Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What are DOT & EDC hiding?

From the Neighborhood Retail Alliance:

In a lengthy piece on the Huffington Post, David Vines examines the proposed project, and some of the key issues that continue to vex the progress of the development:

"Willets Point sprawls across sixty-two acres between the Flushing River and the New York Mets' Citi Field in Queens. It is filled almost exclusively with small auto repair shops and junkyards--although it would be excusable for one to mistake the entire area for a junkyard. Almost all of the shops in Willets Point are family owned. There is not an AutoZone in sight...In May of 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan for urban renewal in Willets Point. Two years later, the New York City Economic Development Corporation announced that it would invest $100 million into infrastructure projects in Queens, including development in Willets Point. The NYCEDC aims to create more than 5,300 permanent jobs and 18,000 construction jobs with this project."

Vines goes on to cite our critique of the process: ""Any time you have eminent domain on the table, you're really negotiating with a gun to your head," says Richard Lipsky. Lipsky is a lobbyist for Willets Point United and the spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, where he fights for small businesses and against large-scale developments in New York. "The Willets Point businesses don't deserve to be thrown out on their behinds in a process that has been corrupted by political favoritism and the type of shenanigans that we've seen," Lipsky claims."

We were, of course, referring to the situation involving the phony Claire Shulman-led not-for-profit-and just where does that Cuomo investigation into the shenannigans stand today? Shulman, for her part, continues to lobby illegally while the AG drags his feet (while movinbg full speed ahead it seems in the case of Pedro Espada). As we told Vines: "The "shenanigans" of which he speaks involve the Flushing-Willets Point-Corona LDC (Local Development Corporation) whose acting President and CEO, Claire Shulman, registered her corporation with the IRS as one prohibited from lobbying. After Willets Point business owners complained, she was fined a record $59,000 last July for failing to register as a lobbyist."

The political weight behind this project may be weighing heavily on the AG's mind-and our dealings with the NYSDOT underscores this since the agency has been getting real skittish about meeting with us to discuss the inadequacy of the EDC-sponsored traffic study for ramps that are proposed off of ther Van Wyck (ramps that are, according to the original EIS, essential for the project to go forward). DOT has been trying to whittle down who should attend our meeting for Friday-after it was cancelled last week because the agency didn't want reps from various state senate offices to attend.

In our view, this means that the folks at EDC are throwing their weight around-trying to dictate who can, or cannot, come to a meeting. Which is truly curious since the meeting was requested by Willets Point United and it was DOT that decided to bring EDC into the picture. The cancellation of last week's meeting was based it appears on the fact that DOT was concerned that it was becoming too political! As if the presence of EDC represented only good government and the public interest.

You have to wonder about the government being offended by the presence of other members of the government at a meeting to discuss a public project...