Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crain’s Corrects

In the Tuesday edition of the Crain’s Insider, the newsletter had alleged that the cause of Willets Point United lacked any community based support. After WPU contacted Crain’s, the following was reported: “Property owners fighting a proposed redevelopment in Willets Point dispute yesterday's Insider report that “no community groups stand against the project.” Six Queens groups sent letters in early 2010 objecting to elements of the development. They called for an independent review of the Van Wyck Expressway ramps proposed for the project. Several letters oppose the ramps and call for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain, which may be necessary to clear the project site.”

In addition, the newsletter had also alleged that no council member was supporting the property owners. Certainly, if CM Halloran’s comments at the eminent domain hearing from the other week, he most assuredly can be placed squarely in the corner of WPU in its effort. But what of the other elected officials?

It is quite true that Halloran, and to some extent CM Ferreras for the WP workers, has been a lone voice. But is this a result of the inability of the lobbyist? Or is it something other than that? After all, to see so many elected officials remain silent in the face of injustice is their shame, one that can’t be shared with anyone else.

Whither Claire?

Speaking of injustice, why is no one pursuing the “open” investigation of the former borough president? After all, it was the former Attorney General that allegedly opened it, but allowed it to languish all the way up and through the endorsement of Mayor Mike Bloomberg-and beyond into the new administration of AG Schneiderman.
The investigation of corruption apparently is a quite selective process. We read this morning that the new attorney general is on the corruption beat-going after one of his former state senate colleagues. As Daily Politics points out: “Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has slapped subpoenas on education outfits with ties to Queens state Sen. Shirley Huntley, the Daily News has learned. Our Ken Lovett brings us this exclusive report in today's editions: One subpoena seeking the nonprofit's paperwork went to Huntley's daughter, Pamela Corley, who heads the Parent Information Network, said a source familiar with the probe. A second went to Vanessa Sparks, president of the Parent Workshop, which Huntley created before becoming a senator, the source said.The subpoenas are said to seek information on how the groups used state grants.”

There is, however, no more obvious an illegality than the one committed by Claire Shulman-committed in the name of EDC as it happens. To review: Claire Shulman has admitted to the NY Times: "That was the whole idea. We lobbied the City for the City." (Rivera, Ray. 2009. New York Paid To Lobby Itself, Group Claims. New York Times, August 21, Sec. A.)

Mayor Bloomberg has admitted to the TimesLedger newspapers: "These groups [local development corporations] are designed to lobby. I don't know if they technically broke the law." (Duke, Nathan and Gustafson, Anna. 2009. Bloomberg defends Shulman in Willets Point flap, TimesLedger, August, 27.)

Notwithstanding the clear admissions of Shulman and Bloomberg: The attempt by Shulman's local development corporation ("LDC") to influence the City Council's legislative adoption of Resolutions approving the Willets Point development (including authorization to use eminent domain to acquire property) is contrary to both §1411 of the NYS Not-For-Profit Corporation Law under which all LDCs are organized as well as the Certificate of Incorporation of Shulman's LDC. NYCEDC is likewise an LDC which is subject to the absolute prohibition of attempting to influence legislation that is imposed by §1411, and that is also reiterated within NYCEDC's Certificate of Incorporation.

And there’s strong evidence that not only was Shulman was successful, but that she was the linchpin of the ULURP application being approved. Now, we can’t say for certain what would have happened if EDC hadn’t illegally hire her, but her impact was undeniable-as Juan Gonzales reported at the time.

Claire organized the unions to support the Willets Point development, and their support proved to be a turning point-something that then CM Monseratte has admitted. The bottom line here is that Shulman’s LDC was set up almost exclusively as a lobbying entity, and this crass violation of the law is being allowed to stand-although it could soon become an integral thread in upcoming lawsuits brought against the city.

However, it shouldn’t be up to small property owners like ourselves to bring this issue before the court. Our message to AG Schniederman is a simple one: Please enforce the law without fear or favor.