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'Big fat Greek diner' drives top Wall Street bank off the road
The Sunday Telegraph ^ | April 20, 2003 | Charles Laurence

Posted on 04/19/2003 5:09:10 PM PDT by MadIvan

When Goldman Sachs, Wall Street's most powerful investment bank, decided to build itself a new skyscraper it also planned a fast new road to its door.

It reckoned, though, without Andy Diakos and the thousands of customers who eat at his old-fashioned Flamingo diner, which stood in the path of the proposed road.

In an upset tagged the Big Fat Greek Diner for its echoes of the hit film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the local authorities last week prevented the demolition of the Flamingo.

Instead, they told the bank that its 6,000 besuited employees who are to occupy the 800ft tower must struggle through traffic, or walk from the local stations, like everybody else.

The story, like Nia Vardolos's film, has struck a powerful chord in New York, playing on traditional themes of family values immigrant hard work.

"I came from Greece to America to work hard for a better life and for 35 years I have been in this kitchen seven days a week. To take it from me would be a great injustice. Now I am saved, I feel like a new man!" said Mr Diakos, 59.

The new Goldman Sachs building towers over a financial district being built in Jersey City, across the Hudson River from the site of the World Trade Center. Leading Wall Street companies have been lured to downmarket "Jersey" by low corporate taxes, cheaper land prices and lower rents.

Goldman's plans for its new tower entailed flattening Mr Diakos's four-storey redbrick building - a scruffy leftover of the original waterfront - to make way for a four-lane approach road to its new headquarters.

Jersey City drew up a compulsory purchase and demolition order and offered $1.5 million (£1 million) for the Flamingo. But Mr Diakos, his extended family and customers from the old dockyard area decided that some things were worth more than money.

Mr Diakos's three daughters, Kalliope, 30, a graduate of the London School of Economics who works in television, Joanna, 28, and Maria, 27, hired a lawyer and organised a protest. Twelve thousand residents signed a petition and hundreds crowded into planning meetings to make their voices heard.

Joan Colletti, 53, a social worker, summed up the mood of residents as she tucked into moussaka at the Flamingo. "This is the heart of the community, and while people in Wall Street might not notice, there is a community here," she said. "This is the only place we have left for good food at low prices, any time of the day or night."

Mayor Glenn Cunningham finally got the message. Last week, he announced that he was lifting the demolition order. Goldman Sachs workers would instead have to negotiate a system of one-way streets to reach their office.

"I've listened to the people. God bless the Flamingo and may she fly for ever," he said. "I'm pretty sure Goldman Sachs would have preferred the building to go down. But I've checked their voting address - and they don't vote in Jersey City."

A spokesman for Goldman Sachs said that the company was unruffled by the change of plan. Privately, however, its executives have a different message.

"This smacks of political opportunism," one said. Another said: "They should get real: 6,000 people are going to try to get to work in that building and this will create a safety problem in the streets they will have to use."

To Kalliope, such complaints miss the point. She had watched her parents work around the clock to build up a business with loyal customers and make a modest fortune.

"All my father ever wanted to do was to go on running the Flamingo. It is because of his hard work that we could do all that," she said.

Mr Diakos, surrounded by a family of women whose chatter with the customers is a part of his diner's allure, prefers to toss burgers and stuff cabbage in the background, and keep his thoughts to himself.

Why had he refused the $1.5 million which could have provided a comfortable retirement and an end to his 16-hour days? "Money? I don't mind so much for the money, but all my life I wanted something, a business, to leave to my daughters, and it is here," he said.

When Goldman Sachs announced it was moving, it was a coup for New Jersey. It is considered Wall Street's leading investment bank and when it was publicly floated in 1999 its partners received a record-breaking windfall.

Gavyn Davies, now the chairman of the BBC, was then its chief international economist and saw his shares valued at £100 million.

The present recession, which caused the bank's profits to fall eight per cent last year, prompted a characteristic response: Goldman Sachs fired 2,900 staff.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; US: New Jersey
KEYWORDS: diner; goldmansachs; greek; us
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I don't mind Goldman Sachs getting its comeuppance - it's a proven source of liberals, first Robert Rubin, then that despicable fool Jon Corzine. Both rich left wingers who have made their pile of money and want to change the rules so no one else can repeat their success.

Regards, Ivan


1 posted on 04/19/2003 5:09:10 PM PDT by MadIvan
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To: Krodg; hoosiermama; MeekMom; Dutchgirl; Freedom'sWorthIt; Carolina; patricia; annyokie; ...
Bump!
2 posted on 04/19/2003 5:09:29 PM PDT by MadIvan
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To: MadIvan
I love it when the little guy wins.

Thanks for this one Ivan.

Regards,

L

3 posted on 04/19/2003 5:11:35 PM PDT by Lurker ("One man of reason and goodwill is worth more, actually and potentially, than a million fools" AR)
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To: MadIvan
I don't mind Goldman Sachs getting its comeuppance - it's a proven source of liberals, first Robert Rubin, then that despicable fool Jon Corzine. Both rich left wingers who have made their pile of money and want to change the rules so no one else can repeat their success.

You have a point, Ivan.

But it is the secretaries and programmer, electricians and cafeteria workers that will be struggling through (and this is probably not an overstatement) a chain of one-way streets. Corzine, if he still worked there today, would be brought to the roof in a helicopter.

4 posted on 04/19/2003 5:15:42 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: MadIvan
Photographic exhibit of the Flamingo
5 posted on 04/19/2003 5:19:23 PM PDT by bvw
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To: MadIvan
Big Fat Greek Bump! Good for them.
6 posted on 04/19/2003 5:21:05 PM PDT by valleygal
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To: TopQuark
So? What about the rights of the Greek restauranteur? He owns his property, and he should not have it seized (even with compensation) just because ANOTHER business wants it more.
7 posted on 04/19/2003 5:23:29 PM PDT by dinodino
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To: TopQuark
Hmm, I wonder if he'd have gone for it if they had offered to house a relocated Flamingo in the tower?
8 posted on 04/19/2003 5:23:37 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: nickcarraway
Ping!
9 posted on 04/19/2003 5:30:26 PM PDT by Canticle_of_Deborah
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To: TopQuark
"But it is the secretaries and programmer, electricians and cafeteria workers that will be struggling through (and this is probably not an overstatement) a chain of one-way streets"

At least they will have a place to eat...

Your attitude suggests that the rumors of traffic jams justifies the taking of private property. How bout prohibition of creating the traffic jams in the first place? If the neighborhood is so unsuited to adding 6000 employees why allow it in the first place. There is no shortage of other places that this office building could be built.

Takeing private property to give to other private interests (and chargeing the public for the expense) is just wrong.
10 posted on 04/19/2003 5:46:06 PM PDT by konaice
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To: dinodino
So? What about the rights of the Greek restauranteur? He owns his property, and he should not have it seized (even with compensation) just because ANOTHER business wants it more.

1. You should see the post to which I replied. Yours is a different point.

2. When a property is bought out, it is not a comparison of two businesses but a property vs. public. YOu may disagree with the conclusion, but you should at least understand the ussue.

11 posted on 04/19/2003 5:50:50 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: HiTech RedNeck
I thought of that too. I do not know that with certainty, but this is what typically done. Sounds to me that the owners took a position similar to the French in the U.N.: we'll veto whatever you propose.
12 posted on 04/19/2003 5:52:42 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: MadIvan
some things were worth more than money

AMEN!!!!

And a BUMP for traditional, hard-workin', family values!!!!

13 posted on 04/19/2003 5:56:54 PM PDT by Happygal
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To: konaice
At least they will have a place to eat... As if there are no cafeterias in the building for the 6,000 employees. Perhaps, you've never been in any of such buildings. THat is fine, but you should refrain from forming an opinion, then, about things you do no know.

Your attitude suggests that the rumors of traffic jams justifies the taking of private property. "Rumors" in such cases are based on studies.

And, yes, it is important to buy our a private property when public interests predominate overwhelmingly. Eminent domain should be exercised conservatively, but you seem to be against it totally, which is ill-founded. Takeing private property to give to other private interests (and chargeing the public for the expense) is just wrong.

14 posted on 04/19/2003 5:57:10 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: MadIvan
Another reason he wins is the Greek guy obviously doesn't use Goldman's analyst reports otherwise he would have been bankrupt years ago.
15 posted on 04/19/2003 5:59:26 PM PDT by Beck_isright ("We created underarm deodorant, and the French turned that down too."-Mitch Daniels, Budget Director)
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To: TopQuark
Sounds to me that the owners took a position similar to the French in the U.N.: we'll veto whatever you propose.

Hardly! You cannot equate a small business man, who worked hard all his life, to build up a business he loves, with the French and the UN.

What have the French contributed to the UN? (In comparison what little Greek restauranteur has contributed to his local community, his staff and his family?) BAD analogy, friend.

16 posted on 04/19/2003 5:59:52 PM PDT by Happygal
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To: MadIvan
The guys at GS are/were idiots.

How tough would it have been to have one of the VP's meet with the guy, be nice to him, sympathize with him, etc. and offer him free or cheap space in the bottom of the office tower in exchange?

They didn't offer him a bad deal, but they DID offend his pride - an dus self-employed types are a stubborn lot.

17 posted on 04/19/2003 6:01:01 PM PDT by ikka
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To: MadIvan
LOL, thanks for posting this Ivan. This diner is right across the street from my office, I eat there three times a week, at least. It's a bastion! We are all so happy it's been saved!'

I actually saw these British reporters in there the other day, and then forgot all about it 'til I saw this post. This diner is the only place a person can go to have a cup of coffee and smoke a cigarette in peace these days.

They also have a liquor license, and make a mean Greek Salad, best I've ever had. Some of their dishes are better than others, but for a "greasy spoon" many are excellent. The article doesn't mention that they are open 24 hours a day, 363 days a year (closed Christmas & New Years Day).

The Flaming-O (as my dear departed boss used to call it) is saved! Three cheers for democracy!
18 posted on 04/19/2003 6:01:55 PM PDT by jocon307
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To: TopQuark
Constructing an access to a new high-rise office building hardly seems like it meets your standard of "public interests predominate overwhelmingly." The developer should have planned for the road and secured rights to it through the market.
19 posted on 04/19/2003 6:03:18 PM PDT by dinodino
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To: MadIvan
"I'm pretty sure Goldman Sachs would have preferred the building to go down. But I've checked their voting address - and they don't vote in Jersey City."

A politician who listens to his voters????

There will be 6,000 people inconvenienced, but there are 12,000 who had their voices heard!

20 posted on 04/19/2003 6:05:44 PM PDT by Krodg (We have the ability because the leader in command knows who's in control....God Bless America.)
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To: Happygal
Sorry I did not make myself clear.

The post was in response to a hypothesis that the diner may have been offered to rent space within the tower. I speculated that the owners refused. If --- and that is, if --- that is so, then there is a similarity with the recent position of the French.

Regarding the latter: it is stupid to say, "I'll veto whatever you propose" before hearing the proposal. That is the reference I made, and I do not think it matters whether someone contributed or not: it is still stupid to disagree with something you haven't yet heard.

21 posted on 04/19/2003 6:06:30 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: TopQuark
Well it sure doesn't sound like it started with a good faith negotiation. Sachs went and built the building, knowing that to make entry/egress efficient they would have to flatten the Flamingo, and they just built the building and demanded the Flamingo be condemned. Well hurrah to the Flamingo to not being steamrollered, but it seems that if negotiations with the Flamingo had begun while the tower was still a blueprint, there could have been an amicable solution.
22 posted on 04/19/2003 6:09:45 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: HiTech RedNeck
Exactly my point. GS tried to do this the immoral way--by coercing local government to seize the property they wanted torn down, rather than going to the business owner directly. This is an abuse of eminent domain.
23 posted on 04/19/2003 6:11:41 PM PDT by dinodino
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To: TopQuark
it is still stupid to disagree with something you haven't yet heard.

Absolutely, I agree there. But, I'm kinda happy that this little guy operator had so much support (see jocon's report of actually knowing the place further up this thread) that he wasn't wiped out by BIG business. I'm ALL for progress. But, maybe some of the problems in many of our communities is they lack 'heart'. I think little Greek diner guy, may just be a perfect foil for impersonalism in this instance! :-)

24 posted on 04/19/2003 6:19:22 PM PDT by Happygal
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To: MadIvan
I've checked [Goldman Sachs'] voting address - and they don't vote in Jersey City.

Hahah! Great line.

25 posted on 04/19/2003 6:20:06 PM PDT by Sandy
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To: jocon307
Nice to hear a 'hands on' report of a place we comment about. (Actually 'hands on' is a bad choice of phrase, how about 'mouths on')

BTW, I'm a sucker for a good Greek salad (extra tomatoes, extra feta, hold the olives!!!) :-)
26 posted on 04/19/2003 6:22:35 PM PDT by Happygal
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To: dinodino
I'd be curious if Sachs ever did consider this before going the condemnation route. I don't know for certain, but if I was the founder/owner of a busy restaurant and offered a new home in a major office tower a few blocks away in exchange for being willing to move AND paid for my old building AND free parking for my patrons, I'd jump at the chance.
27 posted on 04/19/2003 6:25:02 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: HiTech RedNeck
Me too. Cha-ching!
28 posted on 04/19/2003 6:28:36 PM PDT by dinodino
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To: MadIvan
"They should get real: 6,000 people are going to try to get to work in that building and this will create a safety problem in the streets they will have to use."

And many (the smart ones) will stop by for what I'm sure is a great meal.

We had a similar thing happen here.

An 80 something Italian immigrant had a large parcel of corner land which contained his house (he lived alone) and the remnants of a once much larger vineyard. The vines were scraggly and not that well pruned or weeded, the last sad remains of his American Dream.

Turns out that the land was very desirable and in the salad days of the early '90s an offer of $8 million was made to purchase the property. A big fight ensued where the relatives were trying to get the guy to sell, I think that they even tried to get the old man declared incompetent. In the end the land was not sold and the old guy remained owner until his death.

When the land finally sold the boom was over and the family got less than 50% of what was offered earlier.

The work ethic of people who came for the American Dream is remarkable, Even retirement in luxury is, many times, insufficient inducement to quit the quest.

29 posted on 04/19/2003 6:38:21 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (Soddom has left the bunker.)
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To: Happygal
I meant to say in the previous post that I agree, of course, with your point about the contribution of the business.

It's good to see you on this thread, HappyGal. Have a nice Holiday.
30 posted on 04/19/2003 6:39:24 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: TopQuark
I live in Jersey City, and I have eaten at the flamingo since I was a little kid. If these New York Yuppies have to go through the same streets I had to without any incident so be it. If they don't like it they can move. You can't *#$% with us! I HATE YUPPIES!
31 posted on 04/19/2003 6:44:03 PM PDT by The Cuban
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To: Happygal
I wrote what I was thinking, in the name of the truth as I saw it, but as far as feelings are concerned -- I root for the little guy too. I would not say it better than you did: it is so rare nowadays that the little guy and a bit of "heart" win, that for me too this victory is to "make up" for those that lost.

Thanks for the pointer to jocon's post: I like diners in general (real food served by and eaten with real Americans next to me), and this one sound particularly good. I am not that often in that town, but next time I am there, I'll definitely stop by.

32 posted on 04/19/2003 6:44:54 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: bvw
Neat website, are you from JC?
33 posted on 04/19/2003 6:45:47 PM PDT by Keme
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To: bvw
http://www.andiesisle.com/If-I-Die-Before-You-Wake.html

Can someone help me with the above link????
34 posted on 04/19/2003 6:46:21 PM PDT by omronnie
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To: The Cuban
I HATE YUPPIES!

That sounds like a well-thoughout, well-reasoned, and rathe rconservative approach to public policy and the issue of eminent domain.

I'd be afraid to see you solving problems that make you emotional.

35 posted on 04/19/2003 6:48:57 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: MadIvan
HA-HA!
36 posted on 04/19/2003 6:50:42 PM PDT by Jhoffa_ (It's called "adoption" Perhaps you've heard of it?)
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To: The Cuban
Funny you should say that.
We get a lot of NY yankees retiring down here in Florida.
I have never wanted to live in New York.So I dont.
I wish those who never wanted to leave New York,stayed there.
Everyone, everywhere would be much happier!
37 posted on 04/19/2003 6:58:15 PM PDT by sarasmom
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To: TopQuark
I wrote what I was thinking, in the name of the truth as I saw it, but as far as feelings are concerned -- I root for the little guy too. I would not say it better than you did: it is so rare nowadays that the little guy and a bit of "heart" win, that for me too this victory is to "make up" for those that lost.

Well then, I think we agree..hugs all around. And nuthin' nicer than discussin' an issue, thinkin' ye may not be agreein', and figurin' out yer readin' from the same prayer sheet after all (politically speakin') when one is Catholic and the other is not.

TopQuark...HOW GOOD DOES THIS GET? (I'm gettin' a touch of the vapours, I may sit down!!) ;-) ***S***

38 posted on 04/19/2003 7:14:09 PM PDT by Happygal
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To: dinodino
There probably was one major fly in this kind of ointment: the competition between the Flamingo and the food service vendor for the tower. The food service vendor probably would have wanted an exclusive contract, so putting the Flamingo in the tower or even next to the access road would have created problems.
39 posted on 04/19/2003 7:14:56 PM PDT by HiTech RedNeck
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To: Happygal
You are a ton of fun, as always :) :) :)
40 posted on 04/19/2003 7:59:53 PM PDT by TopQuark
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To: TopQuark
Hey! I'm glad we can agree. I really love the posts you make TopQuark!

BTW...

I'm a journalist in Ireland, and today, I got my first article ever posted on Freerepublic, thanks to Madivan.

I'd like it if you read it

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/896381/posts

Anne Marie (Happygal)

41 posted on 04/19/2003 8:06:16 PM PDT by Happygal
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To: Happygal
That was supposed to be a private reply! I am SUCH a stupid ASS!
42 posted on 04/19/2003 8:07:33 PM PDT by Happygal
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To: TopQuark
You want a well reasoned approach bizatch? Here goes -

Facts - Large corporation invests millions of dollars in building an office building in a former blue-collar neighborhood. With little empirical support, they contend that in order to have the most efficient worker flow to their new office complex they need a four lane road. In order to build this road, they need to condemn a long established business that serves the community and provides the only 24 hour restaurant in the area. None of the workers that will work in the office building live in Jersey City. The office building is in keeping with the local urban renewal plan.

Issue - Does Public Policy favor the destruction of a well established local business, in order to render a tangential benefit to a non-resident company that prospectively might aid the local economy in the future?

Rule - The takings clause of the fifth amendment has been interprested to prohibit the taking of private property for private use even if just compensation is made. However, the supreme court has construed public use broadly, so long as the eminent domain power it rationally relarted to a conceivable public purpose. Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff 467 US 229 (1984). The use of eminent domain for urban renewal is seen as a public and not a private use, so long as the taking can be seen to further the communities general welfare. See Berman v. Parker, 348 US 26 (1954).

Analysis - Though the law allows the government to take land in order to benefit a private entity, such a taking must rationally related to a conceivable public purpose. Admittedly, the freere flow of workers to the new office building is a conceivable public benefit. However, such a taking must further the communitied general welfare. Here there is a legitimate and recognized benefit provided by the flamingo restaurant. The restaurant provides quality 24 hour food service for the local residential and office community, a unique service in the area. Moreover, the presence of the restaurant tends to psychologically connect the established community with the new community by providing a common meeting ground. Moreover, public policy should respect the fruits of ones labor, such as that put in by the greek owner. The interest of goldman Sachs is to aid in the flow of traffic. The cite to the possible danger to the office workers. An analysis of the cite shows that the sidewalks are over 12 in width. Moreover, there is never much vehicular traffic, as most commuters take either the subway or the light rail, which stops directly in front of the new building. The probability of danger, is quite low. There has been no reported incident of pedestrian injury in the past. The claim of inacessability is also specious. There has never been a problem with traffic to the surrounding office buildings. Given these considerations I would hold that the balance of factors is definately in favor of maintaining the current use, the Flamingo Restaurant, as such a result would further the communities general welfare.

And another thing - I HATE YUPPIES!
43 posted on 04/19/2003 8:35:03 PM PDT by The Cuban
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To: Keme
No, just many relatives in that area.
44 posted on 04/19/2003 8:40:44 PM PDT by bvw
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To: Destro
:), fyi
45 posted on 04/20/2003 3:44:16 AM PDT by ehoxha
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To: MadIvan
The little guy's an idiot. He should have taken the 1.5 mil.
46 posted on 04/20/2003 4:25:56 AM PDT by dennisw
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To: Happygal
Anne Marie, HappyGal, what a great news!

Thanks for the link and I am off to reading it!

47 posted on 04/20/2003 6:33:53 AM PDT by TopQuark
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To: The Cuban
Facts - With little empirical support, How do you know that that?

they contend that in order to have the most efficient worker flow to their new office complex No they do not. And please do not misuse the terms such as "worker flow:" this term is from a different course, Cuban; try to stay with the subject at hand. No need to impress us with the terminology that is irrelevant. The company is concerned with ease of access by its employees, not worket flow.

they need a four lane road. Yes. It is not clear from the article to what degree that was negotiated beforehand.

they need to condemn a long established business that serves the community and provides the only 24 hour restaurant in the area. That is not true at all. THank G-d you are not defending me in court.

It is the condemnation of the real property owned by the business that is in question.

In particular, the business may relocate into the towers once they are built and need not be terminated.

Again, when you recite the facts, try to stay on the subject.

None of the workers that will work in the office building live in Jersey City. Not a fact at all, and, given your pretense at rigour (which apparently extends only to using a writing template given to you in school). One could possibly assume at this point that a majority of workers of that office do not live in Jersey City. Moreover, even that will change once it opens: I assure you that the janitors --- and there will be quite a few needed -- will not be coming from Brooklyn.

The office building is in keeping with the local urban renewal plan. That is a hint that you are missing something REALLY important. If none of the "workers" (you should abandone this term so favored by socialists: try :employees" instead) is connected in any way to the community, why does it help the urban renewal? Explore that question, and you'll understand.

48 posted on 04/20/2003 7:58:34 AM PDT by TopQuark
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To: The Cuban
Issue - Does Public Policy favor the destruction of a well established local business, in order to render a tangential benefit to a non-resident company that prospectively might aid the local economy in the future?

Not at all: it is your prejudicial flavoring of the "issue."

The real property is not the same things as business and no one is destroying teh business --- although the owners portray it that way. The business could (i) move to another property a few hundred yards away, or (ii) rent the space in the towers.

tangential benefit You cetainly do not know how to do benefit-cost analysis in general and do not know the results of this one to claim that the benefits are tangential.

WHat's more disturbing, is that your "reading" of the situtation, down to the terms you use, is verbatim from texts on "scientific communism." With such views, what are you doing on a concervative board? Of what interest is it to you?

I HATE YUPPIES! I can see now why: they are an emblem of capitalism. They embrace and utilize the opportunities it provides, and move up as a result of their self-reliance. You, prefer otherwise, that is clear.

49 posted on 04/20/2003 8:06:13 AM PDT by TopQuark
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To: TopQuark
Yo,

Did you ask me to come up with an argument or to finish all relevant discovery within a 30 minute period? This is a basic argument, not a summation at trialafter all proofs have been shown. And point in fact, it is the only 24 hour diner in the neighborhood.
50 posted on 04/20/2003 9:43:19 AM PDT by The Cuban
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