Friday, May 14, 2010

Grass Rooting Against Willets Point and Flushing Commons

The Times Newsweekly highlights what has been a three month campaign to focus grass roots attention on the boondoggle-and injustice-that is the Willets Point development. And the primary focus, besides the flawed ramp/traffic report, has been the issue of eminent domain: "Representatives of a group looking to stop city plans for Willets Point came to the Juniper Park Civic Association’s (JPCA) Apr. 29 meeting at Our Lady of Hope to ask for their help. Making his way around the city to garner support was Neighborhood Retail Alliance (NRA) lobbyist Richard Lipsky. The group has joined Willets Point businesses and other advocacy groups to create Willets Point United, which is fighting the city’s move to take over the triangular stretch of land east of Citi Field via eminent do- for new development. “Eminent domain will never be used to take someone’s house on East 79th Street,” charged Lipsky, “Eminent domain will never be used to take property from a richer person and give it to a poorer person.” He added that eminent domain is being used not for city services such as schools or hospitals, but “for someone else to make money off their property against their will.”

Juniper Civic, just as Comet, John Bowne, Mitchell-Linden, Bay Terrace and numerous other local civic organizations, have all signed on to the Willets Point petition for an independent study of the Van Wyck ramps; and to the need to restructure the NY State eminent domain laws that deprive property owners of due process. As the Flushing Times reported last month-about our Bay Terrace presentation: "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."

And on Monday WPU hopes to get the entire Queens Civic Congress to support the ramp review and eminent domain reform. In addition, we expect that the campaign against the Flushing Commons development will coalesce with the Willets Point coalition since the issue of traffic-and overdevelopment-unite the two groups against projects that would, if built, be a side by side travesty against the quality of life in the communities that are in and around the project areas.

QCC has already taken a position against the Flushing Commons plan-decrying the lack of genuine community input: "Rather than formally consult with Community Board 7, local residents, businesses and institutions, TDC/Rockefeller has opted to take its project directly into the public review process. Instead of establishing formal lines of communication with the Flushing community, the developer has chosen to present Flushing with an all or nothing proposal.

The Queens Civic Congress stands by the core principle of public review of major land use projects. Surely a mammoth project like Flushing Commons that would have enormous impacts on regional transportation, the local economy, environment, infrastructure, traffic, parking, housing requires the same level of community input as developers and city planners afforded Manhattan Community Board 6 and local residents in the matter of the east side ConEd site."

So, as we await a final date for a hearing from the state senate on the Van Wyck ramp controversy-and another potential hearing on overall Willets Point issues from the city council-we will continue to apprise local groups on just how little regard the EDC has for the quality of life in Queens neighborhoods. The agency, along with the Bloombergistas that nurture it, are a top-down kind of crowd who need to hear the genuine voice of grass roots communities-and not the phony astro-turf chorus from groups, like Claire Shulman's LDC, that are funded straight out of city hall.