Carlos Menchaca, Politics

Editorial: Menchaca roils the waters, by George Fiala

While some (including us) might call Carlos Menchaca’s first year in office an evolution, in the vital things he has held fast to his principles –  the most important being that a democracy is for all the people.

Carlos Menchaca taking part in Ready Red Hook last year.
Carlos Menchaca taking part in Ready Red Hook last year.

He is no thoughtless revolutionary. While he signs his emails “in solidarity,” he never looks to divide people into “us and them.” Instead, as we have seen and has been mentioned by others, he works hard, studies all the issues, he  does his homework. He has quickly won the respect of Community Boards 6 and 7, NYCHA, the NYPD, and local leaders in both Sunset Park and Red Hook.

One of the first ways in which his facilitating style – bringing all sides together in search of the best solution – succeeded, was a fruitful negotiation with the Parks Department.

With the Red Hook community having already been stung by unilateral Park’s decisions at both Coffey and Valentino Pier, Carlos was able to bring Parks and local leaders together and prevent an obtrusive and already planned bathroom facility at Valentino Pier Park from going forward – with the proviso that a better plan would be forthcoming.

Most recently, and as recounted in the January issue of the Star-Revue, he shut down the NYC Economic Development Corporations’s (EDC) plan to completely take over the leasing of a large empty parcel on the Sunset Park waterfront.

Nobody who has paid attention the past twenty years could fail to see EDC’s disdain for the communities they operate in.

While headed by a political appointee, EDC operates as a private entity tasked with bringing money and jobs to the city. Since they operate at arms length to government, they are able to do what makes the most sense money-wise, without the traditional government constraints that allow community input regarding the uses of public land.

Before making his decision about whether to allow EDC their 49 year Master Lease – in effect taking away control of the waterfront from the people who live around it – Menchaca did his homework. He interviewed a number stakeholders and consulted with CB 7 and other local organizations. At a City Council hearing, he politely asked EDC why they needed a lease, and what they intended to do with the property – 72 acres of open space between 29th Street and 39th Street on the Sunset Park waterfront.

The three white men in suits who came to a December NYC Council committee meeting to represent EDC seemed somewhat shocked and bothered by this 34 year-old, who had never worked at Goldman Sachs and speaks languages other than English. Their answer to him was basically that this is how business is done. They knew that the mayor and big business stood behind them.

When the committee met again in January, they followed Carlos’ suggestion and voted unanimously to table the request. EDC’s response was a shocking, a kind of – “well, we are just going to take back our football and go away,” supposedly leaving the project up in the air.

Since then, it seems that the mayor and now some fellow councilmembers, are thinking they need to teach this upstart a lesson. For whatever reasons, Menchaca did not appear at the roll-out of the Municipal ID, of which he was a co-sponsor. He was not seen at de Blasio’s State-of-the City. And yesterday, at a meeting of the Brooklyn delegation of the City Council, Menchaca was ousted as co-leader.

We do not have all the information yet, but it seems to us that by bucking the mayor and not going along with the general flow of city politics, Menchaca is seen as hurting the careers of some of his fellow councilmembers. Capital NY writes today: “many had grown frustrated that the delegation had missed opportunities to nominate candidates to a number of city agencies.”

During his campaign, Menchaca said that a big reason for his seeking of an incumbent’s seat was to do something about improving government’s role in the lives of the people they are elected to serve. He witnessed some of these shortcomings first-hand in Red Hook, serving as Speaker Christine Quinn’s liaison in the days after Sandy.

Carlos Menchaca was elected to change the system of backroom dealings and power plays and work to bring government back to the people. Lots of people get elected saying just that and then settle into the system they had vowed to change.

As long as Carlos stays true to his principles we will continue to support him, and so should his fellow progressives.

 

16 Comments

  1. When you do have “all the information” please share it with us here. My $20 offer is still good.

    As a member of CB7, and I attended all meetings whether General, Economic Development Committee or the ad hoc Committee on the 58th Street Piers(created in response to EDC “exciting”plan), from November 2014 to the present. I don’t recall any ‘consultation’ on any plan for the SBMT at any of those meetings. I’ll look back at the minutes; maybe, I nodded off or stepped outside.

    • gbrook@pipeline.com

      Before I wrote this, I checked with Jeremy who told me that the community board and Carlos were in synch.

  2. I agree with you George. He works for the people that voted for him. He is available for his constituents, and he looks for our opinion and then acts on what the people want and need. He represent us and looks out for our needs.

  3. I would like to know with whom and when Mr. Menchaca “consulted” concerning the EDC proposal before he insisted that he be put in charge of overseeing any projects in Sunset Park. He may be available to Red Hook but in Sunset Park he’s missing in action.

    • gbrook@pipeline.com

      We checked with the CB7 District Manager as well as the ILA and found him to be in contact and in synch with their ideas. Admittedly, we spend most of our time in Red Hook and do not know all the local stakeholders.

  4. What about him clearly stating that he wanted full control of the water front specifically refusing to have CB 7 involved? Would Red Hook give him that power?

  5. I find it disturbing that you played the race card in attempting to bolster Mr. Menchaca credibility. Those characterizations demean all of us.

  6. gbrook@pipeline.com

    Please let us know where you get your information regarding ‘full control.’ We saw one media report quoting someone saying this, but as we have stated now three times, this is untrue according to the CB7 District Manager.

    As far as the race card – calling three white men in suits three white men in suits is only stating a fact. I guess I could have said that none of them live in Sunset Park, but I would have to look that up.

  7. It’s on the record from the meeting with EDC.
    Not sure why you’re quoting CB 7 manager as he was not present at the meeting.
    Also Carlos has reiterated this position several times since.

    It wasn’t the white men description but the implication that because Carlos is Hispanic and doesn’t have an MBA those white men were “disturbed” by him. Also, Carlos doesn’t live in Sunset Park either.

    As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said,”You’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.”

    • gbrook@pipeline.com

      Carlos’ words from a letter dated today:

      “In this regard, I am following the Mayor, whose own vision for this waterfront included a locally controlled entity to provide oversight, and whose campaign vision document states that Sunset Park would benefit from an independent non-profit manager directly dedicated to strategic investment, workforce development and reinvestment into the target area. I couldn’t agree with the Mayor more.”

      As far as EDC’s opinion of Menchaca, just go to the words of Kyle Kimball. This is from the Daily News article last month: “He (Kimball) questioned Menchaca’s ability to comprehend the scope of the plan.

      “Sitting across the table it was clear that he didn’t understand what was happening here and he overplayed his hand,” Kimball said, who noted that talks were conducted with the Councilman for more than a year.

  8. Pingback: Opinion: Menchaca 'Has Held Fast to Principles' - Voices of NY

  9. Carlos is simply walking back his previous position.

    I agree that Carlos most probably doesn’t understand the scope of the project and it is now clear that he did indeed over play his hand.

    Let’s agree to disagree.

  10. “Three white men in suits”, give me a break. Tell me you don’t have an agenda.

  11. During Occupy Sandy, we experienced Menchaca as utterly non-transparent, and definitely, a backroom dealer.
    This article is misleading in describing him as riding the coattails on DeBlasios win. He was sent to Red Hook by DeBlasios rival, Christine Quinn, to attempt to secure credit for her “role” in the recovery.
    While in Red Hook he secured a grant for the small business and NGO community there, so he’s going to have some loyal friends in that scene for years. But his efforts did nothing but coopt and stymy the efforts of Red Hook Houses residents to organize, and as the grants he secured through powerful Quinn were disbursed with zero transparency, he secretly hired away several Occupy Sandy people so as to divide that relief effort and push the radicals (who he didn’t see fit to court) out of future organizing.
    Menchaca was utterly present for endless meetings in Red Hook (he was determined to forge his political foothold whether or not his boss lost to DeBlasio), so it’s very interesting that he couldn’t manage to schedule a few meetings necessary to make appointments under the nascent DeBlasio administration. Was he somehow still loyal to Quinn?
    At any rate, if he was ousted due to his opposition to the terminal, that would be terrible, but I doubt that’s what was really going on.