, are afraid to leave their
apartments. Movies such as Straight Out of Brooklyn (1991) by Matty
Rich, who grew up in Brooklyn's Red Hook projects, and books such as
Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here, chronicling life in the
Chicago projects, portrayed public housing as more a trap than a

Not surprisingly, middle class families resisted siting developments
in their neighborhoods. Public housing became more unpopular
politically, leading to a cycle of government neglect and
underfunding which, in turn, led to poor construction design,
inadequate maintenance, racial segregation, stigmatization, and
further concentration of the very poor. Construction of new public
housing developments ended in the 1970s during the Nixon
administration. Eventually, only 1.3 million public housing units
were built - less than 1% of the nation?s housing.. It was replaced
by other kinds of government-subsidized housing, which eventually
evolved into today's largest federal program, Section 8 vouchers,
which are essentially food stamps for housing.

Despite the popular stereotypes, high-rises account for only one-
quarter of public housing buildings. But high-rise projects, most of
them in the largest cities, account for many of the problems. and
cast a giant shadow on the entire program. A decade ago, Congress
enacted the Hope VI program to encourage local housing authorities to
tear down troubled high-rise public housing developments and replace
them with scattered-site housing. This has improved neighborhoods but
with the consequence of reducing the overall number of subsidized
units for the poor.

Despite their problems, public housing developments are often better
than privately-owned slum housing, which in many cities are the major
housing option for the poor. That is why, in LA and most other
cities, there are long waiting lists for public housing.

American politicians still use misleading stereotypes about public
housing to attack the very idea of government activism. During his
1996 campaign, for example, Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole
told the National Association of Realtors that public housing was
"one of the last bastions of socialism in the world" and said that
local housing authorities have become "landlords of misery." More
recently, after the Katrina hurricane destroyed much of New Orleans'
subsidized housing, concentrated in the city poorest areas,
Congressman Richard Baker (R-LA) was overheard telling lobbyists, "We
finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it,
but God did."

As a result of such sentiments, the U.S. spends less on government
housing subsidies for the poor than any other democratic country.
Housing subsidies for the poor are a lottery, not an entitlement. The
entire U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development budget is
only $32 billion, which provides housing assistance for less than
one- quarter of the nation?s poor. And while the number of poor
people has increased since President George W. Bush took office, his
administration is cutting housing subsidies for low-income families.

Some federal funds are still used to build new housing for the poor
-- mainly by giving tax breaks to corporations that invest in
low-income apartments. Ironically, most of today?s government
subsidized housing is built by nonprofit community development
organizations. They are typically well-designed to fit into
neighborhoods and small-scale compared with the massive public
housing towers built in the 1950s and 1960s. A growing number of
these developments are mixed-income and provide child care, job
training, and education and art programs. In other words, they look
similar to the kind of projects that early housing reformers and
their offspring,, like Frank Wilkinson, envisioned. But without
sufficient federal subsidies, these community groups lack the
resources to seriously address housing shortage for the poor.
Today, America?s cities are trying to address a serious housing
crisis, but without the federal government as a partner. In many
cities and inner-ring suburbs, few working families, including many
middle-income households, can afford to purchase a home. Many
low-income families spend over half their incomes just to pay rent.
More than a million Americans are homeless at some point during the
year. Across the nation, a new generation of housing reformers -
tenant organizers, community development groups, homeless advocates,
and others -- are waging a crusade for more livable cities and metro

Under progressive Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, for example, Los
Angeles -- where at least 80,000 people are homeless -- is trying to
deal with the legacy of this federal neglect. The city has one of the
most severe housing shortages in the nation. Elected officials,
business groups, community organizations, labor unions, religious
leaders, and housing advocates are wrestling with policy ideas --
such as $1 billion housing bond, an inclusionary zoning law to
require mixed-income housing, and stronger code enforcement against
slumlords -- to meet the growing need. But, as in Wilkinson's time,
there are political forces that resist reform. Business-back schemes
to revitalize downtown LA -- such as the Grand Avenue project and the
gentrification of Skid Row -- include few housing units for the
city's low-income working class. The influential Central City Assn.,
the lobbying arm of downtown developers and businesses, opposes
inclusionary zoning, despite the fact that over 100 California
communities have already adopted the policy.

In the struggle for better housing, Wilkinson was a visionary. He
fought for incremental reforms but he saw them as steppingstones to
a broader social justice agenda. Like his fight to protect the First
Amendment?s guarantee of free speech, Wilkinson viewed decent, safe,
affordable housing as a basic human right. The best tribute to Frank
Wilkinson's memory would be a city where people can afford to live in
any neighborhood, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or income.

Peter Dreier teaches political science and directs the Urban &
Environmental Policy program at Occidental College.