Friday, March 03, 2006

Eminent Domain Showdown

As we had noted the other day the city has designated a short list of finalists for the development of Willets Point. In today's NY Sun (Crain's Insider also makes note) Dave Lombino goes into greater details on the city's interest in developing the Iron Triangle. And as he points out, "The proposed project is likely to require condemnation of private property through the exercise of eminent domain..."

All 48 acre of the Point will be subject to at least the threat of eminent domain and it will create the single largest area of property threatened with a public taking in the city's recent memory. It certainly will be one of the largest land areas slated for condemnation that will be utilized exclusively for private development.

Even our good friend Jesse James Masyr, the lawyer for Related, a company that is "seriously thinking about" the possibilities at the Point, recognizes the complications this project entails, "It's a great piece of property, but it's complicated how you will get the land control--so much of it is privately owned."

Well, actually it isn't all that complicated as to how you can get control. It's the controversy that the process will generate. Related's interest will undoubtedly recall all of the questions concerning Steve Ross's relationship with Dan Doctoroff and will generate speculation over whether the company's "favored nation" status remains.

In any case it appears that, according to the Sun, a consultant will be hired by EDC to prepare an EIS and the review process may even begin before a company is selected. The review promises to be contentious since Councilmember Monserrate remains a skeptic of the development and is certainly no knee-jerk supporter of the work of EDC.

As Monserrate says about the Willets Point area,
"It is a viable economic hub today. It generates revenues and produces jobs...I'm more concerned that those who work and live in the surrounding area will be directly impacted. It is unacceptable if we don't meet the needs and interests of the people in these communities first, before the developer."
All of which rekindles the importance of addressing the issue of accountable development. The interests of the various community and business stakeholders must be catalogued and then taken into consideration. Collateral damages must also be evaluated and any effort that involves the taking of private property must meet some very high standards before being initiated.