Thursday, February 03, 2011

EDC Crashes on the Off Ramp at Willets Point

According to the WSJ, NYC EDC is preparing to embark on an eminent domain proceeding that will begin the process of absconding with the property that scores of landowners at the Iron Triangle would like to keep as their own: "Seeking to kick-start a massive Queens real-estate development project conceived in the boom years, the Bloomberg administration is moving to seize a portion of the site from private property owners. Next week, the city plans to initiate the eminent-domain process on holdout owners who own property in the first 20-acre phase of the 62-acre project. The city also is planning to solicit bids from developers in the spring, according to city officials."

Talk about putting the cart before the horse! What EDC is trying to do here is to make an end run of the crucial approval process for ramps off of the Van Wyck-ramps that it has said are the linchpin of the development's viability: "Opponents of the project have argued that the city isn't permitted to construct entrance ramps to the Van Wyck Expressway nearby that are called for as part of the project. Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who represents business owners at the site, says that the eminent domain action was "an absolute disgrace."

EDC's response? "Mr. Pinsky said the city's position is that it isn't required to build the ramps—which would mitigate traffic congestion on the local streets—until later phases of the project." Hold on a second!

If the ramps are essential and their approval is in doubt, how can the city proceed? What EDC is trying to do-emulating the underhanded tactics of the grasping Robert Moses-is to make the project a fait accompli; so the ramps, however flawed and unable to really mitigate the massive traffic influx, become necessary to approve just to avoid a calamity of an even greater magnitude.

But the egregiousness of EDC's actions doesn't stop with the ramp detour. Put simply, the city is broke-tapioca city-and doesn't have the funds and can't possibly justify this land grab under the current economic conditions. As we told the Journal: "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."

And the Journal underscores our point-and adds a few of its own: "Success is by no means assured, given that the site is far from Manhattan and it requires extensive infrastructure work and a cleanup from years of industrial use. Among other things, the site needs to be raised by as much as 7 feet to meet flood-plain requirements. Further, during a contentious fight for approval with the City Council, the Bloomberg administration agreed to a number of community givebacks that would likely inhibit developer interest, such as a requirement to reserve 35% of the housing for low- to middle-income residents."

This, friends, is pure subterfuge-and the duplicity is breathtaking. The city council has promised an oversight hearing and it needs to come soon before these malfeasant purse snatchers  at EDC run amok. Nothing should be permitted until the ramps have been properly evaluated and approved-a bridge too far in our view. If nothing else motivates the council it should be the obscene amount of speculative funds that EDC wants to allocate for Bloomberg's field of bad dreams: "

The Willets Point project has been cut down into what EDC feels are more manageable smaller slices-but it is the over all massive negative impact that remains, and this can't be camouflaged by EDC's piecemeal approach. As Governor Al Smith would have said, "No matter how you slice it, it is still baloney."