Bertha Lewis, ACORN CEO, Not Happy for Daniel Goldstein
Eliot Brown April 22, 2010, 12:12 p.m.
Bertha Lewis, the CEO of the housing advocacy group ACORN—a powerful political force before it was mostly dissolved and reconstituted amid scandal—has some harsh words about Daniel Goldstein, the last holdout in the footprint of the Atlantic Yards project who on Wednesday agreed to vacate his apartment for $3 million.
In an email sent Wednesday night to reporters, Ms. Lewis unleashed a vitriolic diatribe against Mr. Goldstein, the public face of opposition group Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, painting him as an obstructionist who masked self-interest with local activism.
“Finally, he got what he really wanted,” she wrote. “A Deal. Not for the community he claimed to love so much, but for the only beneficiary of his community of one, himself, Double Dealing Danny Goldstein.”
The harsh words illustrate the tensions that still run strong more than three years after the project was approved. ACORN, led by Ms. Lewis, ended up partnering with developer Forest City Ratner and signing onto a Community Benefits Agreement that pledged more than 2,000 units of below-market-rate housing for the project. Her group’s decision proved controversial, and the opponents such as Mr. Goldstein then portrayed her as a turncoat who sold out to developer Forest City Ratner. Forest City indeed became an ally of ACORN’s after the deal, later giving the group financial assistance. And like other signatories to the CBA, there is good reason to think ACORN, or perhaps a successor organization, would receive financial gain from overseeing the below-market-rate housing.
Ms. Lewis has long countered that it was because of her negotiations that the amount of affordable housing pledged was so large and unprecedented. (Whether or not it ultimately all gets built, without additional subsidy, is another question to be answered in coming years.)
Here is Ms. Lewis’ email in full:
Finally, the itch that was Daniel Goldstein has been scratched and scratched out. After almost seven years of flawed strategies, smear campaigns, stupid tactics, disingenuous rhetoric and total disregard for people who have lived in the downtown Brooklyn community for years before he even thought about coming here; finally he got what he really wanted. A Deal. Not for the community he claimed to love so much, but for the only beneficiary of his community of one, himself, Double Dealing Danny Goldstein. How utterly despicable for him to be in the newspaper today whining that he did not have enough time to move, and had nowhere to go because he was being stiffed by the State and Forest City Ratner, when low and behold, all the time, he was negotiating, not for the community , but for himself. Well good riddance and don’t let the door hit ya’. Low and moderate income people have had to wait years for housing while he obstructed the Atlantic Yards Project that could have been well over half done by now. He never had to worry about housing so he did’nt care how long other people had to wait. Behold, the Gentrifier. He has slandered and denigrated not only me but my organization and my members relentlessly. What benefit has he delivered to the community? None except for his own pocket. Well, the housing at Atlantic Yards will be built, and the day after he moves out, which I hope will be sooner rather than later, the building that he squatted in these past years should be razed to ground immediately, and salt poured into the soil, so that never again can the likes of one of the biggest shakedown artists in Brooklyn return. We will still be here, we will still be fighting for the all the people that Danny spurned and used for his own enrichment. We hope that now everyone in Brooklyn and New York can see him for what he really is and can see what his actions cost Brooklyn. I hope whatever he settled for was worth the pain and misery he caused to so many people who just wanted a decent place to live in Brooklyn and who just wanted a decent job and a place for their family. Now that the flim flam man is gone, they can finally see it on the horizon.
Mr. Goldstein, for his part, dismissed the email.
“I can’t waste my breath on this vile, hateful nonsense,” he said in an email. “All I will say is that Atlantic Yards has served and will serve to harm most those Bertha claims to represent. And it is really a shame that supposed housing advocate does not care one bit about the abuse of eminent domain.”
Separately, Mr. Goldstein wrote a long letter of his own, posted on the Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn Web site, in which he offered some reflections on his long opposition and gave some more summary of his deal with Forest City Ratner.
He, clearly, had a different take than Ms. Lewis:
A legacy of this fight will be that we have proven that all that we have found wrong with it has been shown to be legal in the view of the courts and most legislators. The abusive laws, which favor the most powerful and entrenched interests, must be changed.
Finally, please remember that DDDB, this community and the fight against Atlantic Yards was never about a single person or a single apartment-or even about a single borough. It has been, and still is, about one of the biggest failures of government and democracy in this City’s history, and its impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the great borough of Brooklyn. Our fight has-and this is one of the victories-given hope, inspiration and encouragement to innumerable people that a community united can fight principled fights worth fighting, regardless of the outcome. These are fights that have to be fought if we are to find a way to become a working democracy, which treats individuals and communities fairly, rather than disenfranchising and disempowering them.