Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Court Decision Maddening to City

As Crain's is reporting, EDC's efforts to make an end run of required ramp approvals from SDOT may have hit a giant pothole-and its bogus Phase I may be on the verge of being phased out:

"The city's bid to redevelop Willets Point, Queens, hit a pothole Tuesday when a judge ordered the Bloomberg administration to show why she shouldn't revoke the go-ahead she granted last summer. State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden had ruled that the project could proceed because the city promised not to condemn any land until it had approval for new Van Wyck Expressway ramps, which it had deemed essential to the project.

But when state and federal approval of the ramps proved elusive, the city split the project into two phases and moved ahead with condemnations, arguing that the ramps were not required for Phase I."

Judge Madden wasn't buying this mess: "But the administration failed to make that argument to the judge. According to Michael Gerrard, the attorney for Willets Point property owners who object to the city's plan, the judge signed an order directing the city to explain why her order dismissing his lawsuit should not be vacated."

Circling back to last year, you might recall that the city argued in sworn testimony that it wouldn't proceed with condemnation prior to ramp approval (the affidavit of Deputy Mayor Lieber).

In ruling for the city last year, Madden relied on the Lieber's representation-now proven to be of little truthful value. So, what could happen now is that the judge might just re-open WPU's environmental challenge: "City lawyers will prepare a brief, the property owners will write a response, and the judge will hear oral argument in open court July 20. Mr. Gerrard and his clients are asking that she reopen the case."

What is clear, however, is that EDC by looking to take a shortcut to condemnation may have simply cut off its nose to spite the judge's face. If so, the prospects of any successful development of Willets Point might have hit an even larger pothole than the ones found on all of the Willets Point streets that the city has never paved.