(To preface this article, we reiterate our support for the LIC Coalition’s demands and petition, which can be viewed here: https://www.change.org/p/city-elected-officials-save-the-waterfront-this-land-is-our-land-public-land-for-public-use. However, below, we outline our serious concerns related to the involvement of Jimmy Van Bramer in today’s protest.)
This afternoon (3/3/18) Big Real Estate’s beloved Jimmy Van Bramer will be headlining a rally to protest the giveaway of public land to private developers in Long Island City. His act of doing so will be steeped in the most palpable hypocrisy – on a soapbox, the politician will be enveloped by skyscrapers and development projects that he himself helped conceive of and promote. With luxury condos surrounding Saturday’s “This Land is Our Land” protest, let those present recall that Jimmy Van Bramer was hailed a champion of the LIC BID, received the most donations of any city council candidate (of which over $100,000 from Big Real Estate), was complicit in the destruction of 5-Pointz, is a staunch supporter of the BQX, among many other unforgivable positions.
Many of the developers who own skyscrapers in LIC donated repeatedly to Van Bramer, who, in turn, helped facilitate their development.
Don’t Call it a Comeback
One might wonder why such a stalwart supporter of Big Real Estate has agreed to speak at this protest. The answer simply comes down to opportunism: Van Bramer, a standard middle-of-the-road Democrat, no more “progressive” than De Blasio or Hillary Clinton, and just as neo-liberal, has had his left-wing persona damaged by groups who have fought to bring his record to light. Following his failed City Council Speaker bid and his subsequent announcement that he will be running for Queens Borough President, the politician seeks to reestablish himself as a leader of the “#resistance” and cement support from neighborhood groups going forward. Therefore, after an enormous community effort, he has chosen to support this one cause. But at what price?
Accidentally Selling Out Your Neighbors
In short: The mere presence of Jimmy Van Bramer is an affront to the work so many have done and to all those who are currently getting priced-out and displaced because of his policies.
Politicians, especially ones with Van Bramer’s record, do not do things out of the goodness of their heart. Each move is calculated, with contingencies and hidden clauses, all arranged to promote their political career. If Van Bramer was true to his word, he would call for a city-wide ban on the giveaway of public land to private developers (he won’t – remember, he voted for the Bedford-Union Armory deal). If Van Bramer were really here for his constituents, he would fight for 100% low-income PUBLIC housing, not De Blasio’s public/private partnership through MIH/ZQA. If Van Bramer was a champion of “#queensvalues”, as he proclaims to be, he would have adamantly rejected the BQX (aka the Gentrification Express) long ago.
If Van Bramer was true to his word, he would call for a city-wide ban on the giveaway of public land to private developers (he won’t – remember, he voted for the Bedford-Union Armory deal). If Van Bramer were really here for his constituents, he would fight for 100% low-income PUBLIC housing, not De Blasio’s public/private partnership through MIH/ZQA. If Van Bramer was a champion of “#queensvalues”, as he proclaims to be, he would have adamantly rejected the BQX (aka the Gentrification Express) long ago.
The dangers of allowing Van Bramer to headline any rally related to land use, displacement or gentrification is two-fold: first, when the time comes, he will call in his debts. Secondly, and more importantly, it comes at the price of potentially accidentally selling out your neighbors. For example, Van Bramer has promised that Queens NYCHA developments will not get privatized through Next Generation NYCHA, but what about our friends in the Bronx, Harlem or Brooklyn? As a City Council member, does he not owe it to all NYC residents to push for fair and just housing policy, not just for those who’s votes he conveniently needs? Another example: many have been fighting for Van Bramer to reject the BQX, a position he has declined to take. How does allowing Van Bramer to headline a rally related to gentrification help other causes that are just as important? Instead of collectively strengthening our position, giving Van Bramer a platform does the exact opposite.
Reforms Not Reformism
Queens Anti-Gentrification Project endorses the idea of “reforms without reformism”, meaning that we refuse to work alongside those politicians we see so clearly are our enemies. e strongly believe that neighborhood groups must come together, independent of politicians, and fight for and demand certain reforms that are so desperately needed –. By remaining independent, politicians can either listen or reject our demands, which is their alleged job anyway.
If you are tired of working with politicians like Van Bramer and believe in the need for independent grassroots groups and civic engagement, please feel free to get in contact.
We demand a city-wide ban on the give away of public land!