Friday, February 10, 2006

Strange Bedfellows at Willets Point

With Crain's Insider reporting that the search for a developer at Willets Point has started to narrow, it was fascinating to learn that a few of the largest property owners threatened under a potential eminent domain proceeding have hired Peter Vallone to defend their interests. The former speaker is now a lobbyist and retains his close ties to the Queens Democratic power structure.

What we found fascinating, however, was the fact that Vallone had supported Mayor Bloomberg last fall and it is the mayor who has pointedly commented about Willets Point that, "the land is too valuable for the businesses that are on it." It will be interesting to see how Vallone's support for the mayor translates into an effective representation of the Iron Triangle firms.

We're somewhat skeptical, not of Vallone's abilities here, but of the mayor caring a whit about who actually represents Willets Point. He has famously indicated that he makes his decisions on merit alone and it is unlikely that the lobbyist who represents the Point is going to change his desire to reconstruct the Queens area.

What the merchants need is a grassroots lobbying effort that goes beyond their own immediate area and looks to create a city wide coalition on the ED issue. If it’s only about Willets Point than, as Warner Wolf would say, "You lose."