Corporate Media Propaganda Blitz on P.S. 109 After Expansion of pro-School Efforts

A propaganda blitz has been launched in the corporate media, pushing the illegal conversion of a public school building into a privatized “artist housing” enclave in the midst of East Harlem/El Barrio.

The obnoxious push seems to be desperately rushed into the corporate media as a response to the increased activity of Gwen Goodwin’s Coalition to Save P.S. 109, now joined by Occupy the Department of Education, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street.

This joint campaign represents the 99% of the neighborhood, which faces an acute shortage of school space at the elementary school through high school levels, and prefers that the building be reopened and reused as a school within the public education system.

The high-handed administration of Michael Bloomberg, ganged up with the local politicianry, have been pushing for the illegal conversion starting in 2005 with a completion target of 2008, but even now, have been unable to raise the investment funds initially required to get the unpopular scheme.

For all the intervening years, the school has been kept idle and empty by the City government’s Education Department, holding it in reserve for financial adjustments and public relations maneuvering to get off the ground. The proposal has gotten interminable extensions outside the original plan.

Several times over the years, false announcements have been made, touting a trumped imminence of “breaking ground”, each such bluff rapidly fading.

Due to the widely felt repulsiveness to the conversion scheme itself, and opposition to its opening wider the floodgates of gentrification and economic ethnic cleansing, the school still has not been given away by the city government to the private interests, and pro-public school forces take that as a sign of hope that even with all the corrupt forces pushing for it, it is not yet a done deal.

The coordinated propaganda blitz is designed to demoralize the opposition spreading a rumor of defeat, leading to inactivity and resignation to the now-inevitable.

The propaganda blitz so far centers around two main articles, both with a gleeful and celebratory tone.

One, a NY1 Cable TV, Friday, Feb. 17, 2012,round-the-clock hourly repeated promotional for the scheme, was shamelessly unbalanced in that the widely felt pro-school opposition not only was not presented or interviewed, but were not even mentioned. This, although NY1 is not notice of the organized pro-school efforts, as NY1 has covered it ever since the Coalition to Save P.S. 109 caught the City’s School Construction Authority in its illegal demolition of the building in 1999, and preserved and landmarked the building.

The other was a New York Times article in the Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, announcing a Federal government Low Income Tax Credit of $24 million, “part of a program created by Congress in 1986 to reduce tax liability for developers of affordable rental housing. The developers in turn can sell the credits to investors to generate money for construction.”

“Affordability” will be based on $50,000 per year, while the surrounding community has a median income of less than $15,000.

Appearing as a supposed “news” article in the Real Estate section, it is actually a flagrant advertisement, attempting to lure investment dollars.

The NY-1 story, involving a walk-through of the building, parading representatives Shawn McLearen and Melodie Bahan of Artspace, the Minneapolis-based developer at the center of the scheme, and Gus Rosado, a clubhouse-gang local wheeler-dealer and developer, who operates a deceptively-named East Harlem/El Barrio Operation Fightback (EH/EBOF), which serves as the required local land-use anchor whose collaboration enables the Artspace invasion.

Meanwhile, Rosado and his front group already own and manage other property with years-long uncorrected violations, which, with any regard for law, would disqualify them from that role.

In both pieces, Rosado dishonestly states that the Artspace scheme would be a “beacon to the community”, when in reality it will be a hated beachhead of gentrification and elitism.