Un-civil rights?

State Sen. Bill Perkins | 12/5/2013, 4:25 p.m.

Waltin remarked, “I put in my hours and my family’s future on the line to put this franchise in Harlem with the expectation that it will be my retirement. Today, I’m not clear of what is happening. … 15 years ago, I spent $400,000 to put in the building of Golden Krust. Now they are telling me that $250,000 [in loans] will be able to relocate me out of the building. I mean, that’s an insult to us.”

At an earlier press conference, Benbow simply stated, “We want to stay. Just like others want to be on 125th Street, so do we.”

Whadwa similarly said, “It took me three years to open a store on 125th Street, and after less than a year, I am being told I have to leave. I came here to live out a dream, and now that is being taken away unfairly. We should have been a part of the plan.”

Ultimately, the board approved the project in lightning fast time without addressing the heartfelt pleas of myself, our valued businesses and the Harlem community. This ignorance was compounded by the fact that only two days earlier, the Empire State Development Corporation failed to recognize the stated will of the Harlem community by not amending the project plan to guarantee these businesses certain rights, despite reams of written and oral testimony beseeching them to do so. In fact, this entire process has been irreparably marred by a slavish devotion to secretive action and filial pseudo-compliance with a bureaucratic and self-serving interpretation of what the scarlet letter of the law requires. In other words, the Harlem community was not empowered; the powers that be had to be dragged to the point where they would even listen to the community. But, conclusively, they did not hear and they did not act on what was said, which is a damming and embarrassing indictment.

Despite all this, we left Albany with our heads held high, our dignity intact, our faces free of the hue of embarrassment and smirking indignity. We won on a meaningful level, and we continue the fight for fundamental fairness. Ultimately, this experience has taught us two things: 1.) The unprecedented is achievable if just a few people who care about doing the right thing are unyielding in their determination, and 2.) When the law no longer serves the will of the people, it must be fundamentally reformed. As such, in the 2014 legislative session, I will be introducing and advocating for the passage of comprehensive public outreach, public hearing, public consultation and public feedback incorporation reform in the way that our economic development entities approach development projects—from the day the first rendering is blueprinted through the entire life of the project, in perpetuity. Only a comprehensive process that is born of the people it directly affects can truly revitalize a community.

In the interim, I urge all of my constituents and those around the state to join me in this cause by calling Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 518-474-8390 and telling him to do right by the businesses at 121 W. 125th St. and to join our campaign to ensure that public hearing and public feedback make a difference.