Tag Archives: NYC

The Risks and Rewards of Thompson’s New Site


Bill Thompson just opened a new website designed by Blue State Digital, which also designed Barack Obama’s campaign site.

First of all, I’m increasingly inclined to give my qualified support Thompson for mayor – I don’t know if it was pure election-grandstanding, but it seems like every time he  makes a public announcement of some kind, like his workaround of the MTA fare-hike, it’s generally sensible, effective, and conscious of class dynamics in the city (for instance, as Comptroller he got city pension funds to remove their money from companies that privatise formerly public housing in the city).

But that’s beside the point – I think this will be a test case in how well folks other than Obama can use his organizing model in their campaign strategy.  While I trust that Blue State won’t apply the Obama model whole-cloth, many of the central elements of the Obama campaign revolved around him specifically, and might not translate well into other campaigns.  When someone wins, it always makes their system look better than it probably is, and thevalidity of the organizing model will be need to be tested in a vareity of contexts.

Here are some of the risks I see in adopting the Obama model:

-Looking like an Obama hanger-on: to stick in people’s minds, you need to develop a distinctive personality.  The individualist tendancy in American politics asks that politicians be in a way self-made.  Trying to ride the coattails too overtly undermines credibility and might hurt the campaign.

-Social Media can hurt too: trying to mobilize folks via twitter/Facebook/etc. can become a conspicuous display of a lack of support as well.  Having 50 people on a Facebook group demonstrates weakness in a citywide or statewide campaign.  Thompson should be  sure that embracing new media will build support among his target constituencies before over embracing the technology.

-You need a good story: Obama mobilized a series of glittering generalities based on his personal story.  Thompson needs to develop a central story that reduces to a short-worded theme and three key policy proposals to organize people behind the campaign.  One of the clear differences between Obama and Thompson’s site is the lofty quote Obama put on the top of every page.  Thompson doesn’t have the same type of cred, or story to get people together.


Real Estate Downturn – Except for Willets Point

worth millions! from numbphotos flickr photostream

worth millions! from numbphoto's flickr photostream

Real estate prices throughout the city keep going down – except in Willets Point, where the Mayor wants to avoid another development disappointment, and is buying up property at many times the assessed value.  Despite the fact that the city is running out of money, apparently the EDC and Bloomberg feel A-OK spending millions on property that eventually will be sold back below cost to a private developer that then will profit more off of people paying rent above cost.  The real absurdity is that those millions are perhaps more than the city ever spent fixing the streets, cleaning up toxic waste or performing basic city services in the Point.  That money could go towards actual city services in the area to make it an independently vibrant and viable neighborhood, but instead it’s being spent to support a mostly private development scheme.  It’s not quite a pyramid scheme per-se, but it reveals how the city government has been turned into a machine for artificially raising property values at the cost of just about everyone besides real estate developers.

Bloomberg’s Underhanded Move

a flurry of trouble.  from CarbonNYCs flickr.

a flurry of trouble. from CarbonNYC's flickr.

Anthony Wiener pointed out the real reason Bloomberg wanted to rush the term limits bill, and it had nothing to do with the need to prepare for the election ahead of time.  The real reason for the rush probably has more to do with the Presidential Campaign than anything else – Bloomberg used the news media’s total obsession with Barack Obama and John McCain to push through a bill while eyes were turned towards the election.

I wonder what the term limits fight would have looked like if it had taken place in December?  It’s certainly harder to get folks out to a protest in the cold, but it would have allowed the opposition a better platform to project their concerns about the bill, and might have marshaled enough public disdain to keep Councilmembers from bending to Bloomberg.

Fortunately, folks in and around city government paid a little more attention, and it looks like Bloomberg lost a good deal of political capital with the local folks he relies on for support.  At the very least he’ll have more trouble pushing the bills and initiatives he uses to keep in the news, and members of city government will be less willing to run cover for him leading up to the election in 09.

Real Estate Protects Itself Against Greatness

”]Park Gate, Dubai, by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture].

BldgBlog alerts us to a symposium being held in Chicago about the lack of American architectural audacity – while it seems possible to chalk this up to an intellectual or philosophical lack, I’d like to suggest a more political-economic approach: the inability to build big (and interesting) in the US comes from the enshrinement of property rights as the driving force for urban development.

Landlords have a relatively narrow interest in rising rents for the properties they own – this interest fragments their interests – setting neighborhoods and cities against each other – and pits them against the majority of the city, who are either non-renting property owners or renters.  Collecting rents for profits also gives them some cash on hand to help run elections their way, cementing the superiority of landlords vis-a-vis the rest of the city until someone finds a way to upend them – the strategy I suggest if we want to create a new age of American architecture that uses space in a productive, democratic way, as well as one that lends itself to Dubai-style grandeur.

MTA Agrees: “Yes We Can”

who is giving what in this picture?  from wallygs flickr photostream

who is giving what in this picture? from wallyg's flickr photostream

The problem with McCain-style spending freezes is that some things really truly should be fully funded by the government. Privatizing or relying on user fees for essential transportation infrastructure amounts to a flat/regressive tax on the poor – be it roads and cars, which force folks to pay for gas to get to work, or MTA’s latest attempt to raise fares yet again. Yes, they can, and probably will.

Space should not be a commodity sold off to the rich who can afford the convenience of proximity, nor should money determine access to urban space. More MTA fare hikes amounts to a further privatization of urban space, part of the process of wholesale gentrification and up-scaling of the City that Bloomberg et al promote. There’s a reason folks advocate against progressive taxes and for budget cuts – because it runs parallel with a larger project of upper class warfare against the poor.

Alan Gerson Back on Warpath

I think they should have jobs.  from adiythings flickr photostream

I think they should have jobs. from adiything's flickr photostream

Good ol’ Alan is still on the warpath against street vendors.  Despite trying and failing to pass similar legislation in previous years, Alan Gerson is back after street vendors,  trying to limit the freedom of vendors to sell their work with 16 different legislative changes (invaluable Wonkster has a rundown on the key ones).

These changes will make it harder for vendors to practice their right to free speech via distribution of printed materials. Gerson continues to cynically pander to the Village Alliance BID and the business interests that probably pose a bigger threat to a livable city than selling books and art ever could.  Seriously – check out this New Yorker article, the guy just sounds absurd trying to peddle his own bullshit to the public.

The excellent book Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier documents in living detail the life of street vendors in Gerson’s district, and demonstrates their contribution to the street life of New York City, acting as informal ‘mayors’ of bits of city space, and becoming important members of the community in a huge variety of ways.  (Other fans of public space and a real street life for New York City might recall Gerson’s silence on/support of renovation at Washington Square Park)

Upshot: A hearing on the laws is happening Thursday, folks should try to make it out (from the NY Activist Calender):

10/30 THU, 10 am – Hearing: on new street vending laws. Oppose
Councilmember Gerson’s proposed 16 new laws, which would end
street vending by artists. At City Hall (R/W to City Hall, 4/5/6
to Bkn Bridge-City Hall). Info: ARTIST, ArtistPres@gmail.com

Bloomberg’s Buboes


Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York posted this image from a 2004 brochure given out by the city’s department of Economic Development.  It carefully maps out the areas Bloomberg plans to overhaul during his term.  Note the concentration in the outer boroughs – with a particular focus on Staten Island. Bloomberg is looking to Manhattanize the outer boroughs and spread ‘development’ as class war – that is the other half of what is at stake in the Term Limits vote today.