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Jed Walentas caught in ‘racial mess’

The Brooklyn Paper
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DUMBO developer Jed Walentas admitted that it was good that his supporters from “the projects” — and their political backers — didn’t show up and make a “total racial mess” at a 2009 hearing on his controversial Dock Street project.

That cynical assessment, contained in an e-mail between Walentas and the top official at Brooklyn Bridge Park who supported the Dock Street high-rise project, offers a rare glimpse how developers and their allies see local politicians and their constituents.

In this case, Walentas was specifically referring to his controversial Dock Street proposal, which was still moving through the public approval process when the developer wrote his Jan. 28, 2009 e-mail to Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer.

Walentas wrote to recap a public hearing held the night before by Borough President Markowitz, whose support Walentas and Myer were both eager to win.

“The opposition is clearly panicked and turned out 75 or so folks,” Walentas wrote. “[Fort Greene Councilwoman] Tish [James] and Marty [Markowitz] agreed to not turn out dozens from the projects and make it a total racial mess. … I got very good vibes from Marty and his staff.”

The 17-story residential project, which includes a public middle school as a sweetener, ultimately did win Markowitz’s support — and went on to earn final approval from the City Council.

The leaked e-mail certainly won’t change that fact. But it may tarnish Walentas — and remind the general public of the ugly, raw and usually hidden side of public policy, where politicians threaten to use human beings as bargaining chips and developers bring in high-priced lobbyists, typically former government officials, to ward off the threat.

“It’s disgusting,” said Gus Sheha, president of the DUMBO Neighborhood Foundation, which is suing Two Trees to stop the project. “This [e-mail] highlights what we’ve been saying all along: the public review process is nothing but a sham. It clearly indicates that political and development tentacles are highly intertwined with this project.”

As evidence of collusion between the city and Walentas, opponents pointed out that the city moved ahead with the Dock Street school, even after determining that that the Walentas middle school doesn’t meet some of the city’s own standards.

In a statement, Two Trees said the memo was being misinterpreted.

Walentas, a spokeswoman said, used the term “racial mess” to describe how Markowitz and James had rightly decided to focus on the size and scale issues related to the development itself, not the ever-contentious subject of whether a new public middle school would attract minority students from outside DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights.

“Some of the opposition was well meaning, but there was an undercurrent that was particularly opposed to the school if it was open to students from throughout District 13, and not just Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO,” said the statement. “I think the elected officials wanted to keep the focus on the merits of the land-use issues.”

Both Markowitz and James support the project, but James denied on Tuesday that she agreed with Walentas’s suggestion in the e-mail that James could start a “racial mess” if she wanted to.

In fact, she said that she and her constituents always supported the project — then again, those constituents and their public school kids don’t live in tony DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, where opposition to the project was centered.

Updated 11:02 am, January 12, 2011: Tweaked a bit.
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Reader Feedback

Publius says:
Memo to Jeb and Regina: Don't send embarassing emails that can be FOILed.
Jan. 12, 2011, 1:06 am
judahspechal from bed-stuy says:
just as I've always said CouncilWoman James and her likes, "They are Poverty Pimps". None of them take the struggles of the less fortunate in their District seriously.
I don't blame the guy for writing the email, because I am quiet sure some of those words were tossed around.

Poor people needs to open their eyes, these self appointed "black leaders" have been pimping their own for decades.

Glad some had the fore sight to ignore her at AY & seek a benefit agreement with the developer.

What a disgrace you all are.

Stay in school, get an education, learn something, then spit in the eyes of these pimps when they roll around. They are only there because of what they got in the backroom. I just could not understand why someone who was so anti AY was soo pro Dock St. Didn't compute, but now is does.
I am so disgusted, I'm going to shower.
Jan. 12, 2011, 3:06 am
judahspechal from bed-stuy says:
To think that to get your way you would threaten to bring masses from the projects to protest. What are we cattle? No wonder you were bashing Barclays for their slavery days. No wonder you jumped on Duffield St & underground railroad to score opposition. A one trick pony. Of all the development in the area you rep. how many minorities where hired on these jobsite? What a disgrace!!
Jan. 12, 2011, 3:16 am
jj from brooklyn says:
you're way off on this, brooklyn paper. the email reflects a pragmatic — not a "cynical" — approach by walentas. his opposition acts in the same manner.

in any event, this is not the example to [as you report] "remind the general public of the ugly, raw and usually hidden side of public policy." it's perfectly rational and reasonable.

as for "the projects" — most residents are not politically attuned to petty local issues (such as dock street), although some residents are easily deployed to further the interests of others. cash talks, and its speech is color-blind — it talks to people with little money as well as to politicians who have plenty.

"the projects" were mobilized by bruce ratner to shill for atlantic yards, and they are being mobilized now by Walmart to demonstrate grass-roots "support" for its "job creation" machine.
Jan. 12, 2011, 7:18 am
jj from brooklyn says:
ONE MORE THOUGHT:

perhaps the brooklyn paper would like to disclose why it chooses to deny people in "the projects" equal access to information about local issues like dock street, atlantic yards, and Walmart. the brooklyn paper keeps people in "the projects" in the dark and, by extension, at the mercy of political and economic charlatans.

you can find the brooklyn paper — and its sister courier papers — aplenty in tony park slope; good luck finding a copy in "the projects." why is that, gersh kuntzman?
Jan. 12, 2011, 7:21 am
judah Spechal from Bed-stuy says:
JJ what proof do you have that Bruce Ratner deployed people from the projects at Atlantic Yards? I think you are misguided & have no clue. Let me educate you on minority involvement at AY. Simple put some smart business people sat at a table realizing that no among on anti AY was going to stop a project that everyone from the governor, mayor, Borough Pres. & most local Politicos supported.
These smart business people in the black community knowing how they have been used in the past decided to not be the outsider holding up placards on the sidelines this time around & watch the Construction Unions which have historically excluded minorities amongst their ranks, just throw them a bone by hiring one or two day labors to get coffee or wave the traffic flags.

These minority Business Contractors decided to bid on contracts & grab a piece of the pie for the 50% unemployed minorities in this city.

In short they beat the that "Poverty Pimp" to the punch. Because I can assure you that DDDB & their likes aligned with Ms James in hope that she can herd blacks people to protest AY- (this makes great visuals for the 6 o'clock news. "See their desperate attempt when Barclays Bank was named the sponsor".
And what was the outcome? Danny-Boy, DDDB & Ms James got $3millions from Ratner, while Brooklyn got an ugly arena & years of delay for affordable housing.

I supported AY for the beautiful Gehry design (gone because of obstructionist) & the opportunity for minority contractors involvement on a scale that was unprecedented in a development project in this city.

Furthermore, if you read that email, you get the sense of a businessman breathing a sire of relief that the hammer did not come down on his project by way of herds of black people protesting his development (great 6 o'clock visuals). Now I don't know this guy Walentas, but I can bet that he did not conjure up this "project crowd" protest by himself. I am as confident as I am typing right now that that was a threat issued to him by Ms. James & Marty.
What's shocking is finding out that Councilwoman James was ever oppose to this project. All I've read was how she was in favor of it.
So the focus should be what did Marty & Ms James got in return?

I oppose Dock St & cannot believe it gained the City approval.

Regardless of who oppose WALMart , myself included(got their mailer yesterday & used it to clean up after my dog) they are coming.

So called black leaders should sit their butts down & figure out how to better inform their communities because we suffer from a lack of not knowing, better education & all of which would help lowering the 90% of black victims & perperators of crimes in this City, while minority contractors bid on the forte coming Walmart's pie.
The time for the poor's struggles being fashioned as a tool by those who already have, has come to an end.
Jan. 12, 2011, 12:24 pm
jeanne from clinton hill says:
"some smart business people sat at a table realizing that no among on anti AY was going to stop a project that everyone from the governor, mayor, Borough Pres. & most local Politicos supported"

that is a great attitude! they're going to ram this horrible project through no matter what, so instead of fighting it, let's bend over! it's ok to have a corrupt process as long as we can make some money off of it!

good times.
Jan. 12, 2011, 1:43 pm
Dave from Park Slope says:
Judah, are you off your meds again? Or are you really this stupid?

Accusing Tish James of the exact tactics used by Ratner & Co.? Are you on his payroll?

Moron.
Jan. 12, 2011, 1:53 pm
Publius says:
@JJ:

You hit the nail right on the head. The Brooklyn Paper again fabricating or misunderstanding the "news" they are reporting.
Jan. 12, 2011, 2:26 pm
The Dude from Dyker Heights says:
How is this a story? Speaking of mole hills...the Brooklyn Paper has a print edition?
Jan. 12, 2011, 3:49 pm
JudahSpechal from Bed-Stuy says:
The time for the poor's struggles being fashioned as a tool by those who already have, has come to an end.
Jan. 12, 2011, 7:24 pm
judahspechal from bed-stuy says:
Jeanne from Clinton Hills: you seems to need some educating as all elitist do from time to time.

"make some money off of it!" -That would be for people who already have salary.

for the unemployed- it's called, a salary aka the lottery, aka regaining dignity, aka not going to the welfare office to be humiliated aka paying your rent/bills aka showing your kids a good time.

But I think you know all this already, my words are the stinging truth. Uncomfortable to the senses. So I get it, believe I do.

On someone payroll I wish Ratner would put me on his , then I'd be chilling with Dannyboy.
or just maybe I have witness how minorities are used prodded, exploited, misrepresented, misinterpreted for the 30yrs I been on this planet.

True hurts.
Jan. 12, 2011, 7:47 pm
jewel from brooklyn says:
Walentas is a racist!!! Know this first hand.
May 2, 2011, 12:45 pm

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