David Greaves: Our Time Press
We get ads where they say, “80% of our AMI,” et cetera. You mean, the local council person can say to a developer in like, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill… “You want 80%, we understand that; but no, you can’t have it?”
Assemblymember Charles Barron: That’s it exactly. That’s why I’m so livid when you see me beating up Black elected officials. I know, ya’ll think I’m a radical and don’t like anybody. Not true. I supported some of these folks and was almost begging them to ‘please use your power.’ Here’s how it happens. You’ve heard of the ULURP Process. The Uniform Land Use Review Process. It starts off as a Community Board Advisory through a project, then it goes to the Borough Board Advisory, and then it goes to City Planning, and if they say yes, then it comes to the City Council. The final say-so on projects being built on city-owned land is the City Council.
OTP:The mayor can’t overrule?
Barron:No! No! That’s what I’m talking about – Black Power! We’re putting Black people in high places and they’re not using their power. The mayor can’t… You remember I told you he came to our office?
Barron:And had to negotiate, and we said “No.” Are you kidding me?! He [the mayor] has no power over ULURP. None! David, this is why what Laurie is doing, what Cornegy is doing – is unconscionable and unacceptable. Many others, not just them. If they say no, the project is dead. Why do you think East New York is not gentrified?
I want you to come so you don’t think I’m just talking stuff. I want you to see it, we have four new parks renovated. Over 10,000 units of housing. We have three new $100 million-plus schools and a new library coming in, $36 million. We have a brand-new youth center, a $14 million two-story youth center that the community is going to own after 30 years! That’s Black Power!
OTP:I gotta get out there.
Barron:David, let’s do it. I am going to back everything I have said to you in this interview, I’m going to back it up with the material, real-life, you-can-feel-it projects!
OTP:Fair enough. But also, is it too late for Bed-Stuy?
Barron:We’ll see, a lot of the real estate is gone in Bed-Stuy and there’s not a lot of vacant land left. We still have vacant land left in East New York. I’ll give you another project – this is when you know there’s a difference between power and influence. When you have the ability to make decisions in your best interest, you have the power to do that, that’s power. When you have to demonstrate, scream, holler and persuade others in power to make it, that’s influence. So, I’ll give you an example of even influence: Remember when I interrupted the governor around his “State of the State?”
And I spoke out against him and you’d think that would get me punished. On the contrary! He called me up, and he said, “I want to build a park in your district.” I said, “Go ahead, but I’m not standing with you at a press conference. Then he has his people – at 888 Compton Avenue, which I’m going to take to you – it’s 22 acres of land that used to be the Brooklyn Development Center. They’re demolishing that. So, his agency, the State and Housing agency, they’re going to accept proposals. I told them, literally – you can ask them, and I’ll let you talk to the commissioner – I said, “Commissioner, we are not accepting you coming into our community and giving 22 acres of land to white developers! That’s not happening!”
I didn’t have no power to stop that, like I do on the City Council. By the state – they can just do it. But that’s not going to happen. We don’t argue for MWBEs (Minority and Women Business Enterprises) contracts. That’s down the line. You gotta get the prime contract. Gotta be the major contractor. You have to own the land! When you get MWBEs, that’s on a subcontracting level. You want them to be the general contractor, who owns the land!
So, I told them, “We’re not supporting anything that’s going to give this all to whites! Can you give us a minority contractor?” She said, “No problem.” They put out the request. She called me up, “You’re going to be pleased.” I said, “I’m not into ‘minorities.’ I’m into Black. Minorities could be women, could be anybody. I’m talking Black contractors.” I was so pleased! Of the 22 acres, we have a Black general contractor development company from Harlem. On a third of the land, they’re going to build 5,000 units of housing and they’re going to own the land and be the general contractor. And they can hire. And they’ll be VPs and all that other stuff. Another third is to a white developer. And the last third is to a not-for-profit that is diverse and has whites, Blacks and everybody. That’s what we are supposed to be doing in office!
If she would have been talking to somebody else, they would have been so happy that they’re building houses, they would have asked them for jobs. And they would have said, “Yes, we’re going to create jobs.” But if you get the general contractor, you can hire your own people! You don’t start off asking for jobs!
But that’s what these other politicians are doing. “I’m bringing in jobs, we’re bringing in businesses.” Yeah? But who owns it? I can give you two or three examples of how we got so much! Ebenezer Project, right across the street from the BRC, Inez negotiated that. We own! We have a Black woman, Erica Taylor, owning from her father, Tom Taylor. She now owns a third of that project! Because of us. That’s Black Power!