Looks like the tide may be turning in our favor in the Willets Point saga. The NY Times printed an explosive expose on illegal lobbying by Claire Shulman, funded with taxpayer money by Mayor Bloomberg. From New York Paid to Lobby Itself, Group Claims, By RAY RIVERA, Published: August 20, 2009:
State law says local development corporations are not permitted to “influence legislation by propaganda or otherwise.” Ms. Shulman’s group eventually reported spending $450,000, roughly half its total budget, on lobbying, city records show.
Half the group’s revenues came from the Economic Development Corporation, which is also barred from lobbying. The other half came from corporate sponsors, including the Mets organization, which has long eyed the property, and several developers and construction firms that are expected to vie for lucrative redevelopment contracts when the city puts out requests for proposals in coming months.
Last November, the City Council voted 42 to 2 in favor of the plan, which authorizes the city to use eminent domain to remove the various auto repair shops and salvage yards that occupy the 62-acre portion of Queens. A group of business owners is suing to stop the city.
The group, known as Willets Point United, has asked Andrew M. Cuomo, the state attorney general, to investigate the organization’s lobbying efforts.
“They knew what they were doing,” said Gerald Antonacci, the leader of Willets Point United and the president of Crown Container, one of the area’s more than 250 companies that will be required to move when construction begins. “This was all planned out. They knew she was hiring lobbyists. This wasn’t a mistake.”
The attorney general’s office is reviewing the complaint. In recent months, the office has been looking into lobbying by local development corporations, and has identified a “small but not insignificant set” of groups that appear to be improperly lobbying, said a person briefed on the attorney general’s initial review.