Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Willets Point "Holdouts"

The NY Daily News reports on the EDC driven effort to jump start the Willets Point development project: "THE CITY'S attempt to create a blank canvas for its sweeping Willets Point mega-development is set to kick off this week. But holdout landlords and business owners in the gritty industrial zone are vowing not to go without a fight."

Of course, to describe the property owners as, "holdouts," is to view this controversy from the perspective of those who are doing the holdup-using an eminent domain gun at the heads of recalcitrant property owners as a means to, "negotiate." And how is it that folks can be characterized as holdouts if they have yet to be contacted by EDC? Let's refrain from using the language of the oppressor-it becomes an inappropriate defining moment.

Language is very important here-as should be the depiction of the total lack of good faith by the city's development agency in regards to the use of eminent domain: "EDC officials said they have reached a deal with nearly 90% of the landowners in the area designated for the first phase of the project. There are nine holdouts. "As we seek to reach agreements with the nine remaining businesses, we will also begin the legal process that gives us the option to condemn these properties if needed," said EDC spokeswoman Julie Wood.

The News fails to mention the fact that, at WPU's Friday press conference, it was clearly pointed out how EDC has gone back on its word about the use of eminent domain-before crucial ramps off of the Van Wyck are approved-and the ramps remain invisible to the News as well. But they shouldn't be, since EDC has labeled them the linchpin of the of the entire development scheme. Their evanescence-both in the story and in the EDC phony new development phase is all telling-as we have pointed out.

And, of course, it is not only the property owners that are impacted-hundreds of immigrant workers and their tenant business owners are faced with walking the plank-dependent only on the good will and good faith of an agency lacking in both qualities. As the Queens Courier reports-underscoring the issue here: "In addition to the scrap yards and auto body shops, Willets Point has several family-owned businesses which have been operated for many years. Ecuadorian-born Olger Rogel, manager of a local restaurant, noted, “I agree with the progress of the city to make the neighborhood look good, but if the businesses will be closed, there will be many without jobs, especially for the Hispanics.”“The city needs this area for the benefit of the community,” said Hector Ospina, 20-year owner of Colombia Auto Glass. “Many of us will be losing our jobs and the city has not found a space for us.”

But as far as EDC is concerned, condemn it must so it can gain momentum lost because of the delay over approval of those nettlesome ramps. This is the old end around play, and while deceit in strategic planning for success in football may be acceptable, the same should no be true for government. We'll give 78 year old Joe Ardizzone-the lone resident of the Iron Triangle-the last word: “Total horror,” said Ardizzone. “Total lack of democracy, every move the government is making is dictatorial.”