Friday, April 1, 2011

Queens Trib on the Case

The Queens Tribune focuses attention on the WPU procedural victory in court this week: "A lawsuit aimed at stopping the planned redevelopment of Willets Point crossed its first procedural hurdle, as a State Supreme Court Judge ordered the NYC Economic Development Corp. to explain why the dismissal of an earlier lawsuit should not be overturned. The order, filed by Justice Joan Madden, came after the City began condemnation proceedings in a 20-acre Phase 1 area despite lacking an approved traffic ramp plan, as the agency had initially promised the court in a previous suit."

The ramps are, of course, front and center: "The suit challenges the recently-introduced phased-in procedure for the Iron Triangle's redevelopment, pointing out the gulf between the EDC's promises to the court in a previous suit and its subsequent actions. The current Article 78'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."

Promises, promises. Just like the city promised to finish those Bronx parks that are way behind schedule. Still, the ramp approval has proved to be problematic in spite of EDC's protestations to the court that a regulatory sign off is imminent. As for WPU we will be asking state and federal regulators to proceed with caution.

As we wrote to the new commissioner of SDOT: "The nature of Judge Madden’s Order to Show Cause to NYC is directed at having the city explain its change of course. If the judge finds that these explanations are lacking in merit, it is possible that she will re-open the Willets Point United Article 78 proceeding, a process that could lead to the court authorizing an entire new environmental review for the Willets Point development plan.

Given this possibility, and the import of the court’s review process on the behavior of NYC EDC, it would seem to us that NYSDOT should exercise even more caution in its regulatory review. If the court finds that the city’s actions have been untoward, it will most certainly cast a negative light on all of its behavior-up to and including how it has handled the data submission to your agency

What we are sure of, however, is that the city will be putting inordinate pressure on the state to approve the ramps. But given the real difficulties that the traffic from a Willets Point development will generate on to the Van Wyck, it behooves SDOT to refrain from going full speed ahead.