Gloom and Loom at BBG

Gloom and Loom at BBG
Artist's rendering of proposed development along eastern perimeter of BBG

Monday, March 28, 2016

Disgraced Crony is Eric Adams' Pick

I don't read the New York Post, but maybe I should because so far the paper is the only one covering this shameful story, under the headline, "Community Board Feeling Heat To Hire Disgraced Politician's Crony," concerning Eric Adams' backing of serial offender CARMEN MARTINEZ to replace the ousted Pearl Miles as District Manager.

The last time Martinez earned $140,000 a year from the City (the DM job could pay as much), she was working in the Comptroller's office. In 2014, she was allowed to "retire" after having been accused of stealing 14 YEARS of public service while acting as the head of the Comptroller's Community Action Center, according to Conflicts of Interest Board documents. There were also other, unspecified, charges of misconduct.

Martinez continues to associate with convicted felon and former Kings Co. Democratic strongman, Clarence Norman, Jr., a regular at CB9 meetings in suits for which I think he paid too much. Released from state prison in recent years, Norman has been looking to re-consolidate his power. He certainly had/has his eye on the Bedford Armory development; a second community meeting to discuss its future is scheduled for tomorrow night at First Baptist, where Clarence Norman, Sr. was long the pastor. Junior would be a shoe-in if his father were alive.

We wondered why, at the last general meeting of CB9, Chair Demetrius Lawrence suddenly announced that the Search Committee tasked with identifying qualified candidates for the District Manager job had acted improperly and that the whole process would have to begin again. You could see the shock/embarrassment on the face of committee chair Hector Robinson, the Board chairman's go-to guy, who has chaired, however briefly, as many as 3 committees in his first year on the community board (got to be some kind of record).

The Post article asserts that the Search Committee re-boot can be traced to their collective failure to identify Carmen Martinez as a qualified candidate, even though they never properly advertised the job in the city newspapers because it is so expensive [I transcribed the tapes of one or more Search Committee meetings during evidence gathering for our case against CB9 in Brooklyn Supreme, which started this week]. Perhaps they actually identified qualified candidates! Poor Hector. What's a yes-man to do while still pretending to integrity?

I would be disappointed to learn that the terms of Martinez's retirement did not contain a promise not to pursue another high profile and high-paying job with the City of New York and I will be asking Scott Stringer just that. That Eric Adams would choose to return power to the likes of Clarence Norman and Carmen Martinez is, to me and mine, evidence of his growing desperation in terms of delivering Empire Boulevard to the Big Real Estate interests that got him elected. At the end of June, he will have failed for two years running; that's way past leg-breaking time.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Unblackening Continues Apace

The New York Times, of all real estate-driven papers, reports this morning on the extent to which the disappearance of the 421-a tax break will "dampen" the number of so-called affordable units ever to be built in this city under the fantasy housing policy known as ZQA/MIH.

On the one block-long street where I live, the Unblackening (to borrow Larry Wilmore's monumentally shaming, heart-breaking phrase) continues. Three houses have sold in the last year, all to white people. I can think of two, probably three more destined for the same change, currently owned by aged black people, retired civil servants. My white boyfriend has been an owner on this block for 30 years: He was always made to feel welcome, loved for his curious choice of neighborhood. Now, we agree that once Black Crown Heights comes to fully resemble Park Slope, we're moving to Mexico. There ought to be a happy medium, but there's not; neighborhoods just turn over from one group to another. That's America.

If City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo thinks that these white newcomers are going to keep her as their representative, she is courting delusion. I have written her again today, urging her to stand with her current constituents in order to keep her office. We are watching.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where to begin? Last week's disgraceful CB9 meeting

It is hard to know where to start when describing the disturbing events at last week's monthly meeting. Here are the lowlights.

The evening began with the long-awaited presentation by the Empire Study Group to the full board and to the community. ESG represents the combined efforts of several community groups most threatened by the prospect of luxury towers along Empire, in collaboration with Professor Tom Angotti, director of the Center for Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College. We gave our time, energy, ideas and our money to support the creation of an alternative vision for the long-deliberately blighted stretch.

After 15 minutes, Chair Demetrius Lawrence cut off the presentation, saying time had expired and despite the stunned presenter's insistence that she only had two slides left to show. Sorry, no go. Uproar ensued and never stopped. As it happens, I was part of the ESG presentation to ULURP the month before, at the end of which ESG was promised 40 minutes to present to the full board. Lawrence lied, and ULURP chair Michael Liburd was (conveniently?) out of the room when the outrage occurred. They're really mad about the lawsuit filed against CB9 last week, Index #1865/2016.

There was the part where (white, Jewish) activist Jay Sorid, who has been trying, for two and a half years, to have an illegal vote from Sept 2013 corrected, explained, among other things, the difference between "house Jews and field Jews," sending former and then-Chair Jacob Goldstein into apoplexy. Goldstein who had just gone out of his way to embarrass the feckless Demetrius Lawrence, who dwells so far beneath his contempt, for not posting the 2016 Lien List to the CB9 website, and offering to explain to the assembled (and by implication, Demetrius Lawrence) what a lien is. Lawrence said he didn't know about the list, hadn't received it, asked where Goldstein got it. Goldstein said, "Everybody got it!" and then that he saw it in the newspaper like "millions of other people," words to that effect. Next, Dr. Fredericks called Goldstein out for trying to make the board "look bad" instead of just providing the information. All three were board members speaking at length during the Public Comment period.

Notably, we see now that Demetrius Lawrence doesn't read the newspapers, perhaps explaining why he didn't think them important enough to spend the money to publish the District Manager job opening in the Times, News or Post. Besides, everyone knows that serial felon Carmen Martinez is to be the new Pearl Miles.

During the consideration of applications for liquor licenses, a resident stood to point out that "Crow Hill", the chosen name for a proposed artisanal cocktail lounge, is a racial slur, referring, he said, to the Black inmates in the Brooklyn Penitentiary that once stood on Carroll between Nostrand and Rogers. Indeed, a single google search of "Crow Hill Brooklyn" produces this link to a site called Ephemeral New York link, on the landing page of which you can read the following: “Most historians agree that the name Crow Hill was coined in derogatory reference to the black community of Carrville and Weeksville, whose residents were sometimes known as “crows,” writes Henry Goldschmidt, author of 2006’s Race and Religion Among the Chosen People of Crown Heights." This means the lounge owners either did no research or decided to use the name anyway. I look forward to the demonstration.

Several residents who serve on the ULURP Committee rose to clarify for the audience and for the Board that the Empire Study Group had been permitted 15 minutes to present to the committee. At the end of that presentation, a vote was take as to whether ESG could present to the full board and community at the monthly meeting. That vote passed overwhelmingly. Indeed, the presentation was so successful that member Warren Berke requested that the full presentation contain more specifics, and a motion was made (I think by the disgruntled ex-Transportation Committee chair Tim Thomas, though he had earlier said he was no longer a ULURP member either) to remove Empire Boulevard from the study parameters (!!), causing panic and seizure in Carmen Martinez and Borough Hall's Richard Bearak, both of whom have their marching orders. Sadly, a vote was not taken on that matter. Chair Michael Liburd asked Professor Angotti how long he needed to present. He responded, "40 minutes," and Liburd assured him that time would be allotted.

Conveniently, Liburd was not in the auditorium when Demetrius Lawrence killed the ESG presentation and lied, outright lied, about the agreement made at the ULURP meeting regarding the length of the presentation. Something about an emergency call from his daughter and him having to step out. I get it; they're angry about the lawsuit filed last week. They're also vindictive, they do not represent, much less advocate for, the people they are charged to represent.