Does NYC Mayoral Front-Runner's Friendliness to Developers Betray His Message?

As New Yorkers prepare to vote in tomorrow's mayoral primaries, Democrat Bill de Blasio's "tale of two cities" critique of the Bloomberg years has resonated with voters. But when it comes to land use, do his policies promise more of the same?
September 9, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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It probably won't surprise many to hear that a front-runner to be the next mayor of New York City would be friendly to real estate developers, one of the prime forces in the city's politics. But for a candidate who's campaigned on a message of reducing inequality, some view this friendliness as irreconcilable, writes Laura Kusisto. "Mr. de Blasio's pro-development policies have helped allay fears in the real-estate industry that perhaps the most liberal Democrat in the race would, as mayor, be a fearsome opponent on big developments," she notes.

"As a City Council member in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, Mr. de Blasio was a strong supporter of the three major Bloomberg-backed development projects, including the project known as Atlantic Yards, which critics say has hastened gentrification and helped deepen the economic divide in that area," she adds. "Some liberal community groups said they feel betrayed."

"'The whole thing is a joke to us that people are looking at this guy as if he cares about the community,' said Marlene Donnelly, a member of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, a group that pushed to get the Gowanus Canal designated a Superfund site—a goal Mr. de Blasio unsuccessfully opposed. 'I don't find any step of the way that he's actually been on our side here.'"

However, writing in Slate, Matthew Yglesias sees De Blasio's pro-development stance as consistent with his aim to reduce inequality. "You can try to keep Brooklyn affordable by making Brooklyn a place where nobody wants to live (Detroit is very affordable) but if it's going to be a place where people want to live, then it will only be affordable if new buildings are built."

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Published on Sunday, September 8, 2013 in The Wall Street Journal
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