Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Snake Bit

I hope that in the last four years or so I've become a marginally better blogger, by which I mean having less of a propensity to shout off without knowing all the facts and generally making an asshat of myself. Now, I'm not free of the trait, as you can read here (I've left it uncorrected, like the spire of that church in Berlin, only without the taste-, gravitas, and purpose of the latter. In fact, the comparison can't help but be invidious, so forget I ever wrote it). In place of ill-informed certainty I occasionally err on the side of mean-spirited, inconclusive pedantry, but by and large I've got better at thinking before writing.

I was reminded about this when I read in the Times about Steve Hindy's difficulties in finding a decent space for his (excellent) brewery. In blog years, it was during the Babylonian Captivity when I urged my reader (sic) to avoid drinking Brooklyn Lager because of owner Steve Hindy's support for the Atlantic Yards project. others chimed in, and soon enough, Freddie's, the local bar after which I named my first-born, was no longer selling it.

I still don't drink the stuff, though I've learned to cope with its absence (skyrocketing hops prices aside, now's not a bad time at all to be a beer drinker). I backed off fairly quickly from my more heated references, mostly because Hindy seemed open-minded and sincere, even if I didn't agree with him, and because of his distinguished service as a reporter at the Associated Press, including, on one occasion, trying to bust into a Bilderberg conference and annoying Henry Kissinger, which is, needless to say, a Very Good Thing. Hindy must have emerged from those heady days of March 2006 with the impression that blog-writers were intemperate, drooling mouth-breathers.

The boycotters struggled, at times, to work out why Hindy had done this, as if we assumed he'd be on the side of small business, the little guy, all that stuff. I thought it might be a simple quid pro quo, for all the free advertising he got from Marty Markowitz (described, by Christpher Ketcham, during an article on the AY EIS as "the inane yet somehow insidious Marty Markowitz, porcine borough president of Brooklyn"). Scott Turner guessed that he'd been offered a beer concession at the arena.

Now, via the Times article I referenced up there, it becomes clear that Hindy's just been trying to find somewhere that he can make something in Brooklyn. Brooklyn, home of more abandoned warehouses than you can shake a fist at, has been unable to provide him with a competitively-priced bit of manufacturing space to make his wonderful (yet to me, forbidden) lager. So, Hindy's tried desperately to hitch is brewery expansion to all sorts of development projects, including Brooklyn Bridge Park by the East River and the Public Place proposal in Gowanus.

Buried in the statistics about Brooklyn's, and the city's, declining manufacturing base, we note that Hindy hooked up with the Economic Development Corporation, one of the authorities expediting the AY project, for the Brooklyn Bridge project. We also note that:

He [Hindy] was a champion of the rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pushed through in 2005. But now he contends that the changes went too far by allowing a variety of nonindustrial uses of land in areas that are labeled industrial business zones.

There's not smoking gun here, no proof of anyone saying "gee up the beer drinkers and give us a patina of gentrifier cred and you'll get your expansion." I don't think there needed to be. I think that at that moment in time Hindy needed to be as enmeshed in the city's real estate (de)industrial complex as possible. I don't blame him, it's not like popular beers get developed by sunday-school teachers.

But here's the killer line. "Some landlords are holding onto industrial property with the hope that it will be rezoned for residential buildings." So all Hindy's support has done is dump a windfall in the hands of condo developers with no interest in helping Hindy get what he wants. There's an easy moral to this story. The old lady and the snake.


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