Van Bramer ignoring impending protest by anti-gentrification group in Queens


The office of New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Woodside) is keeping a lid on its reaction to a planned demonstration by a group of grassroots activists, who are objecting to his refusal to strongly oppose the over-development of real estate, amongst other charges. The group, the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, has announced a protest march against over-development, and the protest march is planned to pass in front of Councilmember Van Bramer's District Office in Woodside, Queens. The march is scheduled for the early evening of Thursday, 20 April, according to an event posted on the group's Facebook page. For this report, Councilmember Van Bramer did not answer an interview request made by Progress Queens.

An advertisement for next week's protest march being organised by grassroots activists. Source : Queens Anti-Gentrification Project/Fair Use

An advertisement for next week's protest march being organised by grassroots activists. Source : Queens Anti-Gentrification Project/Fair Use

As previously reported by Progress Queens, Councilmember Van Bramer has had meetings with real estate developers, sometimes under the guise of cultural affairs work. Amongst the meetings he has had were with unidentified executives from the development firm Tishman Speyer and with the developer Bruce Ratner. In 2016, Councilmember Van Bramer attended the annual dinner of the Real Estate Board of New York. Information about these meetings were contained in records obtained by Progress Queens as a result of a request made under the State's Freedom of Information Law. According to Government reform activists, Councilmember Van Bramer's entreaties to real estate executives is explained by reports that he is running a campaign to become the next Speaker of the City Council. City Councilmembers seeking to negotiate support for legislative leadership positions attempt to establish close working relationships with real estate developers, who are a source of significant campaign contributions and who direct other elected officials to support preferred candidates for leadership. Candidates for legislative leadership positions are also known to make campaign donations to their peers in exchange for support. The role of money in politics, generally, and the role of large real estate donations, specifically, explains why few zone-busting real estate projects are ever defeated by the community. The last time a community-crushing project was defeated, in part, by community activists was in 2005, when a clash between the competing interests of State and Municipal officials ultimately led to the rejection of the planned West Side stadium supported by then Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-New York City). The lack of democratic control over major land use issues is the subject of criticism by Government reform activists, and elected officials with close ties to real estate developers have refrained from reforming the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or the ULURP process, the review by which most major real estate projects win approval.

Amongst the political demands that the anti-gentrification activists are making of Councilmember Van Bramer, as identified in the Facebook event for their protest, include that the Municipal legislator unconditionally oppose each of : the BQX, the project name for a light rail service with which real estate developers hope to connect the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts, hotbeds for real estate development ; the development and further rezoning of Sunnyside Yards and Long Island City, respectively ; and "the privatization" of the New York City Housing Authority. The demands were made by the activist group in an effort to stem programs or policies that they say will only further the upward spiral of the cost of residential rents that leads to displacement of long-term tenants.

The protest comes as incumbent Municipal officials gear up for reëlection this year. Councilmember Van Bramer is reportedly trying to make sure that he faces no primary challenger in this year's Municipal election cycle. His support for neoliberal economic policies is calculated on a political gamble that voters in Queens are disconnected from broader, social movements for Government reform that have ousted from elected office political candidates, who support a Big Business-centric agenda. In 2013, a coälition of anti-corruption activists led, in part, by LGBTQ activists, voted out of public office then Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Chelsea), who was, in that year then, a candidate for the Democratic Party primary in the mayor's race. Amongst the charges made by the anti-corruption activists was that then Council Speaker Quinn was too cozy with real estate developers. In the Democratic Party primary that year, approximately 85% of voters did not support then Council Speaker Quinn's mayoral candidacy. Then Council Speaker Quinn's electoral loss was a precursor to the stunning loss of 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former U.S. First Lady. The presidential campaign of Former First Lady Clinton was also opposed for the candidate's close ties to business interests that activists charged forsook the interests of the Democratic Party's voting base, according to news reports.

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