Tuesday, December 20, 2005

CPC Fails to Leave an Impression

In the kind of planning boldness and ingenuity we all have come to expect from the NYC Planning Commission the body voted yesterday, unanimously without any revision, to approve the application of the Related Companies to turn the Bronx Terminal Market into a suburban mall. In spite of all the controversy over the nature of the deal and the questionable evictions of the market merchants the Planning Commission, with its usual politically-inspired blinders, rubber stamped the deal.

As the NY Sun reports today, one of New York's dollar-a-year bargains, Commission Chair Amanda Burden, told the paper, "It is very important for the city, after decades of disinvestment and abandonment the South Bronx is indeed resurging." With all to respect to Burden, someone not known to haunt the lower precincts of that déclassé borough, whatever resurging is being done in the South Bronx it is quite unrelated to the ethically challenged fiasco at the Terminal Market.

And in fact it is also likely that the mall itself will have a negative impact on the kind of economic renaissance that is organically occurring because of the activity of immigrant entrpreneurs in neighborhoods all over the Bronx. It should be noted here that the "disinvestment and abandonment" cited by Burden without appropriate irony is exactly what occurred at the BTM for the last thirty years-with the City of New York colluding as its midwife.

The CPC also stands accused here of nonfeasance for its refusal to actively involve itself in the question of the merchant relocation. As the CEQR manual clearly states, it is the responsibility of the city's planners (in the absence of any proactive stance from the EDC as the project's lead agency), to deal with the direct displacement of businesses in any development. Unlike the situation with the Fulton Fish Market, no one at City Planning or anyone for that matter in city government as a whole, has ever stepped up to deal with the preservation of these vital market wholesalers.

Now the entire battle goes to the City Council where the issues of merchant evictions, sweetheart deals and non-union box stores, will be fought out over the next 50-65 days. The entire controversy will be complicated by the truncated nature of the review period as well as the changing of the leadership at the Council. Clearly, however, a great deal of further acrimony is on the horizon.