Hakeem Jeffries And The Train That Left The Station

When a man with  a wife and two young children gives up a $250,000 job and a future without limits to run for a $90,000 job, it’s quite a stretch to imagine that he will be caught on video-tape looking for a bribe from some developer.

Hakeem Jeffries could be a multi-millionaire within 5 years at his present job. Instead, he’s going to spend several days a week away from his wife and two young children in a cold, dull dreary town as a Freshman in the Assembly.  And he’s going to take a pay-cut of about $160,000 per year.  I suggested to the Assemblyman-to-be that  it was just about enough grounds for divorce on the basis of cruel and inhuman punishment.

This man’s resume and history show that although he has the stellar qualifications to become a millionaire at an early age, he has  always been preparing for public service. He is content today to begin as an Assemblyman, making $90,000.  But before his career is over, it would be no surprise to me  if  he becomes the first Black United States Senator from New York.  Unless he decides he wants to be a Federal Judge.  And I was saying this to him even as he was suffering a loser's depression.

Hakeem is not going to be one of those shuffling, obedient, non-talented semi-slaves of  Speaker Sheldon Silver whom Brooklyn has been sending up to Albany to collect pay-checks and cheat on travel vouchers. He is going to be respected, sought after and recruited for his knowledge, skills, and energy.

If there is anyone who can deal successfully with the intricate problems of Housing in Brooklyn,  it will not be demonstrators on the picket lines. It wont be alleged community leaders looking for their first Cadillacs and temporary 6 figure Davis-style welfare payments from Uncle Ratner.  It will not be relatives of Elected officials looking for jobs or loud-mouthed religious leaders  picking up hush money.   And it  won’t be grass-roots organizers doing the “affordable-housing” hustle and peeling off a piece of the action for themselves.

It certainly is not going to be Senator Chuck Schumer, the “Developer’s Best Friend” from downtown Brooklyn to places like Smallwood in upstate New York.  Chucky didn’t get to have one of the biggest campaign chests in the United States from chicken dinners and raffles in his district. The millions of $$$ in contributions come from the wealthy. And we hear rumors that Chucky has sold out the poor and the unempowered all over New York State.

It is my belief that what it’s going to take to get any kind of relief is a legal scholar like Hakeem Jeffries who can go head to head with the expensive, tricky lawyers retained by wealthy developers.  Unless I am completely mistaken, Hakeem Jeffries will be the best hope for those who are concerned about the Housing future of Brooklyn. Not just Housing affected by the Ratner Project. But all Housing.

I had been through two losing campaigns with Hakeem. The second was particularly heart-breaking since he was running against a man who had been convicted of larceny.

Because incumbent Democrats rarely lose, they often tend to sneer at insurgents who have lost campaigns.  I suspect that although Hakeem was endorsed by several Labor Unions this time around, he will never forget how Labor came in to swamp him with their employees in 2004. If he is the man I think he is, he will always remember his experiences and look beyond incumbents to form the coalitions needed for the future.

I  had begun writing an article about the Ratner project two  months ago. It was disconcerting to read about the BUILD committee stacked with  people who were looking for Cadillacs and $100,000 salaries and shouting  Thank you Jesus!!   And of course, there was Al Sharpton walking away with  a pay-check  of undisclosed amount.  Some say at least $1,000,000.  From what I could see,  Daniel Goldstein was absolutely correct when he talked about people who were basically accepting bribes to do Ratner’s bidding.

However, the  more I looked at the problem, the more I had to admit that the train had already left the station. The bomb had already been released from the chute. The sperm was  already racing towards the egg.  Nothing will completely reverse the abominable Housing situation currently existing in Central Brooklyn. Not for decades. What remains now may be just damage-control.

This is the heritage of at least two decades of incompetent, lazy, visionless, greedy, corrupt, elected officials in Central Brooklyn.  Al Vann, William Boyland, Roger Green, Clarence Norman, Marty Markowitz, Velmanette Montgomery,  Howard Golden, Billy Thompson, Rhoda Jacobs,  Ed Towns,  Major Owens, Mary Pinkett, Priscilla Wooten are all guilty.  So are Kendall Stewart,  Nick Perry, and Una Clarke.  And so are Chuck Schumer, Susan Alter, and Howard Babbush.  And others I forget.  Howard Golden is probably one of the main villains.  Forget about Deputy  Billy Thompson.  Billy was simply used for attending meetings in ghetto areas where Howie didn’t care to go.  And Billy was also used for representing Howie in the office with people who were not important enough to meet the Borough President.

Mary Pinkett and Howard Babbush are dead.  But of that group, I suspect that all except two have investments that are in the millions. Those two are Roger Green and Major Owens. All of the group  probably own the homes they live in, and in addition to other investment properties.  Our information is that several of them are involved with developers and speculators. Some of them are landlords. At least one has been accused of being a slum-lord.  They have taken care of themselves but have not taken care of their constituents.  Howard Golden was the soul and architect of all that down-town development. He had his finger deep in that pie.  Sometimes, I just cannot help wondering how many millions of dollars Howie made from this downtown development.

Elected officials are put into office to plan, to warn, to anticipate, to propose, to dream, to create.  About a dozen of these elected officials had been in office over 20 years. These Central Brooklyn dinosaurs certainly had enough power among them to deal with the Housing issues of Central Brooklyn.   In fact, every two or 4 years they kept telling voters that they should be continued in office because seniority brings power. Instead, what Seniority brought was contempt, and wealth for many of them.

Here’s what everyone suddenly  knows today. Only multi- millionaires can afford housing in Manhattan any longer. In fact, only multi-millionaires can afford housing in downtown Brooklyn, where just days ago I saw studio apartments going for $575,000 and upwards?

Can you afford a mortgage of $4,000 per month?

Manhattanites earning 6 figure salaries have been  moving into Brooklyn. So now housing within half-hour by subway from Manhattan is out of the reach of teachers, police-officers, sanitation persons, and those we used to consider the solid middle-class.

The Ratner project is simply the tip of the ice-berg.  Speculators and smaller developers have long bought up just about all the housing stock and land available in Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Bed Stuy and the edges of Browsnville.  There is no more empty land for building in East New York.

If you want to know who some of these developers and speculators and investors  are, check the Campaign Finance records of the Congressional candidates, especially Carl Andrews and David Yassky.  And you also need  check the Campaign Finance records of  Comptroller Bill Thompson and  Senator Chuck Schumer.

With respect to Housing, the train is out of the station.  Maybe it can be slowed down, but it cannot be stopped. Actually, some Brooklynites are ecstatic at what has happened. I have friends in Prospect Heights who have big smiles on their faces these days. They have homes that have suddenly gone up in value from $600,000 to $1.5 million.

On the other hand, as Hakeem informed me, there are elderly folks who cannot afford to pay the taxes on their homes because of the inflated prices of homes all around them. They are being forced to sell and leave the community where they hoped to spend the rest of their lives. I have also heard stories about condominium owners whose association dues have skyrocketed due to the enhancements demanded by new owners who are millionaires. They too are feeling the pinch.

For those who are looking to rent  it will be a worsening nightmare. Single mothers looking for a decent two-bedroom almost anywhere in Brooklyn  must be prepared to pay at least $1200 per month. To move in will cost $4,000 minimum. Private Housing in Central Brooklyn is clearly one of the worst emergencies in New York City. Not to mention the state of the  Public Housing units.

Newly elected officials should convene a Housing Summit to address the Emergency situation in Brooklyn. Representatives of  churches and other organizations that have been involved in Housing initiatives should be invited to attend.  The Dinosaurs who have done nothing should also invited, but not to provide leadership or advice. Dinosaurs will only explain why nothing can be done, and why Housing in Brooklyn has to be worse than in many Third World countries.  Good Luck Hakeem.