Monday, November 03, 2008

Legislature's Lurching Point

The showdown over Willets Point is nearing, with city council uncertainty exacerbated by the recent vote on term limits. As Marcia Kramer of WCBS News points out, there are bruised feelings here that won't disappear any time soon: "Mayor Michael Bloomberg won the term limits battle, but he may find future fights with the City Council harder to win. Some council members are angry, others are empowered now that they too may have four more years. "Maybe there's some feeling that some love needs to be shown, and some respect," said Councilman Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn)."

And with the vote on the Point looming, will Fidlers' observations become prophetic? "I think it should be clear to the mayor that even though he got his vote on term limits with the council, there's clearly a sentiment that he won't necessarily get the next vote on something of importance to him," said Fidler." As Kramer also tells us: "There's every indication that the mayor knows he needs to mend fences. On Friday, he met with council delegations from various boroughs about the Willets Point project."

So what will it be? The NY Daily News picked up on the Willets Point thread Saturday: "Mayor Bloomberg Friday urged City Council members to back his Willets Point development project - despite some open wounds from the bruising term-limits battle. Bloomberg met Friday with each of the Council's five borough delegations to press for the $3 billion residential, commercial."

The mayor apparently realizes that a major defeat-and a turn down on Willets Point would certainly qualify in this regard-so soon after the term limits vote, would send an unacceptably signal that the mayor's mojo was weakening. And as the News points out: "Several Council members said ill feelings from the 29-to-22 vote the mayor won last week on his term limits extension could spill over into the Willets Point issue. "He hasn't taken eminent domain off the table," said Queens Councilman Tony Avella, who also opposed the term limits bill. "It's a real possibility they may find we're not rolling over anymore."

Regardless of the timing, however, the positive action on this land use application by the council would make a mockery of the touting that this body has somehow come of age. And the comments of the speaker are indeed ominous in this regard: "Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she's hopeful "there can be a consensus around an appropriate development plan for the area."

There's no developer or any development plan-and without these ingredients how can a city council, which is empowered on land use almost above and beyond any other policy area, give a mayor a cart blanche green light? And at the last council hearing on the matter, EDC said that it was re-bidding the development rights. Once approved, the mayor can do what he wishes with the area; and the city council can simply do little lie back down and wait for the inevitable ravishing.