Backing a developer and the use of eminent domain to remove poor people from their homes.
The relentlessly sanctimonious Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now may not deserve its carefully cultivated image as a defender of the poor.
That’s because the group has become the leading cheerleader for a controversial real estate development that is slated to use eminent domain to remove the poor people it claims to represent.
ACORN, which has long prided itself on fighting the so-called gentrification of neighborhoods as rising property values force the poor to move, has also taken money from the project’s developer and signed a binding agreement forcing it to stand behind the project no matter what.
In the world of corporate shakedowns it is commonplace for liberal activist groups to use the money they extract from a supposed “donor” to fund operations, but it is very unusual for a group to take money in exchange for betraying those it is supposed to represent.
But the far-left activist group ACORN, which claims to defend the poor from what ACORN ally Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) last year called America’s “capitalist predators,” is doing precisely that.
In 2005, ACORN signed an agreement with Forest City Ratner Companies, LLC, a megabucks real estate development firm, pledging its support for the ambitious Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, New York.
The taxpayer-subsidized 22-acre mixed-use project is currently expected to cost $4.9 billion. The sprawling complex would be built in the neighborhood of Prospect Heights and would include the Barclays Center, a proposed sports arena that would become the new home of the New Jersey Nets basketball team.
In exchange for ACORN’s support, the developer agreed to set aside 50% of the expected 4,500 rental housing units for what the agreement’s income tables define as “affordable housing.”
At a staged media event at Brooklyn Borough Hall, ACORN’s Bertha Lewis publicly sealed the deal by planting kisses on the mouths of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and Bruce Ratner, CEO of the development company and principal owner of the money-losing New Jersey Nets.
ACORN hadn’t wasted any time after the U.S. Supreme Court threw the door wide open for expropriation for private profit in the infamous Kelo v. New London eminent domain case. The Kelo decision was handed down June 23, 2005, and after the above-described bout of public osculation, the formal so-called community benefits agreement between ACORN (and other local groups) and the developer was signed on June 27, 2005.
Without ACORN’s horse-traded support for the project, “it was unlikely the Atlantic Yards deal would prevail,” John Atlas of the National Housing Institute wrote a few months later in Shelterforce magazine. “And if Atlantic Yards gets built, ACORN will need all of its muscle to ensure that promises are fulfilled and the poor are protected.”
It’s worth noting that the venal ACORN, which apparently supplied instant supporters for various public hearings on the project, and the government subsidy-seeking Forest City Ratner are a perfect fit for so many reasons.
“We like working with ACORN,” an unnamed Forest City Ratner executive told the Brooklyn Paper in 2005. “They have that radical feeling, they really fight for what they believe in. We just love their history, how they started, and feel it really represents what we’re working to do here.”
Incidentally, left-of-center political activism runs in the Ratner family.
Bruce, who used to teach law, ran the Consumer Protection Division in New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s administration. He was also Consumer Affairs commissioner under Mayor Ed Koch. “Bruce is an old lefty, he’s an old hippie,” one friend told New York magazine. He also worked for the Model Cities Program, an artifact of President Lyndon Johnson’s ill-fated anti-poverty crusade.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?