Friday, September 28, 2007

Stringer: Word Up?

We've definitely been hammering BP Stringer over his questionable deal making acumen; but the animus derives from the way in which Stringer dramatically postured as a defender of the community when it was politically expedient to do so. As last year's March, 23rd article in the Columbia Spectator points out, Stringer, "expressed solidarity with opponents of Columbia's proposed Manhattanville expansion Wednesday night."

The last time we encountered such ephemeral allegiance, we found ourselves hooked up with the infamous Councilman Guillermo Linares, who sold out his own Dominican store owners on application to build a Pathmark Supermarket on 125th Street, for the promise of being Charlie Rangel's successor in Congress (How's that working out Guillermo?). Elected officials need to be held to their words, and in the case of Stringer he's clearly "a man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience."

Here's what Scott said last March: "I want to promise you that as long as I'm borough president I'm going to do everything I can so that Columbia cannot run roughshod over this community," he said at a meeting of the Coalition to Preserve Community, a group that has protested the expansion plans. "I will stand with you, I will demonstrate with you," he said to the audience of about 125 people at St. Mary's Church, "We are as smart as those $600 an hour lawyers."

Not only was Stringer willing to man the barricades, he also told the Coalition to Preserve Community that he was adamantly opposed to the use of eminent domain. The full quote here gives a real sense of how deep the Stringer deal with CU is a betrayal of the community: "Stringer expressed opposition to the use of eminent domain to take property in Manhattanville and suggested he would be willing to use his vote in the Uniform Land Use Review Process, the procedure for approving rezoning of the area, to leverage Columbia into taking it off the table. "I'm not for eminent domain, and I do have a role in this ULURP process," he said. Columbia has asked the state to consider using eminent domain to forcibly buy properties from business owners who have refused to sell, though they say it remains a last resort.
"People in this neighborhood should not be shoved to the side just because we need to expand," he said in reference to Columbia.
"Columbia left to their own devices has a thirty year record of evicting tenants, of not dealing with the community," Stringer said."

This staunch stand on principle wasn't the first time that Stringer made his position perfectly clear on the use of ED. In 2005, right after he was elected, Stringer told the community: "We have a wonderful opportunity when a school of this magnitude comes to a community and wants to expand", he said, adding, "Part of what we have to recognize is that Columbia left to its own devices, unchecked, will use eminent domain ... I want you to know clearly where I stand. That is unacceptable."

Wow! In the space of eighteen months Stringer morphs into a completely different person, shedding principles like a reptile shedding its skin. It's no wonder that the community is up in arms. As the Spectator reported yesterday, quoting Sarah Martin of the Grant Houses Residents Association: "Martin was equally perplexed that the University would offer to create a housing fund outside of its Community Benefits Agreements with the LDC. According to Martin, discussions about a housing fund were in the works, though the LDC had yet to propose a dollar figure it would find acceptable. “Why is he [Stringer] trying to make the CBA for us?” she asked. “He should be supporting what we’re trying to do. ... He’s sold this community out.”

Which, as we said this morning, doesn't bode well for the Stringer future. Harlem Tenants Council president Nellie Baily deserves the last word here: "At a public hearing last week in advance of Stringer’s vote, the crowd was split, but a majority of speakers urged the borough president to reject Columbia’s plan, and some cautioned that he would face political repercussions if he approved it. “Politicians, I warn you, this is your litmus test,” Harlem Tenants Council president Nellie Bailey said at the hearing. “If you want to be in office, you’ve got to vote against this plan.”