Friday, February 22, 2008

Willets Pointless

In a post this week, the Observer's Eliot Brown goes into the machinations of EDC over the development of Willets Point. In what we see as unprecedented, the agency has set up its own lobbying arm-headed by former BP Claire Shulman. As Brown points out: "And to drum up support in the immediate area, the city has been giving funding to a Willets Point redevelopment advocacy group led by former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber confirmed, boosting an organization that has brought on a lobbying team of its own for the push. The city has approved up to $250,000 in matching funds for Ms. Shulman’s group."

Just what does the matching fund concept actually mean? Hopefully, Brown will be pursuing this since it is an action that appears to be fraught with complications-both legal and political. The small businesses of the Point have enough against them without the city funding lobbyists to put them out of business. The relationship between Shulman & EDC needs to be more transparent.

Which gets us to the pig-in-a-poke aspect of ULURPing this development before the developer or the deal has been crafted. We've raised this before, and the following comment from Peter Vallone Sr. is right on point: "Mr. Vallone, the former Council speaker who is lobbying on behalf of the business owners, said such an action would never have gone through the Council on his watch. “You could bet your bottom dollar that when I was speaker, we would never give away that land-use power without knowing that it’s something that’s good for the city and without knowing exactly what was going to be built in exchange,” Mr. Vallone said."

Which throws the ball rather indelicately right into Speaker Quinn's court. Will she uphold the council's perogatives? Or will she acceed to the mayor's whims as she has been doing rather frequently as of late? With the labor people and Acorn in their corner, Councilmen Monseratte, Avella and Liu might just be able to hold serve on this one.