From the Gotham Gazette:
EDC also has ended up running some projects that haven't been able to find a home anywhere else in the city government. For example, it is in charge of four city markets, including the innovative and successful Essex Market on the Lower East Side and La Marqueta in East Harlem, which has yet to prove sustainable.
These potentially vital neighborhood markets, however, are dwarfed by the multiple mall and supermarket projects fostered and financed by the group, including what could become the city’s first Walmart. More small-scale local markets could help bring healthy, fresh food to every neighborhood, especially at a time of food-related epidemics such as obesity and diabetes. In short, EDC's approach to economic development seems to mirror the preferences of the larger businesses in the private sector and direct public funds in their direction.
Despite having one foot squarely in the private sector, EDC is considered the "lead agency" on just about every major development proposal. Even though it's not a city agency, it has become, in effect, the city’s most significant entity for land use planning.
While the New York City Planning Department boasts of having done more than 100 rezonings since 2002, these only change regulations, while EDC actually negotiates the deals with major developers that determine what gets built. EDC's planning is always limited to the individual project and does not necessarily extend to neighborhoods or the city as a whole. But neighborhood-level and citywide planning rarely occurs in this city. Unlike other major U.S. cities, New York has never had a comprehensive master plan except for a 1969 draft that never even received a hearing at the City Planning Commission. Although there have been some 100 community-based plans, only ten have been officially supported and adopted.
When it comes to buying and selling land for development, EDC plays a critical role, even though it usually has to work through the city agencies that have the legal authority to actually acquire and dispose of property. EDC tells the mayor’s office what land and other forms of subsidy the private corporations say they need, and the mayor can then direct appropriate city agencies to act. This means that EDC is in the pilot's seat when it comes to long-term planning.