Friday, February 04, 2011

Economic Deception Corporation

Yesterday we commented on the duplicity of EDC in regards to the development of Willets Point-and its decision to go forward with condemnation without any developer having been selected: "The city is going ahead with a project that no one knows what it will cost, with a developer that no one knows who it will be, and with ramps that no one knows whether they can be built," Mr. Lipsky says."

This folks, is what is known as speculative condemnation. As we said last year: "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."

Not really knowing anything about the eventual use of the property also makes the entire "analysis" of the proposed Van Wyck ramps a surreal exercise: "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?"

But even so, EDC is taking no chances, and is looking to do an end run of the entire ramp issue-something that contradicts everything it told the court when it defended itself against Willets Point United's claims that the original EIS was flawed because the ramps were never even considered. But consider what the original EIS actually has said about this matter: "The City will not take possession of property acquired by eminent domain before the NEPA process is complete and the ramps are approved." -- Willets Point FGEIS, Chapter 29, General Comments, Response G-8, September 12, 2008." (NEPA refers to the federal environmental review)

Which turns Pinsky into Pinocchio, doesn't it? But that's not all. Consider the assertions of former Deputy Mayor (ach du) Lieber: "The City will not acquire title to any property through Article 4 of the Eminent Domain Procedure Law (“EDPL”) until after ramps for the Van Wyck Expressway are approved by FHWA." -- Affidavit of Robert Lieber, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, June 29, 2009, filed with Supreme Court of the State of New York (WPU's Article 78 case)."

This is turning into a liars' choir. And consider the comments of Judge Madden, the jurist who heard the original Article 78 case, about the city and the ramps: "At oral argument [for WPU's Article 78], counsel for respondent [City] stated that if the ramps are not approved, the respondents cannot 'proceed with the plan as conceived and approved.' Transcript at 33. For the purposes of this review, this court assumes that if the ramps are not approved, additional review under SEQRA will be required."

But EDC has the chutzpah-probably because of its fears that the ramps might be disapproved-to try to develop Willets Point like the Cadillac in the old Johnny Cash song-"one piece at a time." But that brings us to the question of cost. With the city broke and on the verge of massive layoffs, by what right does the mayor continue to pursue this speculative and costly-to the tune of multiple billions of dollars-field of bad dreams?

WPU has posted the following statement on its website that goes to the heart of the EDC lying and scheming: "Pinsky, in his haste to condemn, apparently has forgotten one minor detail – that even if the City attempts to condemn our property, the City cannot take title or possession of it unless the proposed Van Wyck Expressway ramps are first approved. With no such approval on the books (and legal challenges ahead, in the event there would be such an approval), any condemnation will be purely speculative – and we understand that courts have not permitted that."

But with the city council in the middle of a serious Walmart inquiry-one that is made more compelling because the legislature failed to put restrictions on the Gateway Mall II site that is rumored to be a future home for the Walmonster-it is important to keep in mind the dangers of approving development with no strings attached. If that is done-and a case can be made that Flushing Commons is another example of this-than the developer has a clear field for doing whatever it feels is right;  and the privileged developer can become a Trojan Horse for Walmart.

Willets Point is the most egregious example of this pig in a poking of the citizens-made more so by the outrageous price tag that the development bears. That EDC is trying to proceed in a manner that it told the court it wouldn't do, only underscores the complete lack of honesty and integrity in an agency that should be better known as the Economic Deception Corporation.