Friday, August 13, 2010

EDC You Later?

The NY Times Willets Point ramps report this morning has generated some snarky comments from some folks who wonder whether or not the project will ever even get off the ground. As Curbed speculates: "The state government doesn't have the best track record when it comes to overseeing major projects in New York City (can we get an amen, Brooklyn Bridge Park?), but even those jokesters up in Albany are having a laugh about the redevelopment of Willets Point. The first phase of the massive mixed-use makeover of Queens' chop shop capital is being held up by a lawsuit over highway exit ramps, and some business owners in the Iron Triangle are still vehemently opposed to the city buying or seizing their land."

Well, it's not really any lawsuit that's holding things up, but more so the incompetent technical work of the EDC consultants. And Curbed get a laugh out of NYSDOT's Peter King's wondering exactly when Willets Point will ever get built: "The Times reviewed hundreds of emails between city and state officials regarding the project, and here's a brief excerpt that's representative of the whole lot: "About a month later, after pointing out a mistake in a document that put the development’s completion date as 2107 instead of 2017, Peter King, a project manager for the state, wrote to a colleague, 'Perhaps that reference to 2107 may have been closer to the truth than anyone realizes.'" Not a bad strategy! By then we'll all have hoverboards and spaceships, giving the Willets Point business owners zero leverage in negotiations."

The Real Deal follows along these same lines-and picks up on the Times perspective: "For months, state officials have been privately questioning the safety, design and impact of highway ramps crucial to the $3 billion development of Willets Point in Queens, according to hundreds of e-mails that an opponent of the project fed to the New York Times. The state officials who have expressed concern are some of the same officials whose approval is needed for the project to move forward. "Unless the preparers of this report start accepting the idea that it is seriously flawed, we are going nowhere," wrote Michael Bergman, a structural engineer for the state's Department of Transportation Dec. 28, while reviewing the city's application."

And while Bergmann is our hero in this fiasco, it is interesting to point out that he seems to disappear from all the e-mail exchanges after the first of the year. But there's no mistaking the flawed nature of EDC's submission to the state-something that cries out for further review: "The ramps in question are supposed to connect Willets Point to the Van Wyck Expressway, but officials have repeatedly been frustrated by the city's inaccurate information and on the pressure it was placing on the state to finish its analysis quickly. Peter King, a state project manager, wrote to a colleague in January in response to a typo that stated the development's expected completion date was 2107 instead of 2017: "Perhaps that reference to 2107 may have been closer to the truth than anyone realizes."

King should hone his skepticism here, and foster his emergence as an enemy of shoddy workmanship. The fact remains, however, that this entire issue-and the review process itself-is begging to be removed from the parochial clutches of EDC and its flimflam consultant AKRF. If that happens, the economic development agency and its friends may just die from exposure.