Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why the hell should taxpayers foot the bill for the Wilpons' highway ramps?

From Crain's:

Two days before the New York City Council is set to issue a preliminary but critical verdict on a $3 billion plan to build a huge retail complex at Willets Point, Queens, local officials have raised the ante. They have asked for the city to guarantee it will pay $70 million for traffic ramps leading into the development, which will ultimately include hotel and residential space, from the Van Wyck Expressway.

On Wednesday, two City Council subcommittees are set to vote on the plan, one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's biggest economic development projects. His administration has already spent more than five years and millions of dollars putting it together. From the subcommittees, the plan will go in front of the full City Council as early as next week for a final vote. Usually, the wider Council votes in line with the decisions of its subsidiary committees.

The city has previously pledged to pay for the ramps, but the funds have not yet been allocated to the project in the city's capital budget. The Council, including Councilwoman Julissa Ferraras, whose district encompasses Willets Point and who is negotiating with the city, is asking that the ramps be woven into a deal the city arranged last year with the massive project's developers, The Related Cos. and Sterling Equities.

In response, Willets Point United has issued an open letter to the Council Members:

Apparently, you are DISREGARDING a primary objection of the community to the entire proposed project: the 1.4 million square foot shopping mall that would be built on 30+ acres of Queens parkland. Opposition to that mall on public parkland includes the Queens Civic Congress, which consists of 100+ civic associations throughout Queens; the Roosevelt Avenue Community Alliance, which recognizes that a mall at that location will destroy and displace numerous family-run businesses in Corona and Jackson Heights; and Queens Community Board 3, which voted 30-1 to DENY this application in part because CB3 opposes the mall on parkland; among many other groups that are opposed because of the MALL.

Regardless of whether or not the City provides $70 million for highway ramps, the community DOES NOT WANT THE PROJECT, because of the mall on parkland. Therefore, if you respect the will of the people, you will vote "NO".

But even if you succeed in obtaining an ironclad guarantee from the City of $70 million for highway ramps – and we don't believe an ironclad guarantee is possible now – that alone still does NOTHING to guarantee the housing and affordable housing, which a large sector of project opponents wants to see built. That's because regardless of the availability of $70 million, the project contract between Sterling/Related and NYCEDC still allows Sterling/Related to pay a cost-of-doing-business penalty of $35 million (in 2025), and build NO housing. Moreover, simply setting aside $70 million for highway ramps does not alter the text of the contract which states: "For the avoidance of doubt, in no event shall EDC or the City be required to construct the Ramps as part of the Development." [Contract Section 3.3.]

It's quite sad that Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is at the mercy of a bunch of Machine hacks...one of which is soon retiring from the Council (and likely will become a deputy BP), one of which is running for Speaker and the third who has no problem shortchanging her community in order to advance her political career.

Tweeders, all.


Ron S said...

Is there an actual legal challenge to the use of parkland for commercial development, or just community opposition?

Anonymous said...

Why should tax payers foot the bill for anything?

Anonymous said...

It will be a disgrace if this land grab passes. Give Willet Points/the Iron Triangle the paved roads & sewers it needs and let these thriving businesses be.

Anonymous said...

We New Yorkers want to pay for the ramps, Fred Wilpon is our hero as are all the multi-millionaire Mets, which is America's team!

Anonymous said...

Ron S.:

In the event of an approval by the Council, there will be a legal challenge to the use of the parkland for commercial purposes.

At the suggestion of several Council members, Willets Point United has demanded that the City Council's Office of the General Counsel prepare a legal opinion concerning the legality of the proposed use, and furnish the opinion to all Council members prior to their consideration of the matter. Office of General Counsel has not responded to that request. Calls to Council members' offices to find out if any legal opinion was issued have not been returned. Will will get to the bottom of it, as we have with everything else.