Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bridge to Nowhere?

Our friends at Queens Crapper have sent us the following missive about the continued political activities of one Claire Shulman-it seems that she's trying to emulate former the Alaskan politicians who got funds for a bridge to nowhere: "Flushing and Corona leaders continue to make incremental progress on the plans for the revitalization of the Flushing River waterfront to accompany the redevelopment of Willets Point.The board of the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. met last Thursday with other leaders, including Maura McCarthy, Queens borough commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, to discuss options for the long-neglected area.Possible plans discussed at the meeting include one which is not well-known among nearby residents but could have a significant impact on the area’s character: the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting Flushing’s business district to Willets Point."

Claire, for her part seems to continue to spit in the face of the ongoing AG investigation into the questionable political activities of her so-called not-for-profit local development corporation-and he signed federal waiver to refrain from lobbying: "Former Borough President Claire Shulman, who now heads the development group, said she and the group’s board plan to secure funding, maybe even from the federal government, for the bridge and that they “intend to do everything we can to make sure it happens.”

So, let's get this straight. Claire's going to go and lobby the federal government-the same one that she pledged to refrain from lobbying in order to be granted her not for profit status-in order to get money for a project that is on land that the city doesn't even own yet.

And, as the NY Times reported yesterday, she might have to move fast: "Redevelopment can look easy on paper, but there are always neighborhood concerns, even in a place like Willets Point, a 62-acre industrial shanty town of body shops and scrap yards near the Mets’ stadium in Queens. The administration viewed it as an area ripe for economic development if the 225 existing businesses could be cleared....Mr. Doctoroff was determined to do better, through a local business group, the Flushing-Willets Point Local Development Corporation, which received half its money from the city. But about half the group’s money was spent doing something not allowed under state law: lobbying city officials. The group’s lobbying, has led to an investigation by the attorney general’s office."

In fact, as we have already pointed out, Shulman is a whirlwind of political activity-obtaining a so-called brownfields grant as a result of her clearly effective political activity. If the AG doesn't hurry here, he might find that his house-no matter where it's located-has been condemned to make way for some other aspect of the Willets Point development.

This Willets Point deal is rapidly becoming another example of a great NYC boondoggle. Money's being spent-or being asked to be spent-on a myriad of expensive projects at a time when the city treasury is supposedly tapped out. When the dust clears, will it be a sad case of "money for nothing?" It's time for the city to do a preliminary cost accounting for this development. Bloomberg may be immune to any form of sticker shock-but we're betting that the tax payers aren't.