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For Many Women, a World Without Abortion Access Is Already Here

What would life be like without Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that gave women in the U.S. the right to a legal abortion? This has become a common question ever since President Donald Trump nominated federal judge Brett Kavanaugh last month to replace the just-retired justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, with anti-abortion activists gearing up for a post-Roe world and defenders of abortion rights warning that if confirmed by the Senate next month, Kavanaugh could be the deciding vote to re-criminalize abortion

If that were to happen, the United States would revert to a patchwork of local laws; only eight states — Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, California, Nevada, Washington, and Hawaii — have laws that guarantee the right to abortion, while others have legislation in place that would immediately ban it. In New York, the state’s 1970 abortion legalization law remains in place but makes no allowances for procedures after 24 weeks of pregnancy, even if the fetus can’t survive or if the pregnancy is causing non-life-threatening risks to the woman’s health. The likelihood of an eventual overturn of Roe has raised specters of a return in most of the U.S. to the days when women routinely had to cobble together money to either pay underground practitioners or travel to places where abortion was legal, or were forced to carry undesired pregnancies to term.

In practice, though, that’s already the reality in which many Americans live. report published last year in the medical journal the Lancet found that in 2014 the median distance a woman would have had to travel to get to an abortion clinic was between 10 and 79 miles, and 20 percent of women would have had to travel 42 miles or more. Another study issued last year by the Guttmacher Institute found that the number of clinics decreased by 22 percent in the Midwest and 13 percent in the South between 2011 and 2014.

As Rebecca, a resident of Buffalo, New York, who spoke to the Voice on the condition that she not provide her last name, says, getting an abortion in 2018 can already prove a monumentally difficult task. “I was terrified,” she recalls of the moment earlier this year when she determined she needed an abortion promptly to meet legal time limits, and of her discovery of all the obstacles she would face in obtaining one. “It was surprising realizing what isn’t available where I live and how many barriers there are.”

Mary Badame, a board member at the New York Abortion Access Fund, which ended up aiding Rebecca, warns that if Roe is fully overturned, insurance coverage of abortions will likely be very limited — making it that much harder for women to afford services even in states where they still exist. Without stronger state laws and more funding from both local governments and donors to abortion access funds, she warns, “hundreds if not thousands of individuals may go without the care that they need and end up being forced to carry a pregnancy to term that they wanted to terminate.”

***

Last January, as Rebecca recalls, she felt a fluttering in her stomach and had a sinking feeling; two pregnancy tests later, she found out she was pregnant. Though she has a well-paying job in the insurance field, is married to her high school sweetheart, and has an eight-year-old daughter who she describes as her dream girl, Rebecca says she knew she shouldn’t have another child right now — she was taking medications for depression and anxiety, and didn’t know how they would affect the fetus. 

“The alternative to having an abortion felt unsafe, so I made the best decision I could for my family,” she says. She scheduled an appointment at one of Buffalo’s three remaining abortion providers for the following day. 

The next day at the clinic, however, Rebecca learned that she was 24 weeks pregnant. As none of Buffalo’s providers perform abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy, “New York City was the closest and only option for me,” she tells the Voice. What’s more, since she was already near New York State’s cutoff for a legal abortion, she had to make an appointment at a New York City clinic for five days later, take emergency time off of work, and ask her parents to help out her husband with their daughter while she made the eight-hour drive downstate, unsure if the clinic there would turn her away because her pregnancy was so close to the legal limit.

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When she arrived in New York City, she found out that her insurance didn’t completely cover the procedure, and that she would have to pay for a portion of it herself up front.

“At this point, I start to freak out,” she says. She sent her friend who’d accompanied her to New York City to the nearest ATM with her bank card, to withdraw what funds were left in her checking account. Her friend returned with the money and a suggestion: She knew of an organization called the New York Abortion Access Fund, which helps women who need financial assistance to obtain abortions.

Rebecca says she called NYAAF and spoke with a volunteer: “I let her know that my situation was time-sensitive, and if I didn’t have step one of the procedure done today, I likely wouldn’t be able to have it done at all.” After a few more phone calls and several more trips to the ATM, NYAAF was able to provide the $800 Rebecca still needed.

“She told me that she would call reception and let them know,” she recalls. “I paid the balance minus $800 and reception told me they’d heard from NYAAF already. They said I would be called to go in for the procedure.”

***

NYAAF is one of several dozen abortion funds that have been quietly operating in the U.S. for decades, and the largest in New York City. (New York is also home to the Haven Coalition, which works with clinics to provide housing for women who have to travel to the city to seek abortions, and the Brigid Alliance, which helps with transportation, housing, meals, and childcare.) Founded in 2001, it remains an all-volunteer-run organization — Rebecca notes that its board needed to vote before approving her $800 — that offers financial support for women living in or traveling to New York who aren’t able to pay for abortion care.

Badame explains that NYAAF volunteers operate three helplines — one for people living in New York City, one for those outside of New York City, and one for Spanish speakers — as well as respond to requests for assistance via email. As in Rebecca’s case, hotline operators work to determine whether Medicaid can cover any costs, negotiate discounts with clinics, and seek out other funding sources, then decide what to pledge from NYAAF’s own fundraising as well.

Along with such national organizations as the National Abortion Federation and the National Network of Abortion Funds’ Tiller Fund, abortion funds provide a loose network that fills the gaps in abortion access that have existed since not long after Roe. The biggest reason women today seek aid, says Badame, remains the Hyde Amendment, which, starting in 1976, banned the use of federal funds like Medicaid to pay for abortions, leaving it up to individual states to determine whether to cover the procedure. “We see a lot of people from states where Medicaid won’t cover the cost of the procedure.” She says NYAAF also often receives requests from young people trying to avoid mandatory waiting periods and parental consent laws.

Bans on abortion after 20 weeks, in place in 17 states, are another factor that forces women to travel to other states to receive care, says Badame. To that end, she says that at NYAAF, “there has been a consistent increase in the distance clients must travel to access abortion after 17 weeks’ gestation.”

Recently, she says, NYAAF has noticed that clients traveling from out of state are particularly prone to be seeking care in their second trimester or later. In 2016, according to Badame, 36 percent of NYAAF’s clients had traveled from other states to New York to get care, with 15 percent of those coming from the South, where clinics are now few and far between: More than 90 percent of Mississippi women aged 15 to 44 live in a county with no abortion provider, and Kentucky’s last remaining clinic is currently fighting for its life in court.

“We’re already seeing these states imposing more and more restrictions that make abortion care harder to access, states where there are many less clinics, maybe a parental consent law, or a mandatory waiting period and people just can’t access the care that they need in their home state,” says Badame.

***

Not all women forced to travel for abortions are headed away from blue states. New Yorker Erika Christensen has previously written about her experience in May 2016, when she discovered that her pregnancy wasn’t viable: The fetus was going to be unable to breathe, and would choke to death when it was born. She and her partner decided that an abortion was the best option — but at 30 weeks of pregnancy, she was past New York’s 24-week cutoff, and ended up having to travel to Colorado for a procedure to stop her fetus’s heartbeat. “This was very shocking to us because we had no idea that there were restrictions in New York at all,” says Christensen.

Even though she ended up having to borrow $10,000 from her mother’s retirement fund to pay for the procedure in Colorado, she considers herself privileged in a way. “How about the people who can’t read a bunch of really complicated paperwork, who don’t speak English, who aren’t adults in a loving relationship?” Christensen asks. The problem, they eventually realized, was New York’s law making abortions after 24 weeks illegal: “Every time we saw a problem, we would look for what caused it, and it all kept coming back to this law in New York.”

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Christensen has advocated for the Reproductive Health Act, a bill currently up for consideration in the New York State legislature that would allow abortions after 24 weeks for nonviable fetuses or to protect the woman’s health. But though the RHA may finally have a chance at passage — the Independent Democratic Conference that has helped prevent the bill from getting a vote has finally dissolved, and feeling pressure from Cynthia Nixon’s campaign, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for passage of the legislation last month — it wouldn’t do anything for women who live in states with anti-abortion legislatures, or where abortions are impossible to come by or pay for.

In 1971, Jan Peterson became pregnant at age 16 in Illinois, where abortion was still illegal, and borrowed money from friends to travel to New York, which had legalized the procedure the previous year. She says she was ecstatic when Roe legalized abortion nationwide two years later. But when asked about its precarious future, she explains that she worries women “are going to go places where they shouldn’t be going to have a procedure done that is the wrong procedure.”

“I never realized that there were that many obstacles,” says Rebecca of her experience, and the growing realization that she would have to grapple with everything from hours-long travel to finding a way to pay for a procedure that her insurance would not. “As many barriers that I faced, there could have been a lot more. We think that we have the right to choose, but there is a threshold for when that stops being true given the political climate that we’re in right now.”

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NYCFC’s Bronx Stadium Would Use City Parks Land — Sorta

When the owners of the New York Yankees announced, on a June day in 2005, plans for a new stadium to replace the 82-year-old Yankee Stadium, they had a special treat for New Yorkers who’d been hearing for more than a decade how the public would need to pay for a new home for the ball club: Steve Swindal, George Steinbrenner’s son-in-law at the time, declared, “There will be no public subsidies.”

That turned out to be not quite so much true. After adding up all the tax breaks and parking garage construction fees and costs of rebuilding parks that were bulldozed to make way for Yankee Stadium 2.0, city and state taxpayers ended up out more than $800 million — one of the spendiest public costs for any baseball stadium in U.S. history up to that time.

Earlier this month, developers working with New York City FC — the Major League Soccer franchise co-owned by the Steinbrenner clan and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan — revealed the latest plan for a new soccer stadium to arise just south of the Yankees’ home field, which has been serving as a not-entirely-satisfactory temporary home for the soccer team since the club launched in 2015. (Among other things, the field dimensions make for a soccer pitch so narrow that players can all but throw the ball into the goal from the sidelines.) Unlike NYCFC’s previous plan for the same site, a New York Times report promised, the soccer team’s owners were “not asking for the avalanche of free land, tax breaks, and public funding” received by previous stadiums in the tristate area.

Is this sports promise for real? A Voice analysis finds the answer to be: It’s complicated. Even more than other previously proposed NYCFC home field sites — which have wandered the five boroughs from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens to Pier 40 in Manhattan to Aqueduct and Belmont race tracks to a riverside spot in the South Bronx that was dead seemingly even before it got off the ground — the new Bronx plan involves a rabbit hole of leases and subleases, public land and private operators, and creative bookkeeping that makes the final price tag difficult if not impossible to calculate.

“This generation of development just seems to be getting bigger and bigger and more complex,” says Bettina Damiani, a Bronx resident and former director of Good Jobs New York, an economic development watch group that tracked and analyzed the Yankee Stadium deal. And with the added complexity, she says, any hope of transparency has gone out the window: “If you don’t care about the people that live and work and run small businesses in a neighborhood, you should at least have a marker of whether this will financially benefit a community, or a city, or a region, or something.”

***

The latest site to catch NYCFC’s eye will be familiar to anyone who lined up around the block for Yankees playoff tickets during their postseason runs in the Seventies or Nineties. Garage 8, also known as the “triangle garage,” is a four-level parking structure that sits immediately south of the old stadium site, providing parking spaces at $35 a pop for anyone foolish enough to drive to a Yankee game. Along with an elevator parts factory across 153rd Street to the west — plus 153rd Street itself, as well as an on-ramp to the Major Deegan — the garage would be demolished to create a roughly eight-acre plot of land just big enough to squeeze in a soccer-specific stadium of the kind that makes fans happy, and MLS execs positively drool with glee.

Five years ago, NYCFC’s owners planned on having the city let them use the land free of charge — and also free of property and other taxes, for a total public gift on the order of $106 million. If you count the $100 million in IOUs that the city would have to forgo collecting from the nonprofit company that runs the garage — money it might never get, given that hardly anybody, it turns out, wants to pay $35 for parking when there are other cheaper garages plus the subway and Metro-North all a couple of blocks away — the total taxpayer cost would have cleared $200 million.

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In this latest iteration, the team owners would do away with the need for public cash by means of a new gimmick. Instead of giving the land to the team, the city would sell or lease it to a private developer, the exquisitely named Maddd Equities, which was already looking to build housing in the area. Maddd would, in turn, sublease the garage site to NYCFC, which would erect on it a 26,000-seat, $400 million soccer stadium. (The city, it should be noted, has yet to sign on this plan, though deputy mayor Alicia Glen told the Times that negotiations are ongoing.)

If all that sounds a bit alchemical — add one private housing developer, and presto chango, watch the public subsidies disappear! — it only gets odder from there, thanks to the convoluted history of that garage site.

Back in 1973, when the city embarked on its first Yankees stadium redo project — right after George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS for the cut-rate price of $8.7 million — it acquired the triangle garage land, city property records accessed through PropertyShark.com show, from Kinney System, which had run an open-air parking lot there. (Around the same time, the city used its eminent domain powers to seize the stadium site itself from the Knights of Columbus and Rice University, which through a series of sales by former Yankees owners had ended up holding title to the land and the building, respectively.)

Sometime between the 1970s, when the city actually took title to the garage site, and the present, City Hall placed the parcel in the hands of the Parks Department. But at the same time, it never formally designated it as parkland, a process that involves the city getting the state to add the land to its zoning maps.

This is, parks and city land use experts agree, kinda weird. Some space that is treated as public parks isn’t actually owned by Parks — many community gardens, for example, are technically owned by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But the reverse is seldom true. “In general, because Parks has traditionally had a bare-bones budget, they’ve been unwilling to take on things that aren’t really parks,” says Tom Angotti, a Hunter College urban planning professor who formerly worked for the Department of City Planning.

And in any case, even if Parks owns the garage land, that doesn’t mean its exactly Parks land, let alone parkland. That’s because in 2009, after Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council approved building a new baseball stadium atop two public parks (which were actually mapped as parkland, as was the old stadium, as were some of the sites of new garages built by the city to accommodate the Yankees’ demand for still more parking), the land was leased by Parks to the city’s quasi-public city Economic Development Corporation, which then subleased it to Bronx Parking Development, that nonprofit parking company that is currently defaulting on its rent payments to the city. (Not to mention on its commitments to bondholders, who have been keeping Bronx Parking afloat only by allowing it to punt on loan payments for years.) Queries to the Parks Department about the status of the garage site were referred to EDC, as the leaseholder; EDC, in turn, directed questions back to Parks, as the landowner.

All of which is a fascinating glimpse into the byzantine land swaps that underlie our city. But really, there’s one big question here: Would NYCFC’s proposed deal require the city to give up land that, even if it has a surplus parking garage sitting on it now, could otherwise be used as a park, or for housing, or for some other purpose other than a soccer stadium?

The best way to tell for sure would be to look at the lease between Parks and EDC, and see what it says can and can’t be done with the land. Neither agency, though, will directly disclose the actual lease language; a Voice Freedom of Information Law request for the document is currently pending.

***

The worry, obviously, is that somewhere in all that fine print are hidden costs that will end up on the city’s tab. This wouldn’t be at all unusual: When University of Michigan sport management professor Judith Grant Long compiled a database of sports venue deals in 2012, she determined that such under-the-table goodies as free land and tax breaks added an average of 40 percent to the public cost of each stadium and arena.

With a little creative financial thought, it’s easy enough to see how NYCFC’s arrangement could be used to sneak in public subsidies as well. The market value for just the 4.5-acre triangle garage site is $31.5 million, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office. Let’s say EDC were to offer it up for sale to Maddd for, say, $10 million, and the developer then turned around and leased the site to NYCFC for the same price. Even though the city still wouldn’t be giving any cash to the soccer club, suddenly — presto chango — the Steinbrenners and Sheikh Mansour would be getting a $21.5 million discount on their land costs, courtesy of taxpayers.

And if EDC leased the land to Maddd, the deal could be even worse for the city, because the site would then remain exempt from paying city property taxes. The current assessed value of the garage site, per IBO, is $14,165,100; forgoing property taxes on that would cost the city just over $1.4 million a year. (Mayor de Blasio’s office did not have a comment in response to Voice queries about whether Maddd will pay market value for the land or property taxes on the proposed stadium site.)

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We’ve seen this kind of maneuver before when it comes to sports venues. In 2013, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno offered to pay for $150 million in renovations to the team’s publicly owned stadium if the city of Anaheim would just hand over development rights to 150 acres of parking lots on the site; the land gift, the city later determined, would have been worth about twice as much as the renovation costs. (After Anaheim mayor Tom Tait rejected the deal, Moreno quietly signed a lease extension without getting his desired land.) And closer to home, the New York Islanders are pursuing a new arena atop state-owned land at Belmont Park that could be worth anywhere from $74 million to $300 million in public land discounts.

And there’s one final twist to the NYCFC plan: The garages only become available if the Yankees agree to lift the requirement, agreed to in 2006, that the city provide a minimum of 9,500 parking spaces for fans — a provision that even the team owners no longer care about, but which they can decline to do away with unless the city agrees to use the garage property for a project of their liking. In effect, the Yankees and NYCFC can say: Yes, that’s a valuable site you have there — now give it to us for a stadium, or else we’re going to make you keep it a parking garage until long after cars are a thing of the past. Michael Bloomberg’s Yankee Stadium deal truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

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’Like Being Inside a 180-Foot Bell‘: A Statue of Liberty Protester Remembers

The dozen-odd members of Rise and Resist who dropped an “ABOLISH I.C.E.” banner from the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal on Wednesday — and the one member who took it upon herself to climb onto the statue itself and announce she wouldn’t leave until “all the children are released” (she lasted nearly three hours until NYPD Emergency Service Unit officers brought her down) — were part of a long tradition of protests at the statue, which as both a symbol of immigrant welcome and the second-tallest female statue in the Americas contains a multitude of symbolism.

In 1970, demonstrators with the National Organization for Women draped a sixty-foot banner from the statue reading “Women of the World Unite!” The following year, members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War spent forty-two hours inside the statue’s crown, festooning it with banners. (VVAW repeated the feat in 1976.) In 1977, Puerto Rican nationalists draped a Puerto Rican flag across the statue’s brow, locking themselves inside for eight hours to call for the release of four independentistas in prison for shooting at members of Congress from a Capitol gallery.

By 1991, the threat of the moment was to abortion rights, as the Supreme Court had ruled in Rust v. Sullivan that the Bush administration could impose its gag rule forbidding women’s health clinics that received Title X family-planning funds from counseling women on abortion. On July 29 of that year, a group of activists with Women’s Health Action and Mobilization (WHAM!) and AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) dropped a pair of banners from the statue, one from the pedestal reading “Abortion Is Healthcare, Healthcare Is a Right” and one from the statue’s crown reading “No Choice, No Liberty.” 

The banners were abducted by national park security, but the activists slipped away unnoticed. In the wake of Wednesday’s protests, two of the 1991 demonstrators shared with the Voice their recollections of the 1991 statue protest, and their thoughts on its spiritual descendants. 

“We were talking about actions we might take in response,” recalls Dana Luciano, at the time a WHAM! activist and currently an English professor at Georgetown University. (Full disclosure: I was also a member of WHAM! at that time.) “And someone said, ‘We should gag the Statue of Liberty!’ It was kind of spontaneous — I don’t think most of us knew, at the time, about the history of protest at the site. I think we just thought that as a high-visibility female figure, the statue would be a good place to stage a feminist action. It was thrilling to learn afterwards that we were part of a much longer history of protest there.”

As it turned out, an ACT UP affinity group called Action Tours — best known for ambushing Dan Rather’s CBS Evening News during the Gulf War with chants of “Fight AIDS, not Arabs!” — had already been scoping out the statue as a site for protest; the two groups soon joined forces. Around 35 people participated at the statue itself, Luciano recalls, with perhaps a dozen more working on press and legal support.

“Early on we’d realized that actually gagging the statue wasn’t feasible, so we decided to drop banners from the crown — the idea being to cover the statue’s face, like a mourning veil — and the base,” she recalls. “It took about three trips to the crown to figure out how to open the windows so we could hang a banner. It was windy up there, so we weighted the bottom of that banner with a heavy chain sewed inside a few layers of fabric so we wouldn’t damage the statue, which would have carried a felony charge.”

On the day of the action, the activists showed up carrying the two large banners, cinder blocks to weigh down the one that would hang from the pedestal, and additional tools. “We get up there and use special hardware to open the windows the way they’re supposed to be opened — no damage was done,” says Jon Winkleman, an Action Tours member at the time. One activist held a helium balloon in front of a security camera to block its view — “it turned out it wasn’t even on,” says Luciano — while others blocked the steps to the crown to buy more time.

“The banner got tangled, so I’m sticking my head out, reaching outside the statue to untangle it,” recalls Winkleman. “And it’s like — oh my god, I’m touching the Statue of Liberty’s nose! Which was the coolest thing in the world.”

One reason the demonstrators had been particularly careful not to break windows or otherwise harm the statue, Winkleman says, is that they had discovered that causing over $2,000 in damages could be considered a felony: “If you do any type of scratch, they can always claim $2,000 worth of damage.” 

“But as soon as we got the banner up, it started blowing around and the chain, despite the wrapping, started banging against the statue,” says Luciano. “Since the statue is made of metal it was like being inside a 180-foot bell — it was kind of terrifying. As we ran down the steps to the base, one of our members shouted, ‘Felony!’ each time it rung. By the time we got to the base, someone had pulled it inside, unnerved, I guess, by the noise.” (The Associated Press credited a Park Service ranger with hauling the banner inside after about five minutes.)

The group that draped the large banner off the pedestal had fewer problems, she recalls — “except that some of them had gift wrapped their cinder blocks to hide them in case their bags were searched, so that delayed things a bit. People looking on were actually pretty excited — some of them started taking pictures. One man asked if they were from Greenpeace.”

Eventually, all the activists joined the crowds of tourists on departing ferries. “We were about to get on the boat, and they grabbed this woman who wasn’t part of us, and they were going to arrest or question her,” says Winkleman. “And then her husband pulls out a badge — he was an off-duty cop.” No arrests were ever made.

Of course, 1991 was a less security-heavy time, when lugging cinder blocks on a ferry to a national monument was less likely to raise eyebrows. At this year’s protest, Luciano notes, everyone was arrested, not just the statue climber.

“With CBS, the moment we did that, they changed their security badges to have a little radio transmitter in it, so you couldn’t fake them,” says Winkleman. CBS staff, he recalls, immediately nicknamed the new cards “ACT UP badges.”

“9-11 definitely had a chilling effect on protest, but the wheels were in motion long before,” Luciano says. “In New York City, for instance, the Giuliani administration was committed to squashing dissent from the beginning. They went after civil disobedience activists especially hard, making sure the arresting officers had them put through the system rather than just giving desk appearance tickets.”

Still, she’s cheered to see that direct action is alive and well despite the heightened security state. “Black Lives Matter, Occupy, Standing Rock — these are and were sustained direct-action movements. Almost 600 women were arrested in D.C. last Thursday in the Senate office building; six senior citizens were arrested Friday for blocking the ICE offices in Philadelphia,” says Luciano. “The woman who climbed the statue yesterday made me remember Bree Newsome, who climbed the South Carolina Capitol to take down the Confederate flag there in 2015.”

And, adds Winkleman, in many ways getting news of a protest out to the public is much easier than it was in 1991, when activists had to hire a helicopter to shoot video of the event. (The weather was bad, and it arrived minutes too late.) “You look at the social media, the live-streaming online that happened yesterday — I wish we had that back then,” he says. “So yeah, things are different: They can’t do what we did back then, but we can’t do what they can do now. And I’m sure some other activists will find a way to do something even more spectacular.”

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The Mets Aren’t Really Where All Old Sluggers Go to Die, It Just Feels Like It

Former home-run champ José Bautista made his debut for the Mets in left field last night, a string of words that becomes far less impressive once you realize that he was only available because he’d just been released by the Atlanta Braves after he hit a dismal .143 for them in twelve games as a nominal third baseman. It’s a testament to how hard it’s been to find anyone in Flushing who can bat right-handed and play the outfield: Incumbent slugger Yoenis Cespedes is in the midst of one of his annual disabled-list stints, and Juan Lagares interrupted his surprise bounceback season (.339 batting average, to go with his usual Gold Glove–caliber fielding) by kicking an outfield wall and tearing a ligament in his big toe, putting him out for the rest of the year. Under those conditions, Bautista looks, if you squint, maybe, like an almost-reasonable option.

And so the man called Joey Bats joins a long string of players — current Mets first baseman Adrián González, a forty-year-old Gary Sheffield in 2009, a 36-but-he-hit-like-he-was-much-older-year-old Michael Cuddyer in 2015 — to enjoy a transition into senescence in blue and orange. Baseball Twitter, as will probably not surprise you, has already taken notice:

OK, so it’s fun to poke fun at the Mets, as one does. But this being 2018, I figured there must be some way to actually quantify this observation: Are the Mets truly unique in providing solace to aging sluggers in their twilight days? So I came up with a simple metric to look at recently retired players with more than 300 career homers, and rank them by the percentage of lifetime homers struck for their final team, or Marginal Efficiency of Taters Smashed by Last Observed Landing:

Player: HR with final team/total HR, team, final year, METSLOL
Manny Ramirez: 0/555, Rays, 2011, 0.00%
Juan González: 0/434, Indians, 2005, 0.00%
Gary Gaetti: 0/360, Red Sox, 2000, 0.00%
Rubén Sierra: 0/306, Twins, 2006, 0.00%
Richie Sexson, 1/306, Yankees, 2008, 0.33%
Steve Finley: 1/304, Rockies, 2007, 0.33%
Adam Dunn: 2/462, A’s, 2014, 0.43%
Jim Thome: 3/612, Orioles, 2012, 0.49%
Jim Edmonds: 3/393, Reds, 2010, 0.76%
Greg Vaughn: 3/355, Rockies, 2003, 0.85%
Miguel Tejada: 3/307, Royals, 2013, 0.98%
Carlos Lee: 4/358, Marlins, 2012, 1.12%
Lance Berkman: 6/366, Rangers, 2013, 1.64%
Mike Piazza: 8/427, A’s, 2007, 1.87%
Iván Rodríguez: 6/311, Nationals, 2011, 1.93%
Gary Sheffield: 10/509, Mets, 2009, 1.96%
Derrek Lee: 7/331, Pirates, 2011, 2.11%
Luis Gonzalez: 8/354, Marlins, 2008, 2.26%
Jason Giambi: 11/440, Indians, 2014, 2.50%
Vladimir Guerrero: 13/449, Orioles, 2011, 2.90%
José Canseco: 16/462, White Sox, 2001, 3.46%
David Justice: 11/305, A’s, 2002, 3.61%
Moisés Alou, 13/332, Mets, 2008, 3.92%
Reggie Sanders, 13/305, Royals, 2007, 4.26%
Shawn Green, 14/328, Mets, 2007, 4.27%

One note: This chart excludes players who finished up their careers by returning to their old teams for a victory lap, or else we’d be muddying the waters with the likes of Harold Baines (one home run with the White Sox in 2001, 0.26 percent) and Ken Griffey Jr. (nineteen dingers for the Mariners in 2010, 3.02 percent). Only players signed because their new employers were under the delusion they can actually still play need apply.

While the Mets show up three times, for notable tail-enders Gary Sheffield, Moisés Alou, and Shawn Green, you’ll note they’re by no means the all-time champeens of old-age home-dom: The forever bargain-hunting Oakland A’s beat them out on this list for their own aged troika of Adam Dunn, Mike Piazza, and David Justice.

All that could change, though, depending on how the 2018 season goes for the Mets and their current crop of graybeards. González, acquired in the offseason to see if he could regain his 2015 All-Star form, has answered with a resounding “not really,” contributing five homers so far (1.58 percent) but not much else. And Bautista has yet to go yard in his one game in royal-blue pinstripes, so if he keeps up this non-pace and retires from baseball as a Met, he’d slot in right at the top of this list. Adding those two would give the Mets three of the top twenty players of this century in METSLOL, and four of the top 25, cementing their place as the old-age home of choice for not-quite-retired longball artists. Just one more reason for Mets fans to hope that Bautista enjoys a pleasant retirement — and soon.

Categories
Housing Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Gentrifying Highbridge Faces a Rocky Future

In recent years, the Bronx neighborhood of Highbridge — perched on a steep ridge between the Harlem River on one side, and the valley that holds the 4 train and Yankee Stadium on the other — has become pockmarked with rectangular holes, whose precipitous sides display a cross section of whorls of Fordham gneiss that were once the core of an ancient mountain range. But if you want to see the innards of the Bronx, look soon, because these windows into the ancient past won’t be there long. Soon they will be the foundations of apartment buildings, which are sprouting in Highbridge at an accelerating rate.

For most of the neighborhood’s century-plus history, say locals, it’s been too costly for anyone to bother with removing Highbridge’s rocks, an accident of geology that’s left the neighborhood with a scattering of mid-rise apartment buildings where the ground was penetrable, and parking lots and ad hoc gardens and single-family homes (sometimes perched atop outcroppings, reachable only by long staircases) where it wasn’t. But all that has changed of late, as the city’s gentrification wave has struck Highbridge with force, creating incentives for developers to squeeze in new homes wherever possible. And for the largely low-income Dominicans, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans who make up nearly 90 percent of Highbridge’s population — the Irish residents who congregated there in the early twentieth century mostly followed the newly constructed Major Deegan and Cross Bronx expressways to the suburbs after World War II — it’s brought with it the fear common to gentrifying neighborhoods the city over: When the construction cranes come, what will that mean for us?

“Now there’s organic food and craft beer in the Fine Fare,” says Elliott Lassi, a Highbridge resident who since 2001 has lived in one of the neighborhood’s few genuine high-rises, a 25-story pale green monolith on Ogden Avenue, striped with building-wide balconies, that was built by the city in the late 1960s.

For the most part, even amid the new construction, Highbridge is still a neighborhood of corner bodegas and mid-rise Art Deco apartment buildings — as of now, it’s unsullied even by a bank branch. (Locals have to walk down the hill past Yankee Stadium to do their banking.) But while the promise of new residents is as yet mostly hypothetical — the number of white Highbridge residents rose between 2010 and 2016 only from 288 to 664 — it also comes with a threat: Both those who live in Highbridge and the stores they’ve come to rely on could be priced out by a flood of new residents with the money to rapidly change the streetscape.

“We know what happened to Loisaida, to Williamsburg and its Latino community,” says Lassi. “Here it’s been taking its sweet time, but now it’s happening very quickly.”

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Highbridge drew attention earlier this year when the realty website Zumper ranked it as the New York City neighborhood with the fastest-rising rents, its median price leaping 22 percent just in 2017. And while figures like these need to be taken with a grain of salt — they can be skewed if they’re based mostly on listings for new high-priced developments, and Zumper didn’t respond to Voice queries about its methodology — residents say they’ve already seen prices start to creep up to levels unaffordable to many who live there.

“There are a lot of new buildings that came up, and those new buildings are not under rent stabilization,” says Bakary Camara, a Highbridge resident and local real estate agent. The most recent census data compiled by the city on a neighborhood level is from the 2012–2016 American Community Survey: It shows 39,144 people living in Highbridge, up from 37,727 people in 2010, and from 33,844 ten years before that. And as most of the new construction is either recently completed or still in the works, Highbridge could have an even bigger flood of new neighbors yet to come.

And for existing buildings, Camara notes, “rent stabilization is out of the window as soon as somebody moves from the apartment” — thanks to the vacancy decontrol laws passed in the 1990s. As the current population ages out, he says, “you have elders moving out of these apartments, and the owners are renovating and putting them up for market rent.”

The theories as to how Highbridge ended up in the crosshairs for upscaling, and why now, are as numerous as there are compass directions. To the south, the lower reaches of the Grand Concourse began drawing deeper-pocketed residents seeking respite from sky-high Manhattan rents a decade ago, a trend that’s only accelerated with the burgeoning rebranding of nearby Mott Haven. To the east, the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009, obliterating a beloved neighborhood park but helping realtors sell the South Bronx to newcomers as an area on the cusp of renewal. To the west across the river, Washington Heights has been among the city’s fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods, with the 2015 reopening of the pedestrian-only High Bridge — so named because it soars 140 feet above the river between rocky bluffs — after a nearly 45-year closure, making the Bronx feel just a few steps away. To the northeast, the recently approved city rezoning of Jerome Avenue in the valley below promises to land a sea of new mid-rise buildings on the neighborhood’s doorstep, bringing new attention to the previously isolated hilltop community.

And then there’s the zoning of Highbridge proper. The vast majority of the neighborhood has always been zoned R7-1, which allows for medium-sized apartment buildings. That makes the neighborhood’s collection of nineteenth-century single-family homes look like an underutilized resource to developers. And the steep slopes at the neighborhood’s edge mean that a building with a relatively low frontage on one side can be several stories taller on the other, all while remaining within the law.

Camara says in his realty work, he’s seen outside interest in people moving to Highbridge intensify in the last three to four years, especially among teachers and healthcare workers seeking to escape pricey Manhattan rents for an accessible alternative just across the river.

“Once Brooklyn and Manhattan become a little too expensive for people, investors turn their attention to the Bronx now,” he says. “And if they can’t get open land to buy, whatever property came on the market for sale and it’s got a good zoning, they will go and buy that and demolish and build.”

Off 163rd Street on Woodycrest Avenue — named for the thick woods that once ran along the ridge line — a strip of single-family houses is now interrupted by a modern gray apartment building speckled with asymmetric windows. Across the street, the eighteenth-century Anderson Homestead sits half-renovated, its fate dependent on whether its owner continues to hold out against interested buyers; none of the buildings on the block have been landmarked.

It’s an impossible position for homeowners to be put in, says Chauncy Young — a Highbridge resident and community organizer who is director of the parent action committee at New Settlement Apartments — and some may find it hard to hold out much longer. “Because Highbridge is such a small neighborhood and so unique and isolated, it’s more of a target for gentrification,” he says. “It also is a community with small private houses that have been maintained by family members, and they have a large amount of land.”

Much of Highbridge’s story will be familiar to anyone who’s watched how gentrification has played out in other city neighborhoods like Bushwick or Mott Haven: Residents largely pull themselves up from the fires and abandonment of the 1970s through community organizing and nonprofit housing development to make a more livable, if still largely low-income, neighborhood — which at that point starts attracting interest from newcomers

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“When everything was burning down in Highbridge, you still had a solid middle class,” says Mary Blassingame, who for 21 years chaired Community Board 4’s housing and land use committee. “A lot of things deteriorated in the Eighties, but there were highly active tenants, a mix of middle and working class, who stayed. They went on rent strike, went to court, got in the Interim Lease Program. Their co-ops’ stability lends the community stability today.”

Aside from the single-family homes and the co-ops, which starting in the 1980s took advantage of the city’s Tenant Interim Lease Program to take control of buildings whose landlords had all but abandoned them, Highbridge is overwhelmingly a community of renters: The homeownership rate for the area and its neighbor to the east, Concourse, is just 7.8 percent. That makes it highly vulnerable to rent increases, especially for the 25 percent of neighborhood apartments where landlords have imposed preferential rents, a means of getting around state caps on annual increases for rent-stabilized apartments by setting legal rents higher than what tenants actually pay so that rates can be abruptly jerked upward once there’s interest from high-paying prospective residents.

Claribel Sanchez grew up on University Avenue, in an apartment where her mother still lives. Until this month, Sanchez rented a two-bedroom apartment in a house half a block from the entrance to the High Bridge. But with her rent having jumped from $1,600 to $2,000 over the last two years, she’s now been forced to move back in with her mother while she and her fiancé look for a permanent home.

Sanchez says her brother, a sophomore at Duke University, has written a paper about the gentrifying effects of the High Bridge. “Once it opened, to put it bluntly, you saw different people, white people,” Sanchez says with a laugh. “At least seven of these buildings were magically renovated before the bridge reopened.” After Highbridge Park was closed for three years during the reconstruction, she says, “With the reopening, they brought in a Wafels & Dinges truck. I mean, I love waffles, but I didn’t appreciate the message.”

As in other city neighborhoods faced with the promise and threat of gentrification, the options for residents once the construction crews have been set in motion are limited. “I would doubt that anyone could do anything about this now,” says Camara. “Organizing tenants is the only factor that can, if not bring the price down, stabilize the prices where they are. Other than that, it’s just going to be a train going forward. The only way everybody can hold their own ground is to organize, organize, and organize.”

Categories
Environment THE FRONT ARCHIVES

New York Will Drown Long Before It Freezes

Of all the ways in which our broken planet is preparing to kill us — tropical diseases gone wild, swarms of water refugees, frozen methane rising from the inky depths to smother us in prehistoric microbe farts — the general public has become most fascinated with the possibility that melting Greenland glaciers will shut down the Gulf Stream, plunging northern Europe and much of North America into a new ice age. People have clung to this specific possibility partly because of its contrarian appeal — global warming causing local freezing? where’s my snowball? — and partly because it’s been part of the plotline of certain Hollywood blockbusters.

Recently, the media gave the issue a bit of attention when a pair of papers in Nature last month indicated that the Gulf Stream is now slower than at any time in the past 1,600 years. As the Voice’s Lara Zarum remarked when one especially alarming story from the Guardian showed up in the office Slack, “It’s never a good sign when you use a still from The Day After Tomorrow to illustrate your climate story.”

The Voice contacted several leading climate scientists who study ocean currents, who offered some good news: Any effect on the Gulf Stream from the slowing of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation — or AMOC, the “conveyor belt” that helps drive ocean currents via the sinking of cold saltwater in the North Atlantic — is probably not that dire, at least not yet. The less good news: Everything else is extremely dire, especially for coastal cities like New York.

Asked if end-of-the-world AMOC scenarios are overblown, Susan Lozier, an oceanographer at Duke University who is an expert in oceanic circulation, replies, “I think it’s a distraction from the other end of the world. New York City has more to worry about in terms of sea level rise than about AMOC anytime soon.”

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The threat of an Atlantic deep freeze is relatively simple to picture, at least as complex climate-related systems go. As the Gulf Stream sweeps up from the Gulf of Mexico toward the North Atlantic, it brings warm water and warming temperatures to Western Europe, while drawing cold air down from the north to cool the U.S. East Coast. (This is one reason why Madrid is so much toastier than New York, despite being at the same latitude.) Once it gets there, the water cools and sinks, then flows back southward along the ocean floor to start the process all over again.

That’s how it’s worked for the past 10,000 years. The worry — which was already being raised before The Day After Tomorrow hit theaters in 2004 — is that Greenland’s rapidly melting ice cap is releasing a blob of cold freshwater into the North Atlantic, which will sink more slowly since freshwater is lighter than saltwater. As a result, that would stall the AMOC, and eventually could slow down or stop the Gulf Stream altogether.

Not so fast, says Lozier. “Unlike sea level rise or global warming or Arctic sea-ice loss, where there’s broad consensus in the scientific community,” the models predicting what will happen to the Gulf Stream are far less certain, she says. “The latest IPCC” — the reports regularly issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to track our impending doom — “says AMOC is more stable than we thought it was,” she notes, predicting only that the AMOC is expected to decrease in strength by between 11 to 34 percent by the year 2100, which is still a little ways off. 

“There’s a lot going on in the climate system, and to think there’s only one mechanism is oversimplifying the climate system,” adds Amy Clement, a climate scientist at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami, who has authored papers on AMOC. “Ocean circulation variability is one thing in what’s happening in ocean sea level.” Some of the other factors, as scientists like to say, are not well understood: “There are definitely some mysteries: We have had a tripling of sea level rise here in Miami and the Florida Straits, and we basically don’t really know the specific cause.” (One leading suspect: The North Atlantic Oscillation, an El Niño–like climate pattern that can accelerate or slow sea level rise for years at a time.)

The problem with the recent spate of Day After Tomorrow stories, notes Lozier, is that “the headlines really exaggerated things.” 

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In any case, what we can be sure of is scary enough. Lozier says that regardless of what the Gulf Stream does, we are likely to see more late-winter storms in the Northeast and general shifts in precipitation patterns. (Pro tip: Don’t move to Arizona.) A less publicized but potentially even scarier issue is ocean acidification, in which the world’s oceans absorb about 25 percent of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s good news for the atmosphere, she notes — more carbon in the oceans means less in the air — but bad news for the ocean, where the carbon forms carbonic acid, the same mechanism that sent the trilobites and other prehistoric sea creatures on a path to extinction after a run of 270 million years.

“Plan for sea level rise,” says Clement. “Plan for storms. We have a very good theoretical understanding of the connection between the intensity of storms and how the impacts change as sea level rises and as the atmosphere gets warmer and wetter. All those things we know.” The Gulf Stream issue, she says, “is a real scientific debate — but the fact that the sea level is rising is not up for debate.”

Categories
NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Meet the Creator of the Fake Michael Cohen Subway Ad

This week, subway riders may have been surprised during their morning commutes to see a Dr. Zizmor–esque ad for another now-familiar face: “Michael Cohen, Attorney-at-Law. Got Problems? Call ‘The Fixer,’ ” the ad copy reads, above a checklist of services rendered — “Hush Payments, Physical Threats, Pay Off Porn Stars, Playboy Bunnies” — and the smarmily grinning face of Donald Trump’s embattled lawyer.

The ad — which, needless to say, was placed on trains without the knowledge or permission of the MTA — went a step further, though, by including a phone number that leads to a similarly deadpan voicemail message (“Press 3 if you are the president of the United States”), as well as a URL for a website advertising his skill set and office hours. (Apparently the fake Cohen is happy to “commit treason if it means helping a client” but doesn’t work weekends.)

Michael Cohen

The Voice, in what is apparently going to be an ongoing series of interviews with New Yorkers insistent on joining the daily subway-ad-strip dialogue, tracked down the anonymous Cohen impersonator for a brief email interrogation:

What gave you the idea for doing the fake Michael Cohen ad? Have you ever done anything like this before?

The guy calls himself a “fixer” and he acts like one of those lawyers who would have a terrible subway ad, so we are just giving him the treatment he deserves. We’ve done similar stunts before.

How long did it take to pull it all together? Have you received any unexpected responses?

It didn’t take that long to put the site together. I wanted the “Fix You” midi file to autoplay when you open the webpage, so if anyone can help me do that, let me know!

The phone has been ringing nonstop since the ads went up. I think mostly people are just calling to see if it’s a working number, but we’ve had some people leave some pretty funny messages. No calls from Michael Cohen yet.

How many ads did you put up? 

We don’t want to incriminate ourselves, but there are plenty up, so keep your eyes peeled!

Do you think we’re seeing a resurgence of this kind of culture jamming?

Yeah. I love it.

What do you hope to accomplish?

Get a write-up in the Village Voice! No, we hope that it brightened people’s day. But our true hope is that Michael Cohen rides the subway, looks up at the ad, and calls the number seeking legal advice.

Categories
NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

NYCFC Wants Its Own Islanders-Style Stadium Subsidy

If you’re still wrapping your brain around the math behind the New York Islanders’ “give us cheap state land and we’ll build an arena complex on it” proposal, get ready for the Bronx version. According to information leaked to the developer-fetish blog New York YIMBY, Stephen Ross’s Related Companies and Keith “Piano District” Rubinstein’s Somerset Partners are hoping to team up with the New York City Football Club to build a mixed-rate housing development and soccer stadium on the South Bronx waterfront — while proposing a discounted land deal that, as in the Islanders case, could cost New York taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost rent and property taxes.

An Empire State Development spokesperson told the Voice that the agency hasn’t even issued an official Request for Proposals (RFP) for the site, let alone approve any — it’s still sorting through the initial expressions of interest it got from developers — so this is a very early salvo on the part of NYCFC and its partners. But this initial proposal is worth watching if only because it follows the Islanders’ template of using private money for construction costs while asking for state aid in the form of cheap land.

The proposal, dubbed Harlem River Yards because that’s just how the megadevelopment name generator works now, would take a 12.8-acre defunct rail yard adjacent to the Willis Avenue Bridge and couple it with adjacent waterfront property to create the latest South Bronx waterfront redevelopment plan: a 22-story apartment tower featuring 1,279 market-rate units and 550 “affordable and workforce” apartments, plus a 26,000-seat stadium for the MLS team, which since its debut three years ago has been stuck playing in less-than-ideal conditions at Yankee Stadium.

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The site, which was acquired by the state Department of Transportation from the Penn Central rail system in 1982, took its first steps toward going on the market in November 2016, when the ESD issued a Request for Expressions of Interest — what the state does before sending out an RFP — to “maximize the economic benefit of the site while preserving the intermodal footprint of the site” — translated, that’s “build stuff on it while still letting trains go through.” Today’s YIMBY story is the first news since then regarding any potential bids.

Related (owned by Miami Dolphins owner and noted giant bug exoskeleton enthusiast Stephen Ross), Somerset, and NYCFC didn’t reply to Voice queries by publication time, so for the moment we’re left to decipher the actual plan from the tidbits sprinkled into the YIMBY story. Two of these items are potentially worrisome for anyone concerned about their tax dollars going toward private sports projects:

  • Developers would pay $500,000 a year in rent on the site based on a 99-year ground lease. If that sounds cheap, it is: Rubinstein spent $58 million on just five acres of land nearby in 2015, and then sold the plot for $165 million earlier this month. (This is the famed “South Bronx Gentrification Death Star” site.) If we take that range as market value for Port Morris land, then Ross, Rubinstein, and friends will be paying a present value of about $10 million for land worth $138 million to $422 million more than that.
  • Since it’s a lease and not a purchase, the state-owned land would remain exempt from property taxes. Presumably ESD would demand some sort of payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) to help make up the difference, but there’s no guarantee this would fill in the whole gap: Related’s Hudson Yards project, for example, has fallen well short of tax revenue expectations.

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Aside from any massive state tax breaks, Mrs. Lincoln, there’s a fair bit to like about the plan: The site is just a short walk from the 3rd Avenue-138th Street 6 train stop location, and 30 percent affordable units is somewhat better than usual, assuming “affordable” is actually affordable for South Bronx residents. But there’s just as much to be concerned about — cramming in even more luxury housing along the waterfront could accelerate already-soaring gentrification in Port Morris, and the stadium itself would seem to be a tight fit on a site restricted by East 132nd Street on one side and the Harlem River on the other. So while it’s still early in the process — ESD couldn’t even provide a timetable for issuing an RFP on the site, let alone for making a final decision — this project is definitely well worth keeping an eye on.

Categories
THE FRONT ARCHIVES Transit

So Is the BQX Dead Yet or What?

If you’ve been following the saga of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to build a $2.5 billion streetcar stretching from Astoria to Sunset Park, you’ll be forgiven for having thought it had died multiple times over now. Instead, the BQX (as its creators at City Hall and Two Trees Management dubbed it) was back in the news last week, earning a front-page shouting match between the Daily News and Hizzoner, as well as headlines insisting it can totally still happen so long as it’s bailed out, improbably, by none other than Donald Trump.

A quick recap is perhaps in order. When the streetcar was first proposed by City Hall back in early 2016, it was presented as a fiscal magic trick: The city would sell bonds to finance the $2.5 billion construction nut for the new line, then pay them off by collecting all the increased property taxes that would pour in from newly valuable waterfront property. Et voilà! A whole new transit line would appear, without having to muck around with the MTA or Governor Andrew Cuomo or new taxes of any sort.

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Unfortunately, doing the math revealed that this “value capture” plan — which isn’t the same as Cuomo’s MTA “value capture” plan, that’s another thing entirely — had a major problem. Or two major problems, really. In order to generate $2.5 billion in new tax revenues, the BQX would have to singlehandedly increase property values along the East River by 17 percent — a leap that would earn the streetcar its moniker of the Gentrification Express.

The good news is that there’s almost no way that a new streetcar alone would ever cause such a leap in property values, if only because making the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront real estate market any more white-hot would cause it to completely vaporize. “New York is doing this backward in some ways: They have the real estate development that’s gone all along the water; they rezoned all that stuff in Williamsburg ten years ago,” Columbia University Ph.D. candidate and transit finance expert Lauren Fischer told the Voice last year. “They have the demand, they have the people — and now they’re putting in the transportation.”

The bad news about the good news is that without the gentrification, there’s no way to pay off the bonds. Fischer, who has studied light-rail financing in many cities worldwide, was blunt: “People see it as ‘I’m not even going to worry about the money, because it’s self-sustaining.’ But the truth is, it’s not.”

Fischer’s comments came as the city’s Economic Development Corporation was preparing to release a financial report explaining just how the BQX would too pay its own way, and not just cannibalize property-value increases that would happen anyway because Brooklyn’s gotta Brooklyn. Originally scheduled for release last spring, the report still hadn’t materialized by August, and then disappeared off the radar; in a reply to an email sent by the Voice last month, EDC confirmed there was still “nothing imminent” on the financial-study front.

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Into this breach stepped Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, de Blasio’s pet vampire squid, who has made it her job to promote real estate development at all costs, with predictable results to her public image. Last week, the Daily News reported that Glen had given a talk at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, where she’d acknowledged that “assuming that [the BQX] does not pay for itself…then we have to decide whether or not this is the right use of capital money.” Then she added that if the streetcar can’t pay its own way, maybe the federal government could help out, concluding jokingly (we think): “Hi, Donald, please send us money for urban mass transit.” That article drew complaints from the mayor during his weekly radio appearance — even while he admitted he would be asking for “some federal support” for the project — which led the News to respond in classic understated fashion.

While all this makes for some great Nelson Muntzing opportunities, it’s important not to lose track of the main story here, which is: Mayor loves streetcar; mayor promises streetcar will be perpetual money-generating machine; mayor backs down and tries to love Trump for long enough to get streetcar money. It all feels like a bit of a Hail Mary — Trump’s announced infrastructure plan is light on actual spending and heavy on providing seed money for private projects (this isn’t one), and we don’t even know how big the funding gap will be, and won’t until EDC releases its financial projections, hopefully before the streetcar site is underwater. For the time being, classify the BQX as mostly dead: The showrunners are holding out hope of bringing it back for a final scare, but we all know how it’s likely to turn out in the end.

Categories
Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES

The Many Languages (and Foods) of Jackson Heights

Tania Mattos Jose is an organizer with Queens Neighborhoods United, which works to promote sustainable development without displacement in Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. Mattos is an unabashed cheerleader for the neighborhood where she grew up — and hopes that visitors arrive with an eye toward honoring its residents, their culture, and the community they’ve built.

Myself and my family migrated from Bolivia to Miami to Jackson Heights, and I’ve lived in the neighborhood for thirty years now. My aunts lived here, so we lived in their one room — me, my brother, my dad, and my mom — we stayed there for a few months so we could get on our feet and get an apartment.

What I love is that it’s a very tight-knit community. Even though there are so many cultures and languages and people from different countries, for the essential things that matter to people, we overlap each other. No matter what language you speak, we all have that in common: We think the rents are too high, our children need a good education — and we try each other’s food!

Jackson Heights, Queens, NY- March 28, 2018: Street Vendors along Roosevelt Ave are a staple of the community you can buy everything from fruits and vegetables to a new case for your cellphone.
David “Dee” Delgado for The Village Voice

Honestly, all of Roosevelt Avenue is a destination. If you get off the subway on 74th Street and walk all the way to 103rd, you are going to have the experience of your life. There is everything for everyone there. I love all the shops between 90th Street and 88th Street on Roosevelt Avenue. However, I highly recommend one bakery in that area, Market & Bakery La Estella (8804 Roosevelt Avenue). They have some amazing Mexican products and goods. The owner, Sergio Ruiz, works around sixteen hours a day to produce fresh-baked goods every day.

The street vendors on 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, as well as on Junction Boulevard and Roosevelt, are a neighborhood staple and have fed the working class and poor for years. Manhattan Cocktail Lounge, formerly Tempo Libero Bar (88-08 Roosevelt Avenue), is a local bar and a great place to hang out. The owner, Hector, is always there and is super friendly.

DRUM — Desis Rising Up and Moving (72-18 Roosevelt Avenue) — is a local organization that builds empowerment within South Asian low-wage immigrant workers, youth, and families in New York City. They are a fantastic organization, so please donate or volunteer for them.

Jackson Heights, Queens, NY- March 28, 2018: Maria Rivera is a food vendor on Roosevelt Ave
David “Dee” Delgado for The Village Voice

I’m co-founder of a group called Queens Neighborhood United. We are community members — local residents, small business owners, and street vendors — and we live either in Jackson Heights, Corona, or Elmhurst. We work around issues that have to do with community control over land use, police abuse, and also immigration policies. We successfully fought off a proposed Jackson Heights Business Improvement District, and now we are fighting against this development called the Shoppes at 82nd Street that is set to be built by Sun Equity and Heskel Group at 40-31 82nd Street. They are proposing a Target that will kill the small businesses in the area — as well as housing and community space. The developers were asking Community Board 4 (46-11 104th Street) to vote on upzoning, but the community showed up by the hundreds — and the community board voted no, and actually motioned a proposal to downzone the land that the development is on.

There’s a huge LGBTQ+ community in the neighborhood, and in the summertime, soccer matches where you’ll see people coming out for their country. On 74th Street, you get to experience parts of Asia — not just restaurants, but the culture, the language, the people. You walk all the way down, and you see Colombians, and Ecuadorians, and Peruvians, and Dominicans, and Mexicans. And then on the Asian side, you see Bangladeshis and Indians and Pakistanis.

We invite everyone to come in and experience this, but the one thing we ask is that people respect our cultures, respect our streets, respect our people — and know that you didn’t discover it, that this has really been a vibrant neighborhood for many years.

The Village Voice is exploring one borough per day for the week of April 2, 2018. For full coverage to date, visit our Neighborhoods Week 2018 page.