WILLETS POINT SUBCOMMITTEE MEETING REVEALS ENVIRONMENTAL CONTAMINATION AT WILLETS POINT NOT AS DIRE AS CITY CLAIMS
At the Willets Point Land Use Subcommittee Planning, Dispositions and Concessions hearing yesterday, Council Members grilled officials from the Deputy Mayor Robert Leiber and Seth Pinsky, President of the NYC Economic Development Corporation on topics including the use of eminent domain to seize land and raised serious questions about the City's claim that the site is a toxic wasteland and all businesses need to be removed in order to remediate the area.
"The city's own studies have failed to detect the terrible contamination they claim is present in Willets Point. There are official federal and state processes for identifying the most contaminated sites and those processes have never shown that Willets Point is contaminated at even a fraction of the levels that would warrant designation," said Michael Gerrard, noted environmental attorney. "The only times the government tears down communities because of contamination is when there is a horrible chemical legacy such as at Love Canal. The key point here is that of if Willets Point had that kind of legacy, the city would never want to take title to it because of the liability it would be assuming."
The EDC today announced 3 additional deals to relocate businesses in Willets Point, bringing the total number of deals to 8 out of the total 260 businesses in the area. Based on this low number of negotiated deals, the City's plan currently appears to rely significantly on the use of eminent domain to take private property for its development plan, raising question from several Council Members. Council Member John Liu stated, "Seizing 90% of the land would be wrong and inexcusable, and we cannot, in good conscience, support a plan that amounts to that."
Council Member Vicent Ignizio stated his belief that the use of eminent domain to take people's land to give to a private developer was "fundamentally wrong."
Council Members also questioned the spending of billions of dollars 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.
Also at issue was the fact that 1,700 above-average wage jobs would be lost during an economic recession if the city council were to vote in favor of the redevelopment plan.
Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez said, "Shame on the City of New York! The plan just doesn't make sense. Don't we need to protect manufacturing jobs and blue collar jobs?"