Thursday, March 02, 2006

ED and Willets Point: Weld Sets The Bar

In a speech before the Manhattan Institute that is reported in today's NY Sun William Weld, a Republican candidate for governor, came out forcefully against the use of eminent domain for the purpose of economic development. Criticizing the SC's Kelo decision Weld said that the court, "has put alleged collective needs ahead of individual liberty and property rights."

Weld also likened the use of ED to the actions of Chinese Communists. Clearly, as we have said on numerous previous occasions, this is the kind of issue that can really create a strong coalition across the traditional liberal-conservative divide and Weld is smart to get out in front on it. He is right to challenge Eliot Spitzer on his stance because it is time for a real substantive debate on the use of this development tool.

Which of course brings us directly to the issue of Willets Point. Our sources are telling us that EDC has short-listed 6 developers for the Iron Triangle site. The basic template is for 1,000,000 sq. ft. of retail, a convention center and a hotel, along with a certain amount of residential as well.

The sticking point, however, is the 200 or so businesses and property owners who are currently occupying the site. The mayor has already staked out his pro-eminent domain position and it will be fascinating to see how the Willets Point thing plays out now that Weld, the Republican, is joining forces with Norm Siegal,Tish James and the other left of center folks who have led the anti-ED charge.

Oh yes, it is also important to mention that the Related Company is on the short list. But of course, another example of the meritocracy and the way in which the Bloombergers are above the "special interests." And why not Related? After all it has already exhibited its great sensitivity to local business in the eviction of the BTM merchants.