Thursday, February 23, 2006

Will The Council Respond?

We have been commenting on the issue of the lease transfer involving the emergence of the Related Company as the landlord of the BTM property. Our argument has been that the lease needed to be put out for public bidding after a full appraisal of the value of the land was done. Normally the transfer is then made subject to a land use review process.

This contention was the crux of the legal challenge that the BTM merchants unsuccessfully brought against their eviction from the Market. It was unsuccessful because Judge Cahn ruled that, under the City Charter, the mayor had the power in regards to the city's public wholesale markets to override the provisions (Section 384) of the Charter requiring the public bidding.

It is our belief that this is one crackpot ruling but, as it stands now, it is the law and it means that the Council's power of review that inhere in Section 384 have been abrogated. This is a concern, or should be, of all of the businesses and thousands of workers in the wholesale markets. It should also be a concern of the City Council since the ruling exists as a direct challenge to its oversight role.

As it stands now the mayor (or his commissioner in this case) has unbridled power to evict businesses and punish workers. He can even, as the BTM case demonstrates, eliminate the entire wholesale market if a "better" use comes along.

It is time for the Council to address this "market exception" and revise Section 1301 so that it clearly delineates the mayor's powers and subsumes them under Section 384. This is the kind of checks and balances we've been talking about in our concern with the institutional integrity of the City Council.