Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Keloid Scar

More on the cautionary tale that is Kelo. As the Washington Times is reporting, Pfizer, once the linchpin of the development that became the poster child for eminent domain abuse, is now abandoning that infamous New London site: "The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain. But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes' seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London."

No mention, however, of how much this all cost the city of New London. As Susan Kelo's attorney reminds us: "Scott Bullock, Kelo's co-counsel in the case, told me: "This shows the folly of these redevelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain."

Which brings us to the Willets Point project-projected to cost billions that NYC simply doesn't have. Willets Point United is now in the middle of trying to determine whether the Van Wyck ramps will actually alleviate the traffic mess that the development will generate; and what the cost of all this will mean for the city's already over burdened tax payers.

Unfortunately, EDC is stonewalling handing over the information-and we are planning to present this refusal, as well as its implications, to the residents of the nearby communities that will be impacted by the mess. As it stands now, the cost of remediation is unclear, with the city planning to figure this all out (according to the EIS) after the project is built. A blatant act of malfeasance in our view.

But consider what kind of traffic mess will assault the Van Wyck. According to our own traffic expert Brian Ketcham, the results will be anything but pretty: "The problem is that the project is surrounded by clogged expressways: the Van Wyck Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway, and the Long Island Expressway. And, with the project, clogged local access roads as well! At 9 million square feet the Willets Point Development Plan will generate 80,000 vehicle trips including 2,500 truck trips entering or leaving Willets Point every weekday and a similar amount of traffic on weekends. And, during the baseball or tennis season the project will have far greater impacts."

And the ramps are supposed to be a savior-but there role is left unexamined by the EIS: "The City is asking the NYSDOT to approve two new ramps connecting with the Van Wyck Expressway south of the site. It would provide more than a third of the car and truck trips accessing and leaving the site to travel to and from the south without using local streets. Without these ramps these trips would be forced to use local streets that would already be jammed with 60% to 70% of project trips. These impacts are never disclosed in the FEIS.

Nor are the ramps mentioned in the mitigation section of the FEIS. Instead, the City has applied in a separate secret document for State DOT approval of the ramps. This document, which includes the results of extensive traffic modeling and which it is assumed contains a discussion of the effects on traffic should NYSDOT fail to approve the ramps, is not available for public review."

So, once again, we are in a very secretive process whereby EDC is playing hide the ball-to the extent that we simply don't know what is being told NYSDOT, and how accurate the information proffered by the city really is. Which is why this entire process needs to be opened up for public scrutiny.

The abandoned New London property should serve as a warning that our vaunted decision makers sometimes simply don't know what they are doing-and plow ahead because they are programmed to act in a certain way. It is time that EDC opened up and presented all of the needed information to those whose lives will be effected by this massive redevelopment scheme. And, by the way, someone should let us all know how much it will cost and where the money will be coming from.