Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where There's a Wilpon...There's No Way

The Wilpons have been floating the idea that they would like to bring the NY Islander hockey team to Willets Point. As the NY Times reports: "Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, said he talked to the Islanders’ owner, Charles Wang, about building an arena near Citi Field and possibly buying the money-losing Islanders. “We’ve had discussions with the Islanders — in addition to those we’ve had with Major League Soccer — about building a sports/entertainment facility near Citi Field,” the Mets said in a statement."

Well in our view the idea is totally nuts-and would likely necessitate an entirely new environmental review-that is, if the city even is able to use eminent domain to evict the 60 or so businesses that are resisting selling their property. Or get state and federal approval for the needed Van Wyck ramps-all of which isn't even alluded to min the Times article.

The mayor doesn't bother with any of those sticky details-as long as he can throw little guys off of their own land he is one happy billionaire. As he told NY1: "Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he has not talked to the Mets' owners about the idea but said he is in favor of the move. "I don't know whether it's just the owner of the team negotiating, using us as a negotiating ploy out on Long Island. I'd love to have more teams move here," said the mayor."

And the mayor's not real concerned that the economics of sports teams militates against this kind of sleight of hand-as we have already pointed out: "But has anyone examined the economic benefits of throwing out productive businesses from Willets Point in exchange for a hockey team? Sports teams are generally poor generators of economic development, and in Brooklyn-where nothing quite like the economic activity characteristic of WP exists-a stand alone basketball team couldn't get support for a substantial commitment of public dollars."

Still, all of the speculation underscores just why the contemplation of using, "speculative condemnation," at Willets Point is such a bad idea-because the eventual use could turn out to be anything. As the Times points out: "Building an arena — or a soccer stadium — would mean eliminating parking spaces and erecting garages. Such a facility is not part of the city’s plan to redevelop the nearby 62-acre Willets Point industrial property."

So, without a developer or a plan, the city council unwisely approved the Willets Point rezoning-a classic pig in a poke. But the hypothetical nature of the eventual final plan, makes the approval process for the Van Wyck ramps a kind of surreal exercise. After all, without any tangible plan, EDC is using the city's hypothetical plan to estimate traffic flow. What could be nuttier than that? And how does NYSDOT approve ramps based on numbers that are no more than blind man's darts?

The really funny thing here, is that the EDC ramp report based on hypothetical numbers doesn't even work. EDC can't even do a work of fiction that allows the reader to suspend disbelief. So good luck on this hockey team stuff, Mr. Wilpon. You'll have a better chance of enjoying your scotch on ice than the Islanders in Willets Point..

We'll give Willets Point United's Jerry Antonacci the last word: "They're taking my home. They're taking my business. They're taking everything I worked for," said Plainview resident Jerry Antonacci, who owns waste management company Crown Container. "If they want to bring the Islanders here, or anything else, they better schedule it for 2020 or 2025, because we're going to fight it. We're not going easy."