Thursday, March 27, 2008

Whither Pfizer?

The Observer is reporting that Assemblyman Vito Lopez is trying to use the state's power of eminent domain, in the form of legislation he's introduced, to take away property that drug giant Pfizer owns in Williamsburg. Lopez wants to use the property to build the kind of affordable housing that we commented on in our last post. "Mr. Lopez said he was taking action on Pfizer because it failed to donate its land, as it has done in other instances. "Though Pfizer has shown concern for other communities coping with job loss and housing needs, it appears the global company has little interest in returning the land in question to the State of New York," the justification reads."

Pfizer is countering that it has begun a process to identify a developer for the site, and that affordable housing is definitely a company goal. In a response to the Observer the company said: "Pfizer Inc strongly opposes A10272 (V. Lopez), a bill to allow the seizure of Pfizer-owned property in Brooklyn by eminent domain for the development of affordable housing by New York State. Not only is the concept of state-sponsored eminent domain extremely premature at this point and potentially chilling for development statewide, but the legislation’s justification fails to mention that affordable housing is one of the key uses currently being considered as part of potential future private development scenarios for this property."

Now we know and like Vito Lopez, and we're convinced of his support for affordable housing, but we think that Pfizer and Lopez should get together on this and stop fighting if there's really good faith about the desire on the part of both parties to build the housing they claim to want. In addition, the Pfizer site would also be ideal for a nice large modern supermarket-clearly Williamsburg could use it. It's time for all concerned to get onto the same page here.