While Steve Levin has certainly been deserving of our ire (and there is more to come), it would be unfair to forgo questions with some of the other candidates running for the 33rd. We have decided to start with Jo Anne Simon because her record (or really the lack of one) is most deserving of scrutiny. Simon claims the be a reformer who has worked on every important issue in the 33rd for the past several years. But this begs the question: What has she done exactly? The answer: Not much.
The best place to start is with her two websites: the one she maintains for her legal practice listing community service and the one for her campaign. Her legal practice website touts expertise in land use issues (which she also stumps at events like the St. Francis College debate this evening). Specifically, her site lists her work as Chair of the Boerum Hill Association’s Land Use Committee (1992-2005); Chair of its Atlantic Yards Task Force (2003-2006); and being a member its Hoyt-Schermerhorn Task Force. She also says that she was a Co-founder of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Coalition, “created to bring forward the voice of the communities surrounding downtown Brooklyn regarding transportation and land use concerns.”
So what does that all mean, exactly? Well, it appears to mean that she has gone to a lot of meetings, submitted written testimony at public hearings, and nothing really beyond that. For instance, and perhaps the best example, on Atlantic Yards, Simon claimed strenuously this evening to have been an “early vocal opponent of the use of eminent domain.” But her “Testimony to the Empire State Development Corporation on the General Project Plan, Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Proposed Condemnation of Real Property and terms for the proposed acquisition and conveyance of the Atlantic Yards Project Site”, dated August 23, 2006, never even mentions, let alone objects, to the use of eminent domain or condemnation. Her August 25, 2006 letter to the head of the Empire State Development Corporation about the project also make no mention whatsoever about the use of eminent domain. How vocal is that? It’s not. In reality, Simon is most identified with BrooklynSpeaks and its “mend-it-don’t-end-it” stance on Atlantic Yards.
Simon’s track record is even more troubling, however, because of who she is — a purportedly talented civil rights lawyer. The simple fact is that she has never lifted a legal finger to help litigate the numerous Atlantic Yard eminent domain cases. By way of sterling example, Develop Don’t Destroy has an active volunteer legal team that has worked pro bono for years against that project. Simon’s contribution to the effort: nothing. Then, there are other land use legal fights that have taken place in the 33rd District where Simon has been a no show with offers to help as a community lawyer: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dock Street, Brooklyn House of Detention, Greenpoint-Williamsburg Rezoning. We just wonder: If Jo Anne Simon has never used her legal talents to defend her community, how do we know that she is going to be able to effectively fight for us in the City Council?