In a final strike against Atlantic Yards opponents, outgoing Assemblyman Roger Green blocked a promised grant of $100,000 for an independent review of the project by a coalition of 40 civic groups, citing a racially charged comment made by a lone individual.
Green, who is black, told The Brooklyn Paper that he instructed state officials to remove the allocation from this year’s $112-billion budget after Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for the anti-Yards group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, referred to developer Bruce Ratner as a “white master” in June.
Goldstein is white.
“I was not going to approve any money to any group that included members that had used language that was hurtful to the African-American community,” said Green (D-Prospect Heights), who blocked the grant to the Council of Brooklyn Neighborhoods before his term ended this month.
“Would you give money to a group that included a member who called a developer in a Jewish neighborhood the ‘manager of a concentration camp?’ ” Green said.
Green’s decision to block the grant is not without irony. Despite being a strong Atlantic Yards supporter, he was the lawmaker in control of the grant to the CBN, which opposed Atlantic Yards.
In another irony, the CBN was formed in 2005 after Borough President Markowitz — another a diehard Yards supporter — excluded DDDB from a forum on the controversial state mega-development. Local activists then created a neutral group that could include DDDB as long as it also included associations with longer records of public service such as the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Area Community Council.
The result was a lengthy review by outside consultants that found numerous shortcomings with the project’s draft environmental impact study and recommended that the state scrap the DEIS and start over.
“We hired experts because outside review was necessary and lacking,” said CBN spokesman James Vogel.
“Now we can’t pay these professionals, who put many hours of hard work into a full and comprehensive review that caught many of [the state’s] mistakes.”
Vogel said that the entire $100,000 allocation was slated to go to the consultants.
The state budget typically includes plenty of handouts to civic groups like CBN, though each must be formally requested by a local representative — in this case, Green, who once resigned from office after being convicted of fudging state expense forms — and approved by the legislature.
Goldstein apologized for his “white masters” remark after it became public, but Green was unmoved.
In fact, he spent much of his last year in office complaining that project opponents exploited racist ideas about the black community.
“These people have consistently used terms like ‘Cadillac Benefits Agreement’ to describe [the Community Benefits] agreement made [by Ratner] with black leaders,” Green told The Brooklyn Paper after Goldstein’s gaffe. “They have used other radicalized language that has hurt the African-American community — and their chances at fighting this project.”
But Therese Urban, a co-chair of the CBN, said Green was blind to the race-baiting done by his side.
“[People who support the project] have used very foul, very racially charged language,” said Urban, who is white. “To bring up one comment and not bring any of the others is very inappropriate.”
City Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Prospect Heights), who helped the CBN get $130,000 in city funding, said Green over-reacted to Goldstein’s gaffe. James, who is black, acknowledged that there had been concerns in both the Council and the state Assembly about CBN’s connection to Goldstein, but said she was ultimately persuaded by the contributions CBN made to the public review process.
“Analyzing the 2,000-page environmental impact study is racially neutral because the project will have adverse impacts on the entire community,” James said.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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