Friday, February 15, 2008

Developing Problems

In an article in today's NY Daily News it appears that the proposed redevelopment of Willets Point has hit a significant snag with the loss of support from the local councilman, Hiram Monseratte. Making the situation worse, was that Monseratte was not alone in voicing his concerns: "Councilman Hiram Monserrate told Bloomberg deputies Thursday he is pulling his support for the massive Willets Point redevelopment in his district - just as the project's extensive review process is about to get underway. "We still have a lot of questions. I don't believe it would be prudent to go forward until those questions are answered," Monserrate said.
He was joined by Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who represent the neighboring districts."

The key bone of contention is the lack of any definitive plan around jobs and housing; as we've said before the Willets plan is little more than a pig-in-a-poke, one that-in typical Bloomberg fashion-leaves area small businesses high and dry: "Monserrate told Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber in a letter that he would support the project only if the city guarantees the creation of "livable wage" jobs and affordable housing. His resistance is the newest development in a campaign mounted in November by union leaders to stop Bloomberg's projects unless he includes the provisions."

All of which is good news for those of us who've advocated for a more equitable and robust city land use review process. The tawdriness of the Yankee Stadium, Bronx Terminal Market and Columbia University expansion deals only underscores this necessity of what the labor folks are trying to do. Which is made very clear today in Juan Gonzales' follow-up column on the Yankee Stadium fiasco.

The era of ad hoc ULURP deal making beget the stadium scandal: "Less than two years ago, Levine signed a much-publicized "community benefits agreement" with Bronx pols that was filled with grand promises about jobs for local residents and a new Yankees community foundation. The team made those promises to win City Council approval for huge public subsidies for the new stadium." Now no one can verify whether or not any of the promises have been kept.

The committee that was formed to get the deal consummated has never met: "Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion said Thursday the team had met its 25% goal and had done even better in contracting. No one has verified those claims. The agreement called for the creation of a "construction advisory committee" of community leaders to monitor compliance and to get monthly reports on how the Yankees were meeting their goals. That committee has never met, and the board of the new foundation did not even hold its first meeting until two months ago - only after reporters started asking about it."

What we need is a better land use process, one that shifts the emphasis away from purely environmental concerns to the more pressing issue of accountable development. This is especially compelling when we see the way in which the Bloombergistas make short shrift of community and small business concerns. Change is long over due.

Update: More to the Point

Azi's linking to the Times Ledger story on the Monseratte insurrection on the Point. The councilman's position is clearly laid out: "Monserrate, speaking at a rally alongside dozens of Willets Point workers outside the New York City Economic Development Corporation offices in Manhattan last Thursday, said his patience has worn thin for "the dog and pony shows" the city has put on regarding their planned redevelopment of Willets Point."

Monseratte, who had fought valiantly on behalf of minority businesses at the Bronx Terminal Market, is acutely aware of the proclivities-and lack of forthrightness-of EDC. He's not someone who's going to accept verbal assurances: "They have to come to the table with something that's real," Monserrate said. "They should not expect the City Council to approve a plan that has no real plan in it."