Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ends and Means at Willets Point

The Flushing Times has an editorial on Willets Point that wonders about the use of eminent domain: "The use of eminent at Willets Point may prove to be legal, but it is also chilling. Don’t get us wrong: At the moment Willets Point is an eyesore, a flooded-out junkyard. It detracts from the ballpark and other facilities in Flushing Meadows Corona Park and is crying out for massive redevelopment. For many reasons we hope that the project can move forward. But it is regrettable the city could not find some way to persuade the holdout property owners to relocate without resorting to eminent domain. It is also the case that many of the problems in Willets Point are the result of the city’s neglect. The roads filled with potholes caused by constant flooding are the city’s responsibility."

We're always a bit bemused by editorial writers who are "torn" about the basic unfairness of certain things-only to support their implementation. In the case of the Flushing Times, it seems that being torn is just a rhetorical device that doesn't signal any real misgivings about what the city is doing to property owners at the Iron Triangle. How could it when the paper never really bothers to dig below the surface, and is content with being fed and mislead by EDC press releases lacking any semblance of truth.

Yes it would be, "nice," if there was another way to,"persuade," the property owners to give up their land-and that goes double when the blight is city-caused. But the paper fails to point out-because it never bothered to ask the owners-that the absence of persuasion wasn't the only thing missing in this land grab. In fact, for over two and one half years many of the 52 remaining property holders have not ever been contacted by EDC to negotiate sales of their land-a gross violation of everything that the agency pledged at hearings on the project before the city council.

It is time for everyone, but particularly the city council that was flim flammed by EDC's misrepresentations in 2008, to take a second look at Willets Point through 2011 eyes-not only because of the current state of the city's collapsed finances; but also because of the egregious failures of EDC to comply with the key environmental provision needed to make the massive development work: approval of ramps off of the Van Wyck.

If we were the editorialists at the Flushing Times and we knew that the city's economic development agency had gone back on so many of its important promises to the city council-promises that were beguiling to the body and enticing to its support-we would not be making fatuous statements like this: "We find ourselves torn. We are enthusiastic about the redevelopment of Willets Point but unenthusiastic about the steps being taken to allow this to happen."

Given the behavior of EDC, and the fact that a massive deception has and continues to take place concerning the fundamental assurances offered by the agency to garner approval for Willets Point, it wouldn't be just the steps being taken that would upset us-it would be the entire development fiasco itself. It is up to the city council to shed some sunlight on the EDC bait and switch at Willets Point.