Monday, May 22, 2006

Protecting the Public Markets and Doing the Hokey Pokey

The controversy surrounding the eviction of the BTM merchants and the approval of the Gateway Mall refuses to go away. We were chatting with Councilmember Palma the other day about the proposal to build a new $370 million jail in Hunts Point and it becomes clearer by the minute that the transfer of the House of Detention to Related was a massive fraud.

According to Palma there is no way that the Bronx delegation would have approved the Gateway deal if it had known about the jail bait and switch. It was, according to her, bad enough that the House of D was basically given away without any bid competition. To now find out that the city is going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more to replace the correction facility only adds more fuel to the scandalous fire.

Which brings us back to the original issue that was litigated: The right of the city to ignore basic provisions of the Charter that deal with the disposition of city property because of the imagined "market exception." Not so imagined, however, because of the inane ruling by a formerly respected jurist named Cahn.

If the judge's ruling is allowed to stand than the businesses and workers in the public markets face a greater risk than the one posed by Rudy Guiliani's putative attempt to rid these markets of the influence of organized crime. Put simply, Cahn's legal ruling is so expansive in its interpretation of the so-called power of the Commissioner of Small Business Services that it would seem to obviate the need for Local Law 28, the legislation that put the markets under a vast network of city oversight in 1997.

Clearly Guiliani and his deputy Randy Mastro didn't think so. After all, no one ever accused the former mayor of reticence when it came to an expansive interpretation of mayoral authority. If he felt it necessary to codify his new market regulations than you can be confident that this so-called market exception is a chimera, a sheer fantasy of Jesse James Masyr, Related and Deputy Dan.

What needs to be done? A coalition of the vulnerable needs to be set up to address the travesty of the Cahn job. Locals 342 and 202 need to join with the Hunts Point meat and produce companies and their cohort in the other public markets.

Legislation needs to be introduced at the City Council that exposes the fallacy of this illegal power grab and clarifies the limits of the mayor's power when it comes to the public markets. If this is not done than we can expect that the mayor will find other opportunities to act arbitrarily and capriciously when it comes to regulating the businesses and thousands of workers in the city's public wholesale markets.

As far as the jail bait controversy is concerned, it provides the Council with yet another opportunity to investigate the actions and improper conflicts of the city's deputy mayor for economic development. Everyone gets righteously upset when an elected official puts his hand down the pants of an intern. We need the same level of righteous anger when economic development officials screw hard working small businesses because of personal relationships with developers.