Mayoral candidate Bill Thompson visited The Brooklyn Paper’s office on Monday to outline his vision for the city — and his plans differ from his Democratic rival on just about all counts.
From Atlantic Yards to Coney Island, the current city comptroller laid out policies that clash with the proposals of Councilman Tony Avella (D-Queens), whom he’ll battle for the mayoral nomination in the Sept. 15 primary election.
Citing the need for affordable housing, Thompson called himself a “late supporter” of Bruce Ratner’s stalled Atlantic Yards mega-project — a development that Avella said he would try to shrink if elected.
Though the comptroller said he backed Atlantic Yards primarily for its below-market-rate housing component, he said he opposed issuing additional public money or federal stimulus dollars to the ailing project — unless the cash would go exclusively towards the development of affordable housing.
“Right now, that project has received a lot of public support,” he said. “[But] if [the money] is for the affordable housing piece — just the affordable housing piece — maybe you would consider it.”
Unlike Avella, Thompson said he supports community benefits agreements, which grant select community groups financial backing from developers in exchange for support of controversial projects.
In the case of Atlantic Yards, developer Bruce Ratner signed his CBA with several groups that did not even exist before the inking of the deal.
If elected, Thompson told The Brooklyn Paper he would draft a “template” that builders and community groups must follow.
“I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to create some kind of a blueprint [for community benefits agreements],” said Thompson.
The city’s 42nd comptroller described himself as a supporter of the Bloomberg-backed rezoning of Coney Island — a rezoning that Avella hotly contests.
“The community has signed on. … The community wants affordable housing,” said Thompson, who also noted it is important that the plans don’t “wipe out” amusement areas.
But if elected, Thompson said he would wipe out many of the city’s commissioners including Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
“I would bring my own [police] commissioner,” he said.
For his part, Avella said Kelly’s job is up in the air, though he promised to fire other agency honchos including Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
The Bedford-Stuyvesant native also spent a chunk of the interview with reporters and editors from Community Newspaper Group calling out Mayor Bloomberg.
Thompson also went the mayor for the city’s reaction to swine flu and its “failed homeless policy,” which he claims has led to increased rates of homelessness despite Bloomberg’s promise to reduce vagrancy rates by two-thirds.
Twice, tough questions from journalists from The Brooklyn Paper’s parent company caught the comptroller off guard.
When asked to which shovel-ready projects he would give federal stimulus funds, Thompson cited a green health-care facility in Harlem, but he was unable to name a single project outside of Manhattan that he thought should receive federal dollars.
Thompson was also seemingly stumped when asked about his favorite restaurant outside of Manhattan.
Though he couldn’t recall the name of the eatery, Thompson settled on a Latin restaurant near the corner of Flatbush and Seventh avenues that he claims serves “the best roast pork in the city.”
A Brooklyn Paper reporter sitting in on the interview suggested he might have been referring to of El Gran Castillo de Jagua, to which Thompson consented.
The restaurant’s pork is outstanding.