Saturday, July 26, 2008

CB7 board member speaks out on Willets Point

Dear Editor:

On June 30, Community Board 7 voted 21 in favor and 15 against the city proposal to take over Willets Point and sell it to a developer to build 5,500 housing units, an 850-seat school, a convention center, a hotel and several retail stores. The city made a good case showing their PowerPoint slide show of what their proposed development plan was all about. A sticking point for most of those voting "No" that night was the city’s use of eminent domain to seize properties. It was individual rights verses the city’s rights. Individual rights lost that night.

The use of eminent domain in the famous Kelo case that made it to the Supreme Court sent shock waves to private property owners nationwide. In Kelo, the city of New London, Connecticut was having dire financial troubles so they thought that taking over the dilapidated Trumbull waterfront area and selling it to a developer to build a mixed-use waterfront would be the answer. Pfizer was building a research facility nearby and it was thought this plan would improve the area. The city purchased 100 or 115 lots from willing sellers on this 90-acre site, but 15 chose not to sell. Nine property owners became the petitioners in this case; Susette Kelo being the lead plaintiff. The city’s development corporation acted to condemn the 15-holdout properties, so they could use eminent domain to seize them.

The case was decided on June 23, 2005, and Kelo lost in a 5-4 decision. Public opinion polls online found that 93 percent disagreed with the ruling. New London residents formed a political party, and gained two seats in the City Council to try to rectify the Trumbull takings. The dissenters across the country included the AARP, NAACP, the Libertarian Party, and the Institute for Justice. The ruling shocked most of Congress. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced legislation to protect homes and businesses from such action. By July of 2007, 42 states had enacted some sort of reform legislation that was a direct result of the Kelo decision.

So what’s the new development in Trumbull like today? There is no development. Kelo raised some money and has just moved her entire house to another location. The selected developer is having financial problems, and is considered in default. The area sits.

The Willets Point case is our Kelo case. The city doesn’t own one inch of Willets Point and only has commitments from two owners. However, there is a hardcore element of owners that don’t want to sell. The city neglected Willets Point for over 50 years, by not giving them the infrastructure they deserved like lights, sewers and good paved streets. Now they want to take it over because the area is “blighted.” The word blighted is a conditional word used by the city so they can condemn those properties and proceed with eminent domain.

What became crystal clear at the C.B. 7 meeting that night was that the city does not need a majority number of sellers before they can proceed with condemnation and eminent domain. They don’t need 75 percent, 51 percent, or even 5 percent. They can just take the owners in a room one at a time and make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Some areas in our city are just meant to be manufacturing areas. Willets Point is one of them. This area, by design, is meant to be a low traffic and low-use area. Changing the zoning to a mixed-use zone won’t solve the problems there. Willets Point is an isolated area, restricted by Northern Boulevard, the Grand Central Parkway, Roosevelt Avenue and College Point Boulevard. A new ramp proposed by the city on the Van Wyck is not going to solve the traffic congestion there. It never will. The whole area has to be drastically reconfigured, if it can be.

Downtown Flushing is already overstressed without Willets Point. The new Muss development nearby will consist of 6 towers, and 1,400 apartments. They will exit on College Point Boulevard. Numerous other as-of-right buildings are being constructed all over Flushing right now. Drive down there one night and take a look.

The No. 7 subway line, according to the MTA, is at maximum capacity. The LIRR is near capacity during peak hours. A new bus line or two will provide very little relief forthis area. In addition, huge numbers of cars clog the area on ballgame nights, or when the National Tennis Center is in use. They all use the same access roads.

Forced relocation of businesses rarely work. It is questionable whether many of those 250 businesses and 1,300 workers would survive the relocation shakeup. Those businesses have managed to survive there in spite of the fact that the city collected their tax dollars and then neglected them for 50 years. Maybe some are tough enough to make the transition.

The community board is only advisory. The Borough President will most likely rubber stamp the project. Thirty New York City Council members say this is a flawed plan. A lawsuit filed by the owners of businesses in Willets Point is also hitting court dates. The fight is far from being over.

Tyler Cassell, member
Community Board 7 - Flushing


Anonymous said...

I really hope you guys can save your businesses.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah, NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY, blah blah. It is ridiculous how many false statements are in this letter. The area is a blighted mess, and there is zero chance the area would sit undeveloped if the city's plan is put into place. This isn't some isolated area! That is a joke of a statement! It is right next to the new Mets Stadium, the USTA, the subway, the LIRR and major highways. More and more businesses will voluntarily sell and the few holdouts looking to squeeze big paydays aren't going to be able to selfishly block a great development that would benefit the entire community.

Anonymous said...

evan your up early this morning what happened mommy didn,t give you your bottle? being greedy are you kidding me ? the city has neglected these people for 50 years & spent not a penny on anything to fix or upgrade anything ! do you deny this? garbage breeds garbage and the city know this thats why they let this area deteriorate like this the last 30 years. claire shulman and donald manes both told the willets point boys we will never give you anything we have better plans for willets point, and helen marshall continued the neglect . do yourself a favor and spend 13.00$$ and buy the book goverment pirates and take time to read it then maybe before you shoot your mouths off you will then make some sence. being greedy no way ! getting what your entitled too yes. we all know what land and buildings and moving costs go for right? you can reserch it every day. collage pt blvd 500$$ a foot asoria blvd 400$ a foot now willets point with its great location 200$ a foot now don't even say it has to be cleaned up . there has been 250,000,000 million dollars collected in real estate taxes over 30 years and nothing done, the city created the mess now let them clean it up. mommys calling evan time to dance with the manes mama's

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

"More and more businesses will voluntarily sell and the few holdouts looking to squeeze big paydays aren't going to be able to selfishly block a great development that would benefit the entire community."

Hey, moron, where did the "blight" come from?

If Evan gets his way, and Commissar Death and Taxes actually steal this property, what will he argue when, on Round Two of this property theft, the next Commissar, who has his own favorites, wants the newly developed land for his own developer cronies and retirement financing?

Exactly what will be the benefits to the entire community?

Oh, I see. The entire DEVELOPMENT community. No benefits to the taxpaying community. Screw the taxpayers anyway. Aside from picking up after the politicians' poop, what is any taxpayer good for?

Anonymous said...

Whomever.."anonymous" with the blah blah blah intro is, I would suggest that the letter written by Tyler Cassell may be the most cogent and well written piece on the subject. You (anonymous) can say it is frought with inconsistency, but in your heart you know he's right. And what might YOUR agenda be? While we all would like pretty things and wonderful views, the world doesnt work that way. Why discriminate against the people that need the services Willets Point offers. We live in a 'supply and demand' world. The people of Jackson Heights, Corona, Flushing, Astoria, Elmhurst, College Point, Bayside, Whitestone et al 'demand' the services and Willets Point 'supplies' them!

Anonymous said...

yes supply and demand!! claire & helen's supply of $$ is running out so they demand willets point be stolen to insure the big payday will come

Anonymous said...

Tyler speaks the truth while Chuck speaks with forked tongue!

No wonder those two are at odds.

CB#7 needs a good enema!

Anonymous said...

Maybe candidate Peter Koo can displace incumbent bitch Toby in the next election!

We need to see an end to that
hand-me-down Stavisky dynasty!

Then Evan will be out in the cold without his "ninnie-bottle"
of warm milk!

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you Tyler Cassell.

This city has neglected!...How true. When your elected officials mismanage your government assets and revenues, and the community you live in, they cannot be allowed to solve the problems that they've created, by seizing your land for so-called economic development, they are now more then just innocent and unaccountable witnesses.
I have a Video on my side bar Willets Point - Behind the Curbline Tells the story.