Friday, June 27, 2008


Yesterday's labor press conference on the steps of City Hall supporting the redevlopment of Willets Point had some positive first steps for a fairer ULURP process. As the NY Daily News' Juan Gonzales points out: "Some of New York's biggest union leaders lined up on the steps of City Hall Thursday to cheer Mayor Bloomberg's new megadevelopment plan - the $3 billion Willets Point project in Queens. One after another, they gave glowing praise to one more giveaway to real estate developers - one that had been opposed by a majority of the City Council. The labor leaders touted the "historic" concessions on future jobs at Willets Point they claim to have secured from City Hall in return for backing the project."

And there were some good concessions for workers, but the fate of the displaced businesses is less certain; something that needs to be addressed if this development is to go forward, since local council member Hiram Monseratte is still holding out for a better deal: "City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens), who represents Willets Point, has made it clear from the start that he won't support any rezoning of the area that doesn't address things like good-paying permanent jobs, fair relocation of existing businesses and workers, and a significant amount of affordable housing. Monserrate has lined up 28 fellow members out of 51 to publicly oppose the plan. That explains why City Hall decided to announce an agreement with union leaders on jobs. Bloomberg's aides will ask the unions to be the mayor's foot soldiers to pressure the Council on behalf of the project."

Monserrate believes that keeping the council strong in its opposition is the only way to insure that the project will be as good as it can be; which means that the 225 businesses and their workers need to get a fair shake, And affordable housing ma be the key here: "In order to win those concessions, though, the union leaders ignored how the city is treating existing businesses and workers at Willets Point. They ignored the plans of the city to build mostly market-rate housing in a borough where the median income is less than $50,000 a year."

So we'll see if Hiram's able to do for the Point, a district that he represents, what he was unable to do for the Bronx Terminal Market, where the local electeds wouldn't stand with him in solidarity with the merchants. Already, however, his strong stand is insuring that whatever comes out of the Willets Point negotiations will be better for the fight that was made.