The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

mountain folk

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The whole horde of loathsome sentience came to Greenpoint recently.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One received an email recently, from the “powers that be” in lower Manhattan, which announced the most super duper secret in the whole wide world. The Mayor himself would be coming to Greenpoint, to make a major announcement about a very, very important thing. “Ok”, says a humble narrator. I mean… it’s Newtown Creek he’s coming to… I had to go.

Now, before I continue, allow me to lay down a few ground rules for this post.

a) I’ve never been a sports guy. While the other kids were trading baseball cards, I was collecting politician cards. “I’ll trade you two near mint 1985 Donald Manes’s for that 1993 rookie year Chuck Schumer” – that’s my sort of thing. I know a bunch of the people in these shots from Newtown Creek “stuff” – like Diana Reyna, who is pictured in the shot above. All the politics and policy stuff notwithstanding, there’s a lot of genuinely nice people involved in public life – and Diana Reyna is one of them.

There’s also certain elected officials who can best be described as being a “bag of dicks that talks.”

b) the press conference was announcing a policy intended to protect the M1 and IBZ zones from being overrun by hotels and storage facilities. As policy goes, it doesn’t entirely suck. The idea is that any new hotel or storage facility will now have to approved by some city council led process which hands off even more power to the individual council members, and the speaker, than they already possess. There’s also some “yada yada” about money for training industrial workers of the future – that sort of thing.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

c) I’ve been following the Mayor’s career since shortly after he stopped aiding, abetting, and providing comfort to America’s enemies in Nicuaragua back in the 1980’s. I watched him during his years on the council, noted his turn at public advocate, and thoroughly enjoyed the campaign he ran in 2013 in which 73.15% of the 1,087,710 eligible voters who cast a ballot gave him what he calls his mandate.

d) There are 4.3 million eligible voters in New York City, so remember that the Mayor’s “mandate” represents, in actuality, 73% of roughly 24% of the electorate. Suffice to say, and for those of you who follow my Twitter stream this will not be a surprise, I’m not a fan of this adminstration and I don’t have any Bill de Blasio cards in my collection. He’s kind of the Pete Rose of politics – you can’t deny his record, but…

e) Everything that follows is heavily inflected with sarcasm, written in a mocking tone, and designed to make the Mayor seem churlish, dishonest, and strange. I really don’t like this Mayorality, and the creeping entropy which is nibbling its way back into the very fiber of our municipality which the adminstration coddles. If you want a straight “journalistic” kind of thing on this topic, google it and you’ll find Marcia Kramer from CBS throwing him shade, or any of the other press people’s straight up reportage of what was in the press release that was handed out. I have to say that, because the de Blasio people are notoriously lacking in the sense of humor category, and this post is going all tangential on me as I’m writing it.

f) I’m actually registered as a Democrat, something I felt forced to do as my former status as an “independent” kept me from voting in primaries. If NYC had open primaries, I’d likely be independent again. My politics are odd, can be somewhat severe, and hard to fit into any box manufactured much later than the late 60’s – when I was manufactured, coincidentally. I mention this only so you don’t think this post is some sort of partisan “party thing.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found it funny, actually, that the spot chosen to make this announcement about saving industrial zones from development and the pressures of the real estate market occurred in North Brooklyn, with Newtown Creek and Tower Town in Long Island City as backdrop. I found it humorous when passing tugs, and locomotives moving along the Queens side, interrupted the Mayor’s speech with industrial noise and distracted him.

Amusing as well, the fact that we were at the Newtown Creek superfund site, which is on the same Federal list that the Mayor fought to keep the Gowanus Canal from being named to several years ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One found it bizarre to hear the Mayor decry the power and reach of the Real Estate Industrial Complex, the very “powers that be” whom he has enjoyed a long relationship with that have reduced the amount of market rate housing in Brooklyn, and New York City as a whole, creating the so called “crisis” he has to solve. As responsible as any in the government for the destruction, dismantling, and gentrification of the industrial zones in South Brooklyn during his time in the City Council, the Mayor has long been allied with real estate interests like Bruce Ratner and the Toll Brothers.

He pushed through the decking of the Atlantic Yards for one, a project which still has not yielded “affordable housing” or “community amenities” or anything other than a basketball stadium and a couple of luxury towers which rise above it. For the other, he fought tooth and nail against the Gowanus Canal being named to the Superfund list.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Feckless, the Mayor has announced his intentions to deck over the Sunnyside Yards here in Queens in his mad quest to build 200,000 units of “affordable housing” before he leaves office – which God willing will happen during the next election cycle with the job unfinished. What he doesn’t mention is that much of that “affordable housing” will be incorporated into a far larger build out, using ratios like 60/40 or 70/30 for representing the number of luxury/affordable units found therein. Also, “affordable” means a one bedroom at north of $2,500 a month.

Cynically, his plan involves no new infrastructure – subways, fire, police, or sewer. Ten pounds of people in a five pound bag, indeed. The developments themselves will enjoy long periods of tax free existence, subsidies, and no interest municpal loans which will rob the “city of the future” of any chance to actually pay for the municipal services required to sustain itself. At Atlantic Yards, there is a 99 year tax forebearance on the part of the City which is enjoyed by the Stadium and luxury towers.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “PINO” or Progressive in Name Only, the Mayor likens himself to LaGuardia and the Roosevelts.

He seeks to stride the national stage, and would do so – he claims – if only the world would listen to him without interrupting. LaGuardia, with Robert Moses, built the highways, tunnels, parks, firehouses, hospitals, libraries, schools, and police stations first. Exurb neighborhoods like Flatbush and Sunnyside bulked up from sleepy hamlets to bustling urban centers when mass transportation became available, not before. You don’t build the housing first, and then hope for the next guy to connect all the dots.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I’m sure the Mayor is a very nice fellow, and honestly believes he is doing something grand and noble.

I’ve been asking this about him for years though – does he seem like the kind of guy whom you’d trust with something in your personal life that was important? Your wife is pregnant and just about due and you have to leave town on a business trip – is Bill the guy you ask to take her to the hospital? If Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago was lonely, and called Bill in the middle of the night, would he just let it go to voicemail?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Blogging is a lot more fun than journalism, incidentally, as modern journalists aren’t allowed to have opinions. They have to strike a line defined by lawyers and corporatists. The elected officials can, and will, turn access on and off to entire media organizations if they feel that they were treated badly. Accordingly, modern day journalists can’t report the “inside baseball” on these characters, as their entire operation will suffer the payback. They don’t have the budget, frankly, and modern news isn’t about in depth institutional memory anymore. It about forcing some good looking girl to stand out in the middle of a hurricane at Rockaway Beach.

I have no budget, actually, and it pisses me off that the mainstream guys and gals (with a few exceptions, like Marcia Kramer) who do don’t poke at the electeds with a stick often enough.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were a whole crew of camera people and reporters, an entourage that follows the big fellow around the City as he makes his rounds. The elected officials all came to the mike, one by one, to say how great the “Save Industry” plan is and how needed it was. The big crew who were at the podium at the beginning of the event began to peter out, and after Assemblyman Lentol of Greenpoint said his peace, the Mayor announced to the third estate that Hizzonner would be willing to answer questions which were “on topic.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This tactic is often employed by the de Blasio adminstration, incidentally. “On topic” indicates that the Mayor isn’t interested in discussing the issues or problems which bedevil him, rather it’s meant to be a continuation of the “speechifying” portion of the event during which he can amplify his “message.” This is something which the third estate actually does protest in vociferous tone. Recently, to counter the charges of evasiveness which members of the press have accused him of, the Mayor has instituted “town hall” meetings. A recent one held in Queens saw an audience which was composed only of his supporters, all of whom had been vetted by a local councilman.

Needless to say, the Town Hall was a ribald success, according to City Hall.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

So, that’s the post about the time that the Mayor came to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint to announce a very, very important thing. This post is emblematic of the Mayor’s problem, by the way. No matter how good or bad the policy is, he’s always in the way of it. The guy could have improved sliced bread, but you’d be suspicious of “why” he was tinkering with baked goods and discover that he’s had a life long relationship with a bagel consortium or something who were early contributors to his campaign.

I wonder what this industrial zone protection thing is actually about – as in who it is really designed for rather than who it’s said to benefit. Were there that many hotels opening in industrial neighborhoods that it required the “full court press” from City Hall? Define what you mean by “hotel”? Who benefits from this? Who loses? Can the City still continue to place homeless shelters in industrial zones? What about “single room occupancy” and other “short stay” apartments?

Also, if industrial zones are going to be protected, what about the one adjoining the Sunnyside Yards?

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 17, 2015 at 11:00 am

4 Responses

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  1. Right on the nail, Thx

    Sent from my iPhone


    Richard Swarbrick

    November 17, 2015 at 2:32 pm

  2. Mitch, as usual you made my day. Keep the sarcasm and comments coming. As far as those hotels are concerned, yes there are a bunch of them in industrial zones already, including Greenpoint. It’s not clear whether there is a glut of them yet or not. At some point they will stop investing in them for fear of occupancy falling below 80% (the magic number). The key issue, however, is gentrification which drives up prices and forces out any existing manufacturing businesses. From this perspective, Greenpoint is already doomed anywhere west of Manhattan Avenue.


    November 17, 2015 at 2:48 pm

  3. Mitch, you are my favorite writer – your mix of historical perspective, technical know-how, arcane vocab, and a commitment to fact-based editorializing is a joy to read, and I always learn something. I’m certain that someday your work is going to get the widespread recognition it deserves. Keep fighting the good fight, man.

    James C

    November 18, 2015 at 12:42 am

  4. […] resumed in “discoursed of,” Mayor de Blasio and his agenda were derided in “mountain folk,” and LIC’s Montauk Cutoff was discussed in “these views.” The Montauk […]

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