Thursday, April 01, 2010

Flushing Times Focus on Traffic

The Flushing Times has come out with a focus on our efforts to call attention to the hide the ball nature of how EDC utilizes traffic consultants to consciously minimize the impacts that their projects will have on local communities. The story highlights our presentation last week on the Willets Point ramps before the Bay Terrace Community Alliance: "A group of Willets Point small business owners, with the assistance of powerhouse lobbyist Richard Lipsky, is taking its case against the $3 billion redevelopment plan the city has for the 62-acre neglected region to area residents.Citing the negative traffic impacts of bringing the massive project to the heart of Queens, Willets Point United is aggressively working to block plans to relocate the business owners’ auto shops, factories and other industrial shops to make way for an elaborate mixed-use development project."

The issue, as always is the discrepancies between the original EIS and the ramp report submitted by EDC to the state: "The group’s traffic concerns center around two ramps to the Van Wyck Expressway, which would be built in order to accommodate traffic to and from the new development.Lipsky argues that a traffic study the group commissioned found the project would lead to 80,000 new car trips per day and slow everyday traffic to a crawl on major surrounding roads, such as the Grand Central and Cross Island parkways and Northern and College Point boulevards."

EDC's confidence man Dave Lombino predictably demurs-eliding the facts on the ground in his usual skillful fashion: "David Lombino, a spokesman for the city Economic Development Corp., points out that the city’s traffic study has gone through the ULURP approval process, and was approved by Borough President Helen Marshall and the City Council."

Heh? The fact that the original traffic study-the one we actually do cite to critique the subsequent ramp report-went through the ULURP process is not any real confidence builder for unquestionable accuracy. Remember, as we have pointed out the other day, that the traffic study for Rego Center flew through the review process and now it's all hands on deck to try to mitigate the gridlock that the new mall is generating (Gee, didn't the developer's consultants foresee any of this?)

But the issue comes down to the quality of the review that the people of Queens are getting from developers and the city-and in the case of these ramps, the substandard nature of the report cries out for a more reliable second opinion: "Lipsky is calling on the state or federal government to choose a consultant to do an independent review of the ramps and traffic impact since he believes the city cannot be trusted to select an impartial one. The Federal Highway Administration, which did not respond to a request for comment, will review the ramps study soon and Lipsky predicts the agency will choose to slow the project based on the results. “These consultants are in the tank, are for the developer or for the EDC, and they’re not to be trusted, so we’re saying to the [state] DOT that we need to have an independent review,” he said Tuesday. “We have the opponents saying one thing, we have the proponents saying another, and it’s incumbent on [federal or state authorities] to take this to someone who doesn’t have a dog in the hunt.”

But Lombino, for one, is intrepid-and deserves overtime pay for the effort to continue trafficking in slight-of-hand. As he tells the paper: "The process has not changed. He’s trying to make something where there’s nothing. [FHA review] is part of the approval process for the ramps,” Lombino said. “We’re working with regulators with the state and the federal governments to get final approval for the ramps, and we don’t expect any significant delay.”

Notice how Dave can't explain the gross discrepancies between the two traffic studies-both of which were bought and paid for by EDC. But we guess the veracity of his comments depends on the definition of, "significant delay."

Still EDC's own Dr. Pangloss remains optimistic: “We’re continuing to acquire property through negotiated acquisition. We control 75 percent of the land for the first phase. We’re in contract for $150 million of off-site infrastructure, that’s in a design phase,” he said. “And most significantly we put out a [request for qualifications] for the first phase and got 29 responses, and we are going to whittle down the number of firms and go back with a [request for proposals] in coming months.”

Huh? Continuing to acquire what? Amazing just how many small property owners have yet to hear from the EDC negotiators-and with Bloomberg telling New Yorkers that the city is tapped out, where is all of the money going to come from to do all of this?

But WPU is going to continue to met with all of the Queens community groups to dramatize just what the city planners (a total oxymoron) have in store for the already traffic-challenged borough. As the folks become more aware, and the process is demystified, it will be apparent to everyone that the mayor's notion of sustainable development is, in strictly academic jargon, a crock!