Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting the Point

According to Crain's In$ider, the business owners at Willets Point have hired environmental attorney Michael Gerrard to fight the city's ULURP process on the Iron Triangle site. Gerrard told Crain's that his role was, to fight "the total destruction of the neighborhood." In addition, the well-respected lawyer told the newsletter that he had fought many "unstoppable" projects successfully.

What's initially at issue here, is the city's effort to ULURP the entire 50 acre site in a pig-in-a-poke manner, meaning that the City Council will be approving a "concept," and not a specific project with clearly identified tenants. In our twenty five year experience this will prove to be a big mistake. General concepts don't really encompass the actual important project details, some of which can prove to be quite nettlesome. For instance, the zoning that allows for a large retail use cannot exclude a Wal-Mart or a BJ's.

It is also true that the need for zoning approval gives the Council the leverage needed to negotiate some important community benefits with an actual development company. Once re-zoned that leverage disappears.

All of which doesn't even begin to deal with the merits of what the city is trying to do on the Point. One of the things that concerns us the most is the loss of so many immigrant businesses and their employees. These are the kinds of firms that are able to give relatively unskilled workers who don't speak English an opportunity to work and prosper.

What is clear is that Gerrard, and the other attorneys the businesses have hired, is geared for a fight; and if the Alliance is asked to help, this will become a battle royal. Stay tuned to the situation as the city prepares its ULURP application.