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.
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.