Friday, August 07, 2009

ED and Premature Development

As the Crain's Insider is reporting this morning, the folks at Willets Point United will be getting their first court opportunity on August 20th to contest the city's effort to remove them from their land: "On Aug. 20, Willets Point eminent domain opponents will get their first chance to make their case in a courtroom. Their lawsuit argues that because the Bloomberg administration’s proposed redevelopment requires a new Van Wyck Expressway off-ramp that has not been approved, it’s premature to condemn property. State and federal approvals are needed for the ramp."

It is the group's understanding, and they are represented by Michael Gerrard, one of this country's foremost environmental attorneys, that there is little chance that the off-ramp will ever get the required approval because the Van Wyck's configuration at the point needed for the ramp won't permit it. And look who just might agree: "State Sen. Hiram Monserrate is expected to support the opponents’ argument, although he brokered the agreement in which the City Council approved new zoning for the project."

That's because it makes little sense to evict land owners before there's any real indication that: (1) There is an actual plan with a developer and the money to complete it; (2) Even prior to the plan, that the city knows just how much it will cost to clean up the site-and the money is there to do it; and, (3) That the plan will be environmentally feasible-and not lead to an ummitigatable traffic nightmare in Congestion Free NYC.

Without these pieces in place, there's a good chance that the eviction of the property owners will yield a good sized, and more or less permanent hole in the ground; and in fact, two of the current Willets Point owners facing eviction, went through the same thing in College Point thirty years ago-and the land taken from them lies empty to this day!

What we don't need in economic hard times-or at any time, for that matter-is for the city to evict folks, spend hundreds of millions of dollars digging and remediating, only to find at the end of the process that all is for nought. We went through this with the NY Stock Exchange; we should avoid repeating the mistake with the productive businesses at Willets Point.