Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Who's Extorting Whom?

Imagine our surprise when we saw the headline on a NY Post editorial; yesterday that read, "Blackmail at Willets Point." We instinctively assumed that the paper was referring to the possibility that the mayor would use the carrot of a term limit extension to suborn the council into supporting a project that a large majority of members are on record as opposing.

Well, we were dead wrong. Instead, the Post is accusing Councilman Monserrate of extortion for raising questions about a project without any designated developer, and bereft of a definitive development plan:
"The ringleader this time is City Councilman Hiram Monserrate. With one eye squarely on higher office - the state Senate - he's working against the rezoning...Days earlier, he got 32 of the council's 51 members to agree that the Willets Point project won't go forward unless the city promises not to use eminent domain to remove some 200 small businesses in the affected area. Eminent domain - a process whereby a municipality may confiscate certain properties with appropriate compensation for a larger public purpose - is controversial, and should indeed be debated. But that's not what Monserrate is up to. Rather, he's trying to hold up the project in order to squeeze out more "community" benefits."

Just when are we supposed to debate the "controversial" use of eminent domain? After the council gives the mayor carte blance by ceding to him its only oversight authority? And what exactly are the projects benefits? According to the Post: "Under proposed rezoning, the area would be opened for hotels, a convention center, offices, retail and residential space."

A re-zoning, however, merely permits certain use groups for a designated area-it is in no way a plan! And it would be grossly irresponsible of the council to give this a green light without any development scheme that can be properly vetted-especially not to a mayor who has exhibited not one iota of concern for the kinds of small businesses that would be replaced at the Point should Bloomberg get his way.

So the Post should shelve its accusations here. Checks and balances are still important even when the chief executive is given papal infallibility by so many media commentators.