Friday, October 17, 2008
Willets Point City Council hearing today
Willets Point Business Owners Fight City Plan to Seize Private Property
Urge City Council to Reject Reckless Plan
(New York, NY) October 17, 2008 – Members of the Willets Points Industry & Realty Association (WPIRA) today called on the City Council to reject the Bloomberg Administration's reckless plan to spend more than $1 billion of taxpayer money to seize their private property through a massive abuse of eminent domain and hand it over to a politically-connected developer, while destroying thousands of jobs in the process.
The WPIRA, which represents more than 50 percent of the privately held land that the administration wants to seize, staged a truck rally on Friday to highlight its opposition prior to the Land Use Subcommittee Planning, Dispositions and Concessions hearing on the controversial Willets Point plan. More than a dozen trucks from member businesses circled City Hall to proclaim their opposition to the city's seizure plan.
Jack Bono, owner of Bono Sawdust Supply, said, "I served my country in the armed forces during the Vietnam War and I now find myself waging a personal battle to prevent my business and land from being seized by eminent domain, which would enable a private developer to steal my family's legacy and profit handsomely. The use of eminent domain in this instance is unjustified and my family and I intend to continue this battle until we win. It is our ardent hope that the Council Members will support the businesses of Willets Point and will vote NO to Mayor Bloomberg's plan to seize my land and my business."
The City's plan currently appears to rely significantly on the use of eminent domain to take private property for its foolhardy development plan, raising concerns from Council Member Hiram Monserrate and other members of the City Council.
More than 30 members have voiced opposition to the land grab, and as recently as Oct. 7, Councilman John Liu in a letter to Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, said, "Good public policy sometimes necessitates invoking eminent domain to make progress. Coming to agreement for the acquisition of 90% of the land for this redevelopment and condemning the remaining holdouts probably makes sense. Seizing 90% of the land would be wrong and inexcusable, and I cannot in good conscience support a plan that amounts to that."
The abuse of eminent domain is just one area of concern, which will require a massive infusion of taxpayer money at a time that the city is looking to cut spending for education, public safety and environmental protection, while raising property taxes and personal income taxes.
In addition, noted environmental lawyer Michael Gerrard offered a compelling critique of the city's Final Environmental Impact Statement, which fails to address many of fatal flaws in the plan or support the city's case for seizing private property through eminent domain.
Gerrard's analysis found the city had failed to provide any meaningful evidence that the soil contamination in the area is so significant as to warrant a city takeover of the property and failed to adequately address problems with the massive increase in traffic jams that would result from the City plan, while attempting to duck a host of issues related to the cost and timing of the project.
"The City is adopting a 'we must destroy the community in order to save it' approach. This is both unprecedented and unwarranted," Gerrard said in his written testimony. Gerrard's testimony is available at the WPIRA's website,