Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Post Mortem on Willets?

The NY Daily News, and its real estate developer owner Mort Zuckerman, are at least consistent: they've never seen a devlopment project that wasn't a boon to all New Yorkers-brushing aside any of the facts on the ground regarding the bogarting of property owners, small businesses and local communities. So it's certainly no surprise that the paper sees a Valhalla over at Willets Point.

But this morning's editorial on the project raises disingenuousness to an art form-particularly on the subject of eminent domain. The News editorialists see the city's purchase of close to 40% of the existing property as "proof" that the opposition of Councilman Hiram Monseratte has been rendered moot:

"A city councilman's effort to hold a major economic development hostage to aid a few landowners has been exposed for the demagoguery that it is. Queens Democrat Hiram Monseratte rounded up 31 of his Council colleagues to announce that they would block the rezoning of 62 blighted acres near Shea Stadium - unless City Hall ruled out using eminent domain to acquire the tract. Monseratte's rallying cry was that the city would use the power of condemnation to force property owners to take lousy deals. Now, though, the Bloomberg administration has inked deals to buy 40% of the land needed to turn a hodgepodge of junkyards and chop shops into a showcase."

And guess what? The city may even have negotiated for an additional 10% of the Iron Triangle by next week's city council vote. That, according the the crackpot reasoning over at the News, means Hiram's a demagogue? As Tom Angotti has incisively shown, Willets Point encompasses 48 acres and is home to over 250 businesses and more than 2,000 workers. Yet the News believes that negotiating for half of the acreage, while taking the remaining 24 acres from their rightful owners, has made the eminent domain agrument null and void?

Must be some great logicians over at 33rd Street. Here's the funny money quote: "The purchase prices have been negotiated fair and square, leaving Monseratte nothing to carp about. Unless, that is, he's intent on wringing special deals out of the city - meaning the taxpayers - for holdout owners."

Notice the invidious, "holdout owners." As if the desire to keep your property makes someone an obstacle to all that's good and holy. Well, it does if you're a developer like Mort-and you're also part of the mayor's amen choir. And the paeans to the redevelopment are silly since there is no plan or any firm yet designated to implement it: "The $3 billion plan makes sense from every angle. It reclaims a corner of the city that has been an environmental blight for decades with most of the cost borne by the developer. It is expected to yield a $25 billion economic impact over the next three decades, including $1.3 billion in city revenue."

Yeah, when pigs fly! But perhaps Boston Properties will enter into the next round of bidding on the Point-and create a real rather than simply a rooting interest for MZ. Or, better yet, perhaps all of this will be left for the next mayor-a leader who doesn't carry water for every real estate interest in NYC.