Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Can you believe that the Bloomberg administration acted arbitrarily and capricious-on yet another land use question? First there was the Columbia collusion where-to be fair-the state, in the form of ESDC, played the leading role; but the city was an unindicted co-conspirator. Now it is Randalls Island where the court has had to intervene to give equal protection to public school kids in the face of unabashed favoritism for private schoolers.

As City Room reports: "For the second time in two years, a justice in State Supreme Court has ruled that the Bloomberg administration had improperly struck a deal with 20 private schools to provide them with priority in using athletic fields on Randalls Island in exchange for $45 million." Well, you gotta gives the Bloombergistas some credit for tenacity, no?

Well, apparently the judge in the case wasn't as forbearing: "In the decision Tuesday, Justice Marilyn Shafer of State Supreme Court in Manhattan rejected the city’s revised deal with the private schools, saying it, too, was improper because it did not go through a public review. Justice Schafer excoriated the Bloomberg administration, saying its arguments were “audacious,” demonstrating “more daring than logic” She ordered the city to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees and costs."

Juan Gonzales at the Daily News, who has been right on top of this story also weighs in on the court's decision: "Until now, Bloomberg has allowed only the Franchise and Concession Review Committee, a body he controls, to vote on the deal. Shafer's decision, which echoes a ruling last year by Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich, means the mayor will have to put the Randalls Island contract before the Council...The judge not only ordered that the entire plan go through the normal land use review in the Council, but she also struck down the city's claim that no Environmental Impact Assessment is needed, a review that measures a project's effect on an area."

Ah, what a difference four years makes. Unlike in the BTM case, the courts seem more willing to challenge-and overturn-Bloomberg's audacity. And the city charter, in danger of being relegated to mayoral toilet paper, is being restored. As one East Harlem resident told Gonzales: ""I'm thrilled," said Marina Ortiz, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and the head of East Harlem Preservation Inc. "Now, the East Harlem community will have a better chance for more direct input in how these fields that are part of our neighborhood are used," Ortiz said."

You know, if this keeps up, we may have to take back our disappointment in the mayor's purchase of a third term-Bloomberg III may be the gift that keeps on giving. And our buddy Norm Siegel, just as he was in the Columbia court smacking- was right in the middle of this: “It’s a major win,” said Norman Siegel, a lawyer for opponents of the city’s plan. “The city shouldn’t give a priority to people merely because they can pay for the use of public land. That discriminates against those who can’t pay to use the public land. We’re not saying the private schools can’t use the fields, just that everyone should be treated equally when it comes to public land.”

And hats off to another old friend, Geoff Croft of the NYC Park Advocates organization, who led the way. Croft has been in the forefront of the lonely battle to insure that the Bronx parkland stolen to make way for the new Yankee Stadium is replaced in a timely fashion; and he was an ally on the BTM fight as well, so he really deserves the victory on this-and on the bill he has helped to pass to make sure that more local representation is mandated on park conservancies.

And, with a special holiday shout out to the mayor, Croft gets the last ho, ho, ho: “I hope this forever puts an end to the city’s pay-to-play schemes,” said Geoffrey Croft, president of New York City Park Advocates, a group dedicated to protecting city parklands. “These parks are supposed to be for the public, not just those who can afford to play on them.”