Wednesday, October 06, 2010

High Sierra

The Sierra Club has joined with the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling for an independent study of the Willets Point ramps. When we last left off, the revised ramp report and environmental assessment from EDC-via NYSDOT-was supposed to be oven ready shortly after Labor Day. With nothing yet forthcoming, it appears that the state agency is till having some nettlesome issues with the ramp application-a perfect time to agree with the two environmental groups that an independent second opinion is badly needed.

In its letter to DOT, the Sierra Club made this salient point: "While we take no position on the development itself, we are concerned about insuring that the review of the ramps-particularly because of the massive number of projected vehicle trips that the project will generate-is done in the most transparent and unbiased a manner as possible."

And the group went on to point out that the use of AKRF to evaluate the ramps raises real concerns about impartiality, "Our concerns are magnified by the fact that the consultant hired by EDC, AKRF, is also the contractor that New York State DOT uses to conduct third party reviews. However, because AKRF is the consultant on the ramp project, DOT decided not to utilize any outside vendor to review the traffic impacts of the proposed ramps. So for the Sierra Club, whose only concern is for the most accurate oversight possible, the relationship between AKRF and the state agency is a real cause for alarm."

But, as we have pointed out on innumerable occasions, it isn't only Willets Point that is a cause for alarm-a clear evaluation of the cumulative impact of scores of Queens projects needs to be done if the Bloombergistas are serious about air quality and sustainability: "
The Sierra Club is further concerned by the fact that the Willets Point ramps are designed to facilitate a 10 million square foot development that is just one of an additional 60 or 70 additional projects; projects that will amount to a total of 30 million new square feet of car dependent development in and around this area of Queens. Put simply, there is proposed-or already approved-a huge increase in vehicular traffic for which the current roads and highways are ill equipped to accommodate."

Which brings us to the charade of the mayor's PLaNYC 2030. You can't be promoting all of this auto and truck dependent development while, at the same time, claiming the mantle of Kermit the Mayor. But while the NRDC and the Sierra Club are alive to the mayor's rampant hypocrisy, the NY League of Conservation Voters-along with the Environmental Defense Fund-suffers from a Benjamin-induced lockjaw when it comes to taking any stand that exposes the mayor's double talk.

As far as the NYLCV is concerned it is, as the Marxists say, no accident. In May of this year the mayor was the League's keynote speaker-a reward for the group's supine response to the assault of the Bloomberg economic development team on the city's air quality-and we could find no public comment from League director Marcia Bystryn about the alarming DOH air quality study this past summer.

But the League has been played by Bloomberg for awhile, and it would be interesting for the press to track the money trail from the mayor's sources. This is still a, "not for nothing," city-and there are enough things that the Bloombergistas have done for an independent environmental group to criticize. And, of course the League's and EDF's complicity in the Willets Point development is a blatant signal that their speech isn't as free as it should be.

But silent complicity isn't Bystryn's style-and she told the Observer, after endorsing the mayor's third term last year, "that Bloomberg has "the most comprehensive sustainable agenda in the country." She praised his use of "strategies and metrics." Not sure what that babble means, but when it comes to Bloomnberg's metrics, we're sure that Bystryn really sizes up.

What this means for Queens County is that the environmental chorus has been muted in the face of a massive traffic influx courtesy of EDC and its Big Real Estate sycophancy. When the borough's elected officials-with a few notable exceptions-also remain quiescent it doesn't bode well for the environmental health of Queens residents.

We'll give the Sierra Club the last word on the impacts of the unsustainable Bloomberg development blueprint: "In the past NYSDOT has been blindsided by economic developments in NYC for which the agency was unprepared to deal with-developments that exacerbated the city’s air quality and gridlocked its roads and expressways. Now that it is aware of the potential impacts of the Willets Point project, and numerous additional projects, it is incumbent on DOT, as well as the federal overseers, to insure that the potential impacts of all this auto dependent development is accurately analyzed."