Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blight Makes Right?

So, here's the question. When is a blighted Willets Point business not blighted? Answer: When it is moved to College Point. As the NY Daily News points out: "City Councilman Tony Avella is ramping up his opposition to the city's plan to move five Willets Point businesses to the College Point Corporate Park...The Bloomberg administration's proposal would relocate an auto salvage yard, an ironworks, a plumbing supply company, a towing firm and a business that sells nonferrous metals. "The mayor called these businesses blighted and a detriment to the neighborhood - but then he can move them to another neighborhood?" said Avella (D-Bayside). "It's a disgrace."

But what's really funny to us, is the explanation of the EDC: "City Economic Development Corp. officials defended the relocation of the five businesses. They are "all family-owned, multigenerational industrial businesses that have long been an integral part of the Queens community," agency spokeswoman Janel Patterson said. "They will strengthen the corporate park."

And, in our view, Patterson is right-but the same goes true for the scores of other "all family-owned, multigenerational industrial businesses," that are still over at Willets Point fighting the city's effort to use eminent domain to remove them. The only reason that they're blighted? Because of the theft of services practiced by NYC for the better part of seven decades.

So, we want to thank Mr. Patterson and the EDC for dramatizing the inequity of the city's effort at Willets Point. The mayor's band of merry men and women should have come up with a redevelopment plan that would preserve the, "family-owned, multigenerational industrial businesses," at Willets Point. Instead, as is his want, the plan devised is an anti-small business land grad that will displace folks who have operated under duress for decades-another example of how the Bloomberg "five borough" economic plan is a dagger in the heart of the city's entrepreneurs.

And what's up with the illegal restriction that the city granted to the community board? "The board granted its advisory opinion, members said, after an EDC official pledged in writing that no Willets Point businesses would be relocated to the Flushing Airport, a defunct airfield included in the corporate park." Well, if these businesses-and the many others left behind-are, "an integral part of the Queens community," then why restrict others from making the move to a corporate park that, after all, is close by and would allow the other businesses to stay in close proximity to their customers?

All of this demonstrates how arbitrary and ad hoc the city's policy decisions are. Only in New York, couuld an administration devise an elaborate plan-in the middle of a recession, no less-that would threaten the survival of 250 firms and 2500 workers. But these businesses lack the right glamour-and a class bias is never far behind most of the big economic moves made by Mike Bloomberg. Whether its the wholesalers in the Bronx Terminal Market, a storage company in West Harlem, or auto supply businesses in Willets Point, all must make way for the bigger guys with political clout. Man of the people Bloomberg? We think not.