Thursday, May 24, 2007

Will Gowanus Developers Benefit from the CB6 Massacre?

Gowanus Clouds

Was Atlantic Yards the only thing behind the purging of Community Board 6 by Borough President Marty Markowitz, Council Member David Yassky and Council Member Bill de Blasio? It was probably a major factor, given what the New York Times described as the BP's "red-faced eruptions" of anger over opposition to Atlantic Yards, but it may not have been the only one. Community Board 6 is at the center of a number of high-stakes battles, including the pending rezoning of Gowanus. Jerry Armer, one of the Markowitz-Yassky-de Blasio Nine, in fact, presided over the last CB6 meeting on Gowanus rezoning.

The Times quoted Mr. Armer as saying that "The borough president feels that some of the actions of the board are not in keeping with what he would have liked, and it’s his right to appoint whomever. Or not."

The story also said:

Mr. Armer said he thought the purge was motivated by “probably a combination of things, with Atlantic Yards being somewhat prominent.” Mr. Strabone said that many board members also differed with Mr. Markowitz on how densely the area around the Gowanus Canal should be redeveloped.
As we were writing this yesterday evening we found that Daily Intel had called Mr. Strabone and reported:
"The next big land-use item on the agenda is the Gowanus rezoning," Strabone explained, "and the Borough Hall's eyes are there." It's only natural that many of the same CB6 elders who bristled at Ratner would make hay of the Gowanus plan as well. "With Atlantic Yards, there were pros and cons," Strabone said. "With Gowanus, there's gonna be a cacophony of opinions. So, from [Marty's] perspective, it's a perfect time to put some new, more cooperative, more predictable members on the board." Okay. Remind us to never patronize the beep again.
(The other big victim of the CB6 Massacre appears to be Mr. Markowitz's carefully crafted public persona as a cheerful Brooklyn booster. Many residents that have not followed his outbursts about Atlantic Yards were unaware of the Beep's less smiley side.)

In any case, as for CB6, the purge definitely has broad implications for Gowanus and other major issues. Its role in the Atlantic Yards debate is largely over, unless the contentious project is somehow sent back for a retool if, say, a judge finds the Environmental Impact Review process as legally flawed as a layman might interpret it to have been. Or, if Governor Spitzer decides to put distance between the Pataki legacy on the Empire State Development Corp. and himself.

Its role in the Gowanus rezoning, however, is largely still to come. It will be a high stakes battle with hundreds of millions of dollars in profits hanging in the balance for developers such as the Toll Brothers, Boymelgreen Developers and others looking for a broad residential rezoning, the highest possible densities and lax environmental cleanup standards and big public subsidies for deeply toxic parcels of land. (For a look at the kinds of machinations going on behind the scenes, check out this past post about the Toll Brothers and so-called Sub-Area B.)

A community board with new members that might have had to pass litmus tests on key issues such as Gowanus rezoning or who might require some time to come up to speed on critical community issues, will be helpful to those looking to redevelop Gowanus quickly.

They clearly have an interest. New York City campaign contribution records show, for instance, that Mr. Markowitz received $16,050 from contributors associated with Boymelgreen Developers--one of the key Gowanus developers--during the 2005 campaign and has gotten $9,900 so far for the 2009 campaign, for a total of $25,950. It should be noted that Mr. Boymelgreen contributes significant money to a large number of candidates and office holders in New York City and that developers, overall, are among the biggest contributors to all political campaigns locally, but Mr. Markowitz has been a significant beneficiary of Boymelgreen-related contributions.

UPDATE: Mr. Strabone left a comment, but we want to make sure that readers see it. He writes: "I just want to clarify what I said about the implications for Gowanus. I don't know what the axed members' ideas were for Gowanus. I don't know what Borough Hall's plans for Gowanus are either. All I've said is that, looking forward rather than back, we have another big land debate coming up, i.e. Gowanus, and it's going to be more complex than voting yea or nay on the DEIS for Atlantic Yards. From Borough Hall's perspective, they got burned on the Yards by their appointees and probably don't want to run that risk again. From CB6's perspective, the board has lost the people with the most knowledge and experience in land use." He has also written a blog item on the subject on his own blog that is absolutely worth reading.


Related Post:
Sharp Knives: Markowitz, Yassky and de Blasio Purge Community Board 6

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2 Comments:

Blogger Jeff Strabone said...

I just want to clarify what I said about the implications for Gowanus. I don't know what the axed members' ideas were for Gowanus. I don't know what Borough Hall's plans for Gowanus are either.

All I've said is that, looking forward rather than back, we have another big land debate coming up, i.e. Gowanus, and it's going to be more complex than voting yea or nay on the DEIS for Atlantic Yards. From Borough Hall's perspective, they got burned on the Yards by their appointees and probably don't want to run that risk again. From CB6's perspective, the board has lost the people with the most knowledge and experience in land use.

A fuller statement appears at my blog.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Gringcorp said...

Glad you mentioned Marty Markowitz' fundraising prowess - one of the most frequently overlooked parts of his political longevity. It's tempting to see him as this naive, child-like booster exploited by sophisticated real estate interests. The reality is much more simple - they own him. And they get a pretty good return by, if you'll excuse the media-ism "leveraging off his brand". If the city's new programs will basically put him on every time he opens his mouth, he can spend his contributions doing lord knows what deep-background mishchief.

1:32 PM  

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