Friday, February 18, 2011

Local Outrage at EDC Arrogance

The Queens Chronicle weighs in on the EDC eminent domain switcheroo-covering last week's presser out at Willets Point: "On one of the coldest days of winter, members of Willets Point United came out in full force Thursday, expressing their anger with Mayor Bloomberg over the city’s plan to begin eminent domain proceedings there. The rally was held at the Sunoco gas station at 127-48 Northern Blvd., which marks one of the borders of the city’s $3 billion mixed-use project for the area. Also in attendance at the protest were civic groups, workers and elected officials."

The Chronicle focuses in on a subject that EDC would rather avoid-those troublesome ramps off of the Van Wyck: "In order to accommodate the large amount of traffic, the city said it must build two ramps for the expressway before work can begin. The state and federal government must first approve the ramps, but that has not happened yet. However, the city still plans to proceed with the construction."

EDC, for its part, would have done well in the old Soviet Union-where the rewriting of history was done on a daily basis. Here's agency flack Julie Woods doing her realistic Pravda imitation: "Julie Wood, spokeswoman for the Economic Development Corp., said last week the project has evolved over the years and is now going to be done in phases and the first part does not require approval of the ramps."

That, of course, is a bold faced lie-and contradicts sworn court testimony from the former deputy mayor. Out to Lunch Lieber. State Senator Avella hones in on this outrage: "State Sen. Tony Avella, (D-Bayside) said he is displeased with the way the city is treating business owners in Willets Point. Avella, who has supported the WPU since the project was first announced, said it is the American dream to have the opportunity to work, own land and own a business, but the government is taking away the dream from these people. “Once again the EDC has lied,” Avella said, vowing, “Mike Bloomberg and the EDC, we’re gonna fight you. Why the City of New York refuses to listen to common sense is beyond me.”

Juniper Park's Robert Holden went even further: "Protester Robert Holden, the president of the Juniper Park Civic Association in Middle Village, claimed City Hall houses a “gangster government,” that buys elections, and that Mayor Bloomberg needs to be impeached. “They tell us one thing and do another thing,” Holden said."

What some folks tend to lose sight of is the many tenant businesses that will be displaced-and there is no plan to relocate them; another example of EDC duplicity. One of the tenant leaders spoke at the presser: "One person that the government’s eminent domain procedure will affect directly is Marco Neira, the president of the Willets Points Community of Defense. Neira, who has owned an auto repair shop in Willets Point for 22 years, said his life is being ripped out from underneath him. “We feel frustrated,” he said. “The city is lying to us.” He said he and members of Willets Point United are honest, hard-working people who pay taxes and have families, but the government is treating them like “criminals.”

Of course, EDC simply tries to ignore the ramp-ant dishonesty of its actions, but the statement of Ms. Woods lets the cat out of the bag: "The Bloomberg administration is committed to making considerable progress at Willets Point, transforming an area that generations have sought to change and improve into New York’s next great neighborhood. In 2011, we will reach several milestones, including the release of the RFP for the first stage of development, significant regulatory approvals and the beginning of construction of infrastructure that will link this isolated neighborhood to one of the most vibrant parts of Queens.”

Interpreted into English, what this means is that EDC-stymied by an inability to get the approvals for these ramps-is desperate to show progress this year. So desperate that it will violate sworn testimony and environmental protocols that the agency itself had put forth as essential for the development's ability to proceed. And if Woodsy the Owl is so confident about achieving, "significant regulatory approvals," this year, why not wait until you do before condemning property of small land owners?

Her prophecy about being able to start construction of linking infrastructure-if by that she means ramp-is hallucinatory. Don't be surprised if the courts throw this arrogant and lawless bunch back to square one. In a letter to the Ridgewood Ledger, the legendary Ben Haber nails the duplicity:

"An integral part of the Bloomberg administration’s misguided Willets Point project is the use of ramps to and from the Van Wyck Expressway to handle the expected huge increase of vehicular traffic the project will cause. Even without the project the Van Wyck and Grand Central Parkway are currently often clogged. The traffic issue as yet has not been resolved nor approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

Previously, Bloomberg officials have gone on record that no attempt to acquire Willets Point property through the eminent domain procedure law will be made until the Van Wyck ramps have been approved by the FHA. In the typical devious manner in which the Bloomberg administration has proceeded, notwithstanding that the ramp issue is still open, The Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 3 that Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp., threatened to begin condemnation of Willets Point properties last week. Whether this was a fact or just another attempt to intimidate the small business people in the area, I do not know, but clearly it does not comport with good government standards."
With the Bloombergistas, good government standards are an oxymoron.

As we told the Chronicle: "Richard Lipsky, the Willets Point United spokesman, said the development will destroy lives and businesses in the area. Lipsky claimed the city and Mayor Bloomberg have left the employers of Willets Point with only one choice, “my way or the highway.”  “Don’t lie to property owners,” he added. “The city doesn’t have money to spend on bad dreams. The city will never take property from the fat cats, only the skinny kittens.”

But, alas, when it comes to Willets Point, the dispossessed don't even get the highway-or the ramps that lead to it.