Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lawsuit Filed

As expected, WPU filed its lawsuit against the city for its bait and switch tactics over the formerly essential Van Wyck ramps. The NY Daily News has the story:

"Willets Point property and business owners filed a lawsuit yesterday accusing the city of beginning eminent domain proceedings before meeting key environmental mileposts.

It's the first of two legal salvos expected to be launched by Willets Point United in a bid to keep its land and businesses in the gritty industrial zone.

At the center of the suit, filed in Queens Supreme Court, are traffic ramps that were to be built off the Van Wyck Expressway. The ramps were supposed to ease traffic congestion expected with the sweeping redevelopment of the so-called Iron Triangle, near Citi Field."

We say formerly essentially because EDC had argued to anyone who would listen-and in a sworn court affidavit-that the development could not proceed without the ramps to mitigate the traffic: "EDC officials said the first phase of the development would not require the ramps to be built. "We were shocked that the city went back on its promise to the court and to the community that it would not condemn property without approval of the ramps," said Michael Gerrard, one of the lawyers representing Willets Point United. "This project would generate a colossal amount of traffic, and there would be no place to go," he said."

Indeed it will, but the EDC sleight of hand known as a Technical Memo, is making the unsubstantiated case that Phase I will be hunky dory even without ramps-and wants everyone to simply take it at its word without any concomitant review. That calls for the suspension of a whole lot of disbelief.

The city for its part, however, remains confident: "Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for the EDC, said the city expects to win the legal challenge."We feel confident that we are on strong legal footing and look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible so that this project can move forward without further delays," Wood said."

We wonder how strong that footing is-given the public record and the published reports over EDC and NYC DOT's frustration over the regulatory delay on the approval of the formerly essential ramps: "Jerry Antonacci, a property owner and leader of Willets Point United, said the city must follow protocol."They still have to jump through their hoops, and they don't want to do it. If you need approval, you need approval," he said."

What this legal case will dramatize is the extent to which EDC has continued to pursue extra-legal methods in its pursuit of the Willets Point development. This is a Bloomberg legacy project, and some legacy it will be. Conceived in illegality through the hiring of Claire Shulman's LDC, this ends justifies the means agency now seeks to end run the regulations that it itself claimed were necessary preconditions for any eminent domain use.

We should conclude with the comments of Mayor Bloomberg when confronted by the exposure of the illegality of the Shulman hiring. In an interview with the Times Ledger, Emperor Bloomberg famously told his subjects: "These groups are designed to lobby,” Bloomberg continued. “I don’t know if they technically broke the law.”

That friends was the lie on which Mike Bloomberg wants to establish his legacy-and a fitting one it would be considering all of the other fables that have been propagated about his less than stellar accomplishments. But first he has to come through us. And like any good lead off hitter, WPU is going to prove to be one tough out.