Saturday, April 2, 2011

Square One in New London

According to Gideon's Trumpet, the City of New London is now trying to reinvent the 91 acres that it had usurped from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors for a development that never happened: "The subject land, all 91 acres of it, is now an empty, weed-overgrown swath of land, of interest only to birds and feral cats. On that, the city and the State of Connecticut blew at least $80,000,000 — probably a lot more."

But as the website points out, the SCOTUS had based its Kelo decision on the shrewd planning done by the city: "You may also recall that the pillar on which the court’s decision rested was planning. The city, said the court, did such a swell job on planning the redevelopment of the Fort Trumbull area of New London that the court simply had to defer to it. In fact, that turned out to be a crock. The plan was worthless; the city’s chosen developer could not even get financing (and that was before the real estate bubble burst in 2008)." Ah yes, planning.

Brings to mind the gems of wisdom spoken by one Seth Pinsky. As we cited last week: "This is a project that is overwhelmingly supported by the City's elected officials, arose out of a community planning process, with a first phase that is funded and ready to go, despite today's challenging fiscal environment," Pinsky wrote."

That great community planning process? Of course the process did not include the community that is having its property taken, did it? But really, who is Pinsky trying to kid? This was not a community planning process but a stacked deck that emerged whole from the geniuses down on William Street. As for the funding, where is the money actually coming from, and why is it even being allocated in this, "challenging fiscal environment?"

Meanwhile those crack planners from New London are going back to the drawing board-but this time the community is being solicited for ideas: "Now The Day, the local New London newspaper brings the news that the city is going to hold a charette, whatever that is, in which the local folks are invited by a team of city and Yale Urban Design Workshop planners to partake of coffee and cookies, and discuss various possible development schemes for that land that was taken by eminent domain by the city in 2000, and has been sitting empty and unproductive for some five years (which, by an odd coincidence, is longer than it took to fight and win Word War II)."

Gideon's Trumpet is upset with the court for its undeserved deference to the locality: "The reason for our acerbic approach to this event is that, as noted above, New London’s planning, its supposed thoroughness and quality, formed the linchpin of the Supreme Court’s decision. The court deferred to the city because of all that quality planning that was supposed to do wonders for the community. Now, six years after the event, the city is going back to the drawing board and starting all over again, this time by basing its decision-making on what the untutored local folks have to say. What happened to all that fancy “planning”?

If you think that the EDC wise guys are any better than their New London counterparts, well, think again. Willets Point is an even bigger development challenge than Fort Trumbull ever was-and the attendant costs dwarf the New London site. On top of that, no matter how the ramp situation is resolved, the project will create infrastructure, financial and logistical nightmares for decades to come.

So much for the great community planning process, one that was built on fraudulent traffic data and a road and mass transit network unequal to the massive size of the Plan. In fact, if WPU can stymie this development because of the inadequacy of the ramps, it will be doing the citizens of NYC-but particularly those of Queens in the vicinity of this gargantuan boondoggle-a giant favor.

Hopefully, then, this whole scheme will fall apart and we won't end up like New London six years after the last homeowner was evicted from her house-with an empty field of bad dreams.