Letter to the editor (Queens Courier):
The refusal of The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and its president, Robert Lieber, to select a developer and to make public the specific details of the Willets Point proposal, well in advance of any ULURP process, is an example of bureaucratic arrogance, indifference to the public’s interests, and suggests one should question the credibility of anything he says. (Willets Point hearing raises concerns - The Queens Courier, December 6-12). If Lieber wants to redeem any credibility, he should well in advance of any ULURP process publicly answer the following:
l. The name of the developer, and if there isn’t one now, why can’t there be a hold on the proposal until there is one?
2. Of the purported 5,000 housing units, how many will be luxury, middle class, low rent and subsidized housing?
3. Given the fact that the taxpayers of this city and state are committed to spending $1.4 billion and possibly, close to $2 billion to enlarge the Javits Convention Center, what is the purpose of a 400,000 square foot convention center in Willets Point? Moreover, while they are at it, is EDC familiar with an article that appeared in the Metro Section of The New York Times on January 18, 2005 citing a Brookings Institution report finding there exists a glut in convention space throughout the country. Included in that report was the following: “In an environment where every major center around the country is sharply reducing rental rates or giving space away and throwing in incentives, the likelihood of a (center) succeeding is remarkably dim.”
If I were to describe a convention center in Willets Point as being a foolish idea, I could be accused of being too generous.
4. In the Flushing and LaGuardia Airport area, there exist many hotels. What is the point of a 700-room hotel?
5. How much money directly and indirectly will the taxpayers of this city and state contribute to the overall cost of the proposed development and include in that figure inflation and cost over runs?
6. Given the fact there are about 225 businesses in the area with about 1,300 workers currently employed, making it an economically viable area, what is the legal basis of threat to utilize eminent domain?
7. Why would upscale retail shops serve any greater public need and interest than the businesses currently there?
8. Since the proposal would require the city to install streets and sewers, something they should have done years ago, why can’t that be done and the current businesses remain?
9. Are we dealing with a legitimate public need, or is this a public rip off on a grand scale?
Benjamin M. Haber