The local papers weigh in today on the WPU lawsuits and the city's claim that ,voilà, there is no longer a need for those pesky ramps off of the Van Wyck. This is what lies at the heart of the lawsuit, and it is expected that the city is going to try to argue that these issues can be put off to a later date when the eminent domain question is litigated.
This shouldn't surprise anyone close to this controversy, since the last thing EDC wants is any close scrutiny of how it has handled the ramp approval process-preferring to kick the environmental can down the eminent domain road where court precedents make it the favorite. The Flushing Times reports:
"The motion filed Monday accuses the city of going back on a promise it made in court to receive approval for plans to build ramps onto the Van Wyck Expressway before moving forward with the eminent domain process. It suggests that in light of the city’s alleged reversal on the ramps issue, the court should reconsider its dismissal of Willets Point United’s case against the project.
“In view of the newly discovered evidence that the city is changing its plans and is reneging on its promises to the court, the court should vacate its prior order dismissing the Article 78 petition and petitioners should be allowed to reargue the case through use of the new evidence,” the motion states."
EDC makes the following risible case: "EDC President Seth Pinsky wrote in a recent blog post that he believes the city is not yet required to address the ramps issue. “Because our updated analysis shows that the size of the Phase I development does not create any new traffic impacts, we do not expect to build the ramps until the next phase of development,” he wrote. “However, we continue to work closely with regulatory agencies and remain confident that we will receive all necessary approvals for these planned ramps in the coming months.”
If that is so, why the rush to condemnation. Is that Pinsky's nose growing? The agency's, "updated analysis?" What's up with that?
All anyone has ever seen from EDC is corrupted data and, as we commented this morning, "Now clearly SDOT was fighting the idea of any independent review for its own institutional reasons-and that it was trying mightily to expedite the Van Wyck ramp approvals in order to avoid the federal bogeyman. That it has yet to do this-and that EDC is now trying the old end around ploy-dramatically underscores just how deficient the EDC traffic data submitted to SDOT actually was."
The reality is that a truly independent review of EDC's consultants on the ramps would leave the city with rotten egg on its face-hence the anticipated attempt by EDC to subsume this aspect of the challenge on safer eminent domain ground. Of course, the city also doesn't want to get into just how lacking in veracity it is.
As the Queens Chronicle reports: "Michael Gerrard, one of the WPU attorneys, said they were shocked that the city “went back on its promise that it would not condemn property without approval of the ramps.” The city says it has acquired nearly 90 percent of the property in Phase 1, with nine businesses refusing to sell. One of those owners is Jerry Antonacci, who runs Crown Containers and is a WPU leader. “The city has lied, connived and neglected for over 30 years and now they want to hang us for their failures,” Antonacci said."
The Queens Tribune gets to the core of the legal challenge: "The suit’s crux lies in the often ballyhooed ramps to be built off the Van Wyck Expressway, which the Federal Highway Administration has yet to approve. In oral arguments before the court during a prior lawsuit, the agency promised the redevelopment would not move forward until the ramps gained approval. The initial decision in the first case relied “in significant part on [the EDC’s] commitment to obtain necessary approvals for the proposed ramps” the current suit states. “At oral argument, counsel for respondents stated that if the ramps are not approved, the respondents cannot ‘proceed with the plan as conceived and approved.’”
On Monday WPU's Gerrard will be in court to hopefully get a restraining order on the city's condemnation effort. This is one project that would never be able to withstand an independent lie detector test.