Friday, January 13, 2006

ED Roadblock

In yesterday's Insider, Crain's is reporting that a House-passed bill limiting ED could seriously impact "city renewal efforts." According to Crain's, the Feds have already passed a less-restrictive bill that the president has signed into law. This bill, at least in the view of HPD commissioner Shaun Donovan, could jeopardize funding for 12,240 units of housing in Bushwick, East Harlem and Mott Haven.

The already passed ED measure, attached as a rider to a House appropriations bill, will cut funding from federal Transportation, Treasury and Housing departments if a municipality employs the user of ED "for other than public purposes." The key issue here is, of course, how such public purpose is defined.

All of this points out the need for the crafting of statutes that, while protecting private property owners and small businesses, still allow local governments to develop urban renewal plans to benefit poor people. What we have seen in so many cases, however, is that policies ostensibly directed for the uplift of the less fortunate are, once dissected, shown to be little more than aggrandizement for the already exalted.

This discussion is not simply theoretical. NYC has two sites that are on the drawing board and the use of ED figures prominently in both. We are referring, of course, to Columbia's expansion into West Harlem and the mayor's plan to redevelop Willets Point. Given the real world impacts, action is needed on crafting an ED policy that is sensitive to the rights of small business.