As Room Eight reports yesterday former Guliani deputy mayor Fran Reiter testified before the CFB and told the panel that she didn't think that developer money impacted the political process. As she said, "The developer money in the system just says 'Don't hate me as much as you already do.'"
Reiter goes on to say that politicians don't want to be revealed as "on the take against the community." This is one of those great half-truths that are true in some circumstances but often not seen in certain areas where elected officials are less sensitive to the local community. David Weprin, for instance, held firm when Pathmark was trying to site a store in Fresh Meadows last year in the face of community opposition but, on the contrary, the Bronx council delegation rolled over the community opposition this year in the case of the redevelopment of Yankee Stadium.
The same could be said about the BTM fight where minority merchants were given the bum's rush as local legislators found themselves awash in developer dollars. Reiter is right about certain well-organized neighborhoods, and the example of Wal-Mart in Tottenville is a good one, where electeds are wary of going against the local opposition.
This is not always the case, and we still recall Speaker Vallone's steamrolling of Juanita Watkins in Laurelton when he ignored her wishes and those of the community in his support of a shopping center on Merrick Blvd. Developer dollars are still a potent weapon in any local political fight and the CFB should be vigilant of this fact when it looks to make the system more democratic.