Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Queens Chamber of Horrors

Jack Friedman is at it again-selling off stuff that he doesn't own, and betraying the interests that his organization was founded to defend. As the NY Daily News reports, Friedman is busy shilling for the NY Islanders to relocate to Willets Point: "Pouncing proactively, the Queens Chamber of Commerce is planning a news conference this week to publicly court the Islanders - coveting jobs and tourists the team could bring to the borough."

Just one minor inconvenience; neither the Queens Chamber or the city currently own title to the property that Friedman wants for a hockey arena-and this isn't just any minor impediment, since the course ahead for the city is neither predictable nor an easy one to navigate. That doesn't seem to bother Jack the Grifter, however. And he's willing to violate his own charter and mission statement in order to promote something that, charitably, isn't much as far as economic development is concerned.

Here's Friedman's letter to prospective members of the QCC: "For 98 years, the Queens Chamber of Commerce has supported Queens businesses and the Queens economy. We have faced tough times before. Crisis after crisis, the Chamber has delivered for its members. Now more than ever, the Chamber is ready, willing and able to help you through this recession. Through discounts, networking and promotional opportunities, and a full calendar of educational and training programs, the Chamber will help increase your customer base and save you money."

Quite an offer; except if your a Queens business that's still doing business at Willets Point. But the Chamber isn't a Johnny-come-lately when it comes to betrayal. Back when the Willets Point plan was unveiled, the Chamber jumped right on board. As the Queens Courier reported: "The Queens Chamber of Commerce is delighted with the Master Plan that Mayor Bloomberg and Borough President Marshall unveiled today for the Willets Point peninsula in Northern Queens,” the Chamber of Commerce wrote."

So it should be clear to all Queens businesses, the Chamber of Commerce in your borough will stand four square behind you-at least until a bigger and better use for your property can be discovered; then you're on your own fellas and gals. In our view, this stand by the QCC's Friedman should be grounds for his dismissal, because in essence he is representing the interests of non-Queens businesses over those of existing borough firms.

The real question to us is: Cui bono? What's in it for QCC and Mr. Friedman-and what has this booty capitalist been promised for his perfidy? In our experience, when a local business group advocates against the interests of local businesses, it's time to look hard for the smoking gun of corrupt practices. Can it really be simply a love for Lord Stanley that motivating Jack? "This is the time to aggressively go after this," said Jack Friedman, the chamber's executive vice president. "It's time to bring Lord Stanley back to Long Island, and Queens is on Long Island."

And we're disappointed in the statements of Comptroller-elect John Liu on this issue: "I'm of the strong opinion that Queens has and will always be an attractive and viable option for the Islanders," said Liu, who won the Democratic runoff for city controller last month." Liu needs to examine the fiscal implications of his position-and refer his staff to the writings of Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist-knowing writers who are skeptical about the cost/benefit equation when it comes to arenas.

The economics of a third Bloomberg term have been discussed in the NY Times-and the need to be more frugal is patently obvious; a need that calls into question, not only a hockey arena, but the entire grandiose Willets Point vision. So everyone-but especially Jack Friedman-needs to cool off-and if the Grifter isn't careful WPU will find a true public use for the property that Friedman's house sits on-perhaps a homeless shelter would have symbolic value?