Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bronx Terminal Market Deal a Bad Precedent

In today’s Gotham Gazette, Urban Planning Professor Tom Agnotti trenchantly criticizes the Bronx Terminal Market deal. He is particularly concerned by the guarantee that if Related does not get its approvals the city will buy back the land no questions asked. Agnotti believes that this deal sets a bad precedent in NYC where favored developers no longer have to take substantial risks and projects cannot be voted down as easily because then the city would be stuck with undeveloped land:

But aside from feeding the political money machine, here’s what the mayor’s $32 million money-back guarantee to Related does: everyone involved in ULURP is effectively on notice that the city has a financial stake and will lose out if the project is voted down. The city will be stuck with a piece of property they have no plans for and 23 angry site tenants.

The mayor is also sending a message that he can guarantee zoning changes before they go through the required land use review process. The various bodies involved in the ULURP process, not just the mayor, are jointly entrusted with the responsibility for making decisions about the future of the city. Imagine if a borough president or the City Council were to offer an insurance policy to their favored developers -– there would be an immediate outcry from City Hall.

Following the Related project, everyone who applies for a zoning change should have the right to demand an insurance policy from the city. Is the mayor, who once said corporations don’t need incentives for doing business in the city, now inventing a new one?
Not only does Agnotti critique our “above politics” mayor but he also points out that the City has, in effect, created the blight at the Terminal Market and now is re-victimizing the merchants by so callously evicting them. The professor sees this pattern elsewhere including Willets Point, “where the city is complicit in the blighting process and ignores the local businesses.”

Agnotti ends the piece mentioning how the planning for the Gateway Mall at the BTM has not sufficiently taken into account the controversial Yankee Stadium redevelopment plans. The new stadium, in addition to alienating community park land and replacing it with dispersed parcels (some conveniently on top of parking garages), is going to have 5000 more parking spaces. Combine this added vehicular burden with the hundreds of thousands of cars that the mall will generate and there is a potential for a traffic and asthma nightmare. Yet both the Yankees and Related are proceeding as if their projects are, for the most, part separate developments. Unfortunately, it is the residents of the South Bronx who are going to bear the burden of such poor planning for decades to come.