Thursday, January 19, 2006

Willets Point and Eminent Domain

As we were saying, the issue of eminent domain is not an academic one, and the plight of the businesses of the so-called Iron Triangle of Willets Point highlights this reality. Willets Point is the focus of an excellent piece in this week's Crain's New York Business. In the article Tommy Fernandez clearly delineates the fact that the area is a thriving mixture of a variety of small businesses, many who have made considerable investments in their companies.

Our main concern here (the Alliance has not been retained to aid these businesses) is that the attempt to label the area as "blighted" overlooks the fact that the city is directly complicit in the area’s underdeveloped state. This is much the same situation as the one at the BTM where the city and its corrupt landlord allowed the market to deteriorate. After deterioration occurs, lo and behold, the city steps in with a development scheme that looks to evict the victims and replace them with a well-connected developer.

Make no mistake about it, the city is mulling thirteen proposals and is planning to designate a developer some time this summer. All the plans, however, involve the displacement of the current occupants. What must be avoided at all costs is any replication of the fiasco at the BTM where EDC basically told the merchants to pound salt.

What is unclear is how the current ED legislation at all levels will affect Willets Point as well as the property owners up against Columbia in West Harlem, a project that promises to be the mother of all ED battles. Certainly if the Alliance is involved it will be epic indeed.