Sunday, July 13, 2008
Hiram's problems with Willets Point plan
A majority of the Council, led by local Councilman Hiram Monserrate, publicly opposed the city's move to start the rezoning process three months ago. And while the Bloomberg administration has won some victories recently--the community board endorsed the plan; the city has reached acquisition deals with three property owners; and organized labor now supports the project--Mr. Monserrate and others still express clear opposition to the project as currently planned.
* Eminent Domain--Mr. Monserrate said he wants an assurance that the city will not engage in the "wholesale use of eminent domain" in the project. More land deals need to be made or the city needs to come up with some other way of committing to a limited use of eminent domain before the Council votes on the project, he said. "I am not saying that some eminent domain can't be used--I think that there's a use," he said.
* Housing--Mr. Monserrate wants far more of a commitment to below-market-rate housing. The Bloomberg administration has thus far pledged that 20 percent of the units will be below-market rate; affordable housing groups want 60 percent. Agreements on housing usually come late in the approval process, perhaps just before a vote. "The number has to be dramatically higher," Mr. Monserrate said. "Eighty-twenty is unacceptable. ... Come back with a number that's real, and not a negotiating ploy that's an insult."
* Developer Approval--The plan currently calls for the city first to rezone the land with Council approval and then select a developer (the city believes it has to go this route to comply with eminent domain law). Mr. Monserrate and others, including the Land Use Committee's chairwoman, Melinda Katz, have expressed concerns with this structure. (The Council often wrests concessions from a developer, and without a second approval round, would be unable to have much say in the final plan.) "It has to come back to the Council," he said. "We are the check and balance system in city government."
At Willets Point, Unusual Uncertainty Over Political Path Ahead
Photo: Business owners from the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA) and over 150 of their supporters and workers rallied in front of the Queens Borough President's office prior to the Land Use Public Hearing where the City's redevelopment plan for Willets Point was reviewed for recommendation on July 10, 2008. Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer joined Council Members Hiram Monserrate and Tony Avella to support Willets Point business owners fighting to protect their private property from an unprecedented and potentially illegal land grab by the Bloomberg Administration.