Monday, February 25, 2008

Pointed Questions

Eliot Brown raises some serious concerns about the lobbying effort being run by EDC in its attempt to remove the hundreds of businesses currently occupying the space that the agency wants to thoroughly makeover: "Former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman has been pushing hard for the city-led plan to redevelop Willets Point, leading an advocacy group, the Flushing, Willets Point, Corona Local Development Corporation (which is funded in part by the city), and pushing elected officials and community leaders to support the multi-billion-dollar redo of the 61-acre manufacturing and auto-repair district by Shea Stadium. (Lots more on the Willets Point development effort here.) So should Ms. Shulman, who is president of the LDC, be registered as a lobbyist?"

The answer to that question will be up to city and state regulators, but at least one good government person thinks that she should: "Dick Dadey, the executive director of Citizens Union, said Ms. Shulman should be registered. “If she herself is spending time supervising the lobbying activity or doing the lobbying activity, and crossing that threshold, then she would need to be registered,” Mr. Dadey said."

The role that Shulman is playing here is made somewhat more murky by the Brown report that EDC is matching money that Claire raises dollar for dollar. Really? Doesn't this amount to a contingency fee, a fee that is illegal under the laws of the state? Is it ethical for a city agency to be pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into a lobbying effort to displace small business owners?

This is even more so when we put the situation into the context of the mayor's excoriation of "special interests." The redevelopment of Willets Point will aggrandize one of the big real estate companies in the city-once that designation is made. What we have in this equation is the city spending a great deal of money on behalf of the real estate community. Now we know what Juan Gonzales meant when he said: "Our mayor claims he is a leader who can't be bought. Of course not-he's the one doing the buying."