Thursday, January 05, 2006

The BTM Challenge

The legal highjacking of the BTM merchants is reported on in today's Daily News and NY Sun. In the News story Bill Egbert explains how "Judge" Cahn took Section 1301 of the City Charter and transformed it into a document that anoints the Commissioner of Small Business Services with czar-like powers over any and all activities in the city's public markets.

As we have explained already this interpretation of the Charter gives the Commissioner (but really Dan Doctoroff in this case) the power to terminate the lease of any of the hundreds of market wholesalers currently operating at the Hunts Point, Gansevoort and Brooklyn terminal Markets. And, according to the less than estimable Cahn, the city can do this without having to subject the decisions to the City Council for review, as it is expressly laid out in Section 384 of the Charter.

What this means is that it is now up to the City Council to prevent this legal lynching of the 23 mostly minority food wholesalers whose businesses supply a large proportion of the city's new immigrant food stores and restaurants ("The gavel has come down on the guava," according to Egbert). It should do so for a number of compelling reasons:

1) The actions of Deputy Mayor Doctoroff and EDC in constructing a sole-sourced deal for a company whose CEO (Steve Ross) is a good friend of Dollar-a-year Dan is as civic leader Henry Stern has written, not in the best interests of city taxpayers;

2) The BTM merchants are an important business resource for immigrant stores and restaurants and, in crafting this sweetheart deal, EDC callously disregarded their plight and failed to offer the wholesales a relocation plan;

3) The claim that the city has the power to override Charter provisions dealing with the sale or transfer of city-owned leases is a blatant usurpation of the City Council's perogatives under Section 384. The evictions, along with the entire ULURP application should thus be terminated; and

4) The Gateway ULURP process, beginning with the summer certification of the application, has been flawed. The nature and manner of these flaws needs to be thoroughly scrutinized, something that simply can't be done under the truncated time-frame that we have discussed aleady.

Which brings us back to the new Speaker. In a moving column in today'$ NY Times (subscription needed) Joyce Purnick highlights Quinn's emotional panegyric to diversity. The point that she made was that it was wonderful to be in a city where diversity was seen as an asset and not an impediment.

This is precisely the point we're making about the BTM and its wholesalers, immigrant firms selling a uniquely diverse mix of ethnic foods. There displacement in favor of a white bread suburban shopping mall, with no provisions made for their ultimate survival, is not representative of the new New York that Chris Quinn rightly celebrates. It is another compelling reason for this whole plan to be sent back to the drawing board.