Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Point Unpleasant

While the Committee to Save Willets Point held a presser yesterday in front of Borough Hall to protest the failure of EDC to protect the interests of the businesses that rent over in the Iron Triangle, it was learned that the crack city agency had a deal that appears to be unravelling with one Point firm, According to Crain's: "The largest land acquisition agreement the city had reached so far in its attempt to remake Willets Point is in danger of falling apart. The Economic Development Corp. has run into problems with the site in College Point where it planned to relocate Sambucci Bros. Inc. Salvage, an auto parts business that sprawls across 52,000 square feet, according to one of the salvage yard’s owners."

How nice! Nothing like proper due diligence. What this means is that the fate of the Willets Point land use application remains problematic-with Council member Monseratte's opposition being supported by 29 signatories to a letter that refuses to support the development until some basic issues are resolved.

One of these issues is the fate of the renters-and the 1500 workers that would be out of work and out of luck if the plan goes through unimpeded. Many of these folks showed up yesterday with their children to protest the use of ED to extinguish what Monseratte called, "their American Dream" Clearly, this is in itself a great deal of economic development-although it doesn't rise to the level that the mayor and his minions feel is worthy of consideration. In their view 1500 immigrant workers are "blight."

And the potential failure of the Sambucci deal is definitely symbolic of EDC's competence-and doesn't bode well for the agency's willingness and ability to properly resolve the fate of existing Point businesses. As Crain's points out: "The deal hit a snag when Sambucci Bros. learned that the College Point Industrial Park site is located within an Urban Renewal Zone that excludes salvage yards, according to City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, D-Queens...The Sambucci deal—for two parcels totaling more than 52,000 square feet—is by far the largest of four acquisition agreements the EDC has negotiated. It provided a public relations boost for the city in advance of key June community board meetings."

Still, eminent domain use remains the major sticking point: "Eminent domain remains perhaps the largest obstacle to the city gaining approval for the project. A majority of City Council members signed a letter opposing the redevelopment in large part due to the EDC’s insistence on using eminent domain if all other efforts fail. And while the project has successfully passed through the first two steps of the land use review process, it has not done so without criticism. In approving the city’s plan, both Queens Community Board 7 and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall expressed concern over eminent domain."

Which means to us that the plan (although we use that term lightly since there really isn't any true development proposal to be vetted here), can well join with the other Bloomberg mega disasters unless the issues are resolved more favorably to the local firms. It certainly should go down, because shots in the dark like these don't deserve council approval.