From the NY Times:
As the train crosses the Hackensack River, to the left lies what was supposed to be the EnCap project. Once frequent headline news, to judge by the game-day passengers, it has largely vanished from public memory.
This was to be one of the largest developments in the state’s history, entrusted by state and local governments to developers who had little track record and shaky financing. EnCap Holdings was supposed to turn 800 derelict acres, including several old dumps, into a resort and thousands of homes.
None of it happened. Instead, the developers made a series of missteps, ran out of money and, in 2008, filed for bankruptcy. All that remain are lawsuits, investigations and questions about where the money went and who will do the needed cleanup. State and local bodies sank hundreds of millions of dollars into the project; much has been repaid, but officials say some of it never will be.
Xanadu, now just called The Meadowlands, is the largest retail and entertainment complex in the country. After more than $2 billion spent, it is years behind schedule, and the owners say they need $875 million to complete it. It sits on state-owned land; the state has paid for transportation improvements to reach it; and Gov. Chris Christie wants the state to invest money to help finish it.
Sounds kind of like this:
Keep in mind here that Willets Point envisions 5,500 condos but, much as New London, in overly optimistic fashion, envisioned a mixed use development anchored by Pfizer, there are few guarantees that-after billions are spent-there will be a market for these residential units. And there is a real chance that, just like New London, the City of New York will be left holding the billion dollar bag for the cost of a white elephant that trampled on the property rights of little guy land owners.
This kind of cautionary tale is underscored by an article on the floundering Xanadu project in New Jersey in today's NY Times: "It wasn’t a pretty view on the 13-minute train ride Sunday from Secaucus to New Meadowlands Stadium — old landfills, mud flats, the garish bulk of the stalled Xanadu project. But it might as well have been paved with money. The 2.3-mile train line to the Meadowlands, opened last year, offers a unique tour of inflated and deflated dreams, poor decision-making and, most of all, enormous spending — a fair amount of it from taxpayers, and a fair amount that will never be recouped — in the inimitable New Jersey style."
All of this should give NYC officials pause, especially since the Willets Point scheme is being moved forward in a climate of sever fiscal austerity. So, while New Yorkers are being asked to do with less, Mike Bloomberg wants to spend billions on his own legacy project. In our view, the local council member and her colleagues should be calling for a moratorium on any Willets Point related expenses because not a single firehouse should be closed while EDC and the mayor continue to spend money like drunken stockbrokers on a speculative real estate venture.