Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The latest info is brought to us by the NY Post's Michael Goodwin who reports on rampant grade inflation and simple cheating by teachers who are being pressured to pass substandard students. As Goodwin point out: "Fraudulent stats certainly are not an issue at every school, or even most. But they are clearly a problem when only half of all students do math and English at grade level, yet more than 95 percent are routinely promoted. And with 75 percent of grads who go to city community colleges needing remediation, a diploma does not guarantee an educated student.
Goodwin reports that he is being bombarded by teacher emails about the burgeoning cheating scandal but the DOE is reacting, well, it really isn't reacting at all:
"Obviously, city officials don't take the issue seriously. Cheating allegations were raised against the principal by students and teachers at Lehman HS in The Bronx. City Hall announced a probe, even though the principal got a $25,000 bonus for the school's progress. That was in 2009, and the probe is still not finished. Meanwhile, Lehman was recently selected for the federal "restart" program, which will mean more money and a nonprofit partner to help teachers -- and the same principal.
So, for some, cheating pays."
It sure does, just ask the statistical fudgers over at EDC. Liars figuring should be elevated into an Olympic sport in NYC-with the mayor getting the first place gold Pinocchio award. But cheating is seriously hurting the schoolkids of this city-as the Post opines this morning: "New York's school system is putting on a seminar in how to waste billions. Care to watch? New York spends $18,126 per high-school pupil, 73 percent higher than the national average of just $10,499, according to the Census Bureau. Logic would dictate that spending this much on education should yield decent results. Well, logic can buzz off. Just 73.5 percent of state high schoolers graduated in 2009 -- ranking New York an abysmal 39th nationally."
And in NYC itself:
"Sure, there's been a slow and steady increase in graduation rates since Mayor Bloomberg came into office in 2002. But considering just how many grads are functionally illiterate, that's not too much to brag about. Some 74.4 percent of city public high-school grads entering City University community colleges required remedial classes -- meaning that their dozen years in public school didn't do the job. So even while graduation rates should indicate that kids are ready for work and college, tens of thousands are being pumped out without a basic education."
On the EDC front, if these traffic data deniers are allowed to get their way it will be the citizens of Queens who will find themselves flunking Commuting 101. It is time for some honest public servants to step forward and expose all of the self serving lies before it is too late.
Willets Point United Inc. is pleased to introduce "The Bullpen Shop", the sports paraphernalia store that is very popular with Mets fans, located in Willets Point on 126th Street opposite CitiField stadium. Under the plan of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, The Bullpen Shop is to be demolished and its property forcibly acquired via eminent domain, to enable the Mayor's controversial $4,000,000,000.00 legacy development project.
Monday, May 30, 2011
EDC has been laboring desperately for a year and a half to avoid any independent scrutiny of its flawed work-going so far as to have the Transportation Hypocrite Sadik-Khan threaten State DOT if it didn't rubber stamp its ramp application. Luckily for EDC the new state DOT commissioner looks as if she came into office with her own rubber stamp-constructed during her sojourn over at EDC where she served as an executive until recently.
Well we finally have a clear glimpse of just how bad the EDC deceit really is; and it comes from WPU's Brian Ketcham whose work exposed the agency's perfidy in the first place. Here's Ketcham's summary of the unprofessional attempt of EDC to proceed with its flawed ramp application:
NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
JUNE 8, 2011
PUBLIC HEARING, PROJECT IDENTIFICATION, NO. X770.44, THE MARCH 2011 ENVIROMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR THE PROPOSED VAN WYCK RAMPS
Brian T. Ketcham, P.E.
1. I am submitting for the record a 250 page document that addresses the March 2011 Environmental Assessment, the subject of this hearing. The submission includes more than 200 pages of technical analyses that I produced over the last two years, all submitted to NYCEDC, NYSDOT and the FHWA.
2. The WP FGEIS approved in 2008 painted a grim picture of the effects of this project on traffic: gridlocked local access roads; gridlocked nearby expressways. Nonetheless the New York City Council approved it.
3. In 2009 NYCEDC produced a second document, the Access Modification Report, required for FHWA consideration of the Van Wyck ramps. This report concluded that the Willets Point project would have little impact along the Van Wyck Expressway and along local access roads. The main reason is that EDC changed its assumptions -- instead of half of project traffic entering the Van Wyck, only 16% would. But they failed to reassign this traffic to local access roads. Our disclosure of this sleight-of-hand resulted in an 18 month delay in the Willets Point project. NYCEDC has been scrambling to catch up ever since.
4. My 250 page submission goes into great detail of what is wrong with the March 2011 EA. Let me summarize a few details.
5. EDC continues to under report project impacts—by huge amounts. They low ball the number of auto trips this project will generate. Yet, based upon their own assumptions, the project will generate more than 80,000 car and trips daily, 365 days a year. As their own analysis reveals there is not capacity to accommodate all this traffic; not on local access roads; not on nearby expressways.
6. Yet, the March 2011 EA, now assuming a third of WP auto trips will use the Van Wyck instead of half assumed in the WP FGEIS, reports operating conditions on local roads that are better than reported in the FGEIS despite carrying 26% more WP trips. More trips, lower impacts: it is mysterious why EDC thinks anyone will believe this.
7. The project will generate 40,000 transit trips daily. There is far too little transit capacity for these trips. As a result, many people will abandon transit for their autos. And, like for auto use, EDC has under reported transit impacts, both for the WP project and for other new projects that are expected to be completed over the next decade.
8. The WP FGEIS reports 4,676 PM peak hour subway trips. Amazingly, the FGEIS transit analysis accounts for just 34% of this total.
9. Willets Point and the other new development like Flushing Commons, Sky View Parc and all the rest add up to about 31 million square feet of new development . EDC has attempted to conceal from NYSDOT, FHWA and the public the true cumulative impact of these projects.
10. As my submission describes, the March 2011 EA is filled with errors—just like the FGEIS, the AMR and early versions of the EA. While I am opposed to this project, at the very least the March 2011 EA should be rejected, corrected and put to the review of an entirely independent team of engineers and environmentalists.
We got a big kick about the divergence of Willets Point traffic to the non existent and inadequate mass transit infrastructure-especially with all the braying we have heard from Claire Shulman about creating a new LIRR station in Flushing. There is simply no room at the inn for all of these new riders and EDC knows it. So, where will they go?
As Ketcham tells us: "...many people will abandon transit for their autos." Well Duh! But does the council member from Corona care, or even have the capacity to understand this? What about her counterpart from Klushing who remains Kooless?
We are looking at one of the biggest scams in city history here-and if this project gets delayed until a Mayor Liu or a Mayor Deblasio get into office, the lid will be blown off of the illegality and fraud-which is why Bloomberg and EDC is in such a rush to throw WPU under the bulldozer.
The other possibility is the courts-and is also why EDC instituted its phony Phase 1 to end run the July hearing before Judge Madden. Nothing that the agency has done can withstand independent review. If such a review happens the development is posted and toasted.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
What guidelines, you might ask? Here they are: "AmeriCorps explicitly bans participants from "providing abortion services or referrals for such services." But that was not the problem in this case, officials said. Federal officials reviewing the letter questioned whether two other provisions had been violated: "attempting to influence legislation" and "organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes."
Would you be surprised the the mayor's folks disagree with the determination? Of course not. These Bloomberg characters believe that there are two sets of rules-one for them, and another for Leona Helmsley's, "little people."
"We disagree with the opinion because all applicable regulations were followed," said mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna. "But out of an abundance of caution, the Civic Corps members were relocated."
Now we may have our own opinions about the work of Planned Parenthood but that's not what's at issue here. Why should tax payer money be used to try to advance the political interests of any group?
Which brings us to Claire Shulman and the ticking clock on the AG's investigation into her non profit's illegal lobbying on behalf of Mike Bloomberg. The old adage is, "justice delayed, is justice denied." If the Feds can act swiftly, why can't the AG? Two years is too long a wait for the justice that WPU deserves on the city's own concocted not for profit scam.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
In the interest of truth and greater transparency WPU has been calling for an independent review of the traffic impact of, not only the ramps, but the entire Willets Point project-including the Phae 1 add on, that EDC tries to claim with a straight face will have no real need for those pesky ramps. As part of this effort we went down to the College Point Civic Association last night in order to update as well as exhort the community to attend the EDC hearing.
Our major point was that our roads and highways are already jammed. The last thing we need is a massive auto dependent development that will further erode our community quality of life. The ramps should be turned down and the entire project re-thought. But even more compelling is the fact that EDC is trying to hide these impacts in its desperate need to get the mayor's legacy project off of the ground.
We need an independent review because EDC and the city can’t be trusted to mark its own tests. Whether it is the bike lanes, school test scores or now the Van Wyck ramps, the city must be held accountable to independent review.
We asked College Point to join with us and oppose the ramps-helping to put the lie to EDC's claim that the ramps are uncontroversial. After WPU's presentation Senator Avella came back to the podium and said, ": "What this guy is telling you is VERY important; these ramps and this whole project will wreck this community; you MUST attend the hearing on June 8 or you will be very sorry; etc." He went into detail. The reaction in the room seemed to be squarely against the ramps, the traffic and the development.
Then, Avella acknowledged comments that I made regarding the city's manipulation of traffic reports however necessary to gain approval of ramps, and Avella said: "Make no mistake -- EDC lies. And so I arranged for the Willets Point group to meet with the Office of the Attorney General. Because the lies cannot continue."
But they are continuing as Ketcham's incredible truth seeking effort on the city's Phase 1 technical analysis points out:
"The bottom line is that this TM4 Appendix fails to focus attention on traffic operation actually servicing the Phase I project and instead focuses on the area wide project impacts; it fails to fully account for all Phase I trip generation and/or precisely how these trips will access the Phase I site or how this traffic accesses the 910 space off-street parking garage; it fails to estimate traffic operations in and near the Phase I site other than the two major entry/exit points, 126th Street at 34th Avenue and 126th Street at Roosevelt Avenue especially along 126th Street; and in spite of this it reports severe gridlock conditions at the intersection of 126th Street at 34th Avenue as well as severe gridlock conditions for southbound trips exiting the site through the intersection of 126th Street at Roosevelt Avenue.
Finally, there is still no evaluation of parking demand or of how motorists will travel to and from the proposed parking garage site below the hotel in Lot A1.” There in nothing in the subject EDPL Comments that changes this summary."
We'll leave you with the following memorandum that explains why this entire corrupt process needs to be over turned-and the lies exposed as Avella says:
What Needs to Be Done:
(1.) NYS DOT and FHWA must reject the Environmental Assessment (EA) that is the subject of the hearing, because it does not compare the proper scenarios, low-balls traffic, and is therefore defective and unworthy.
(a) Failure to compare proper scenarios: The EA attempts to justify the proposed ramps by comparing an invalid baseline condition – a fully developed Willets Point, but without the ramps – to a fully developed Willets Point together with the ramps. EDC is shrewdly using a baseline condition which assumes that the entire Willets Point project will be built even if ramps are not involved, yet at the City Council EDC said that the project cannot be built unless the ramps are approved. So, the comparison of conditions within the EA is both self-serving and false.
(b) Under-reporting of traffic: The Flushing Commons project and an additional 20 million square feet of development are not factored into any EDC analysis of traffic impacts. Making this even worse is that the consultants for Flushing Commons were the same ones who did the FGEIS for Willets Point and their analysis also claims that 46% of the Willets Point traffic will go on the ramps-an assumption that is now discarded by the newly created EA for the ramps.
(2.) NYS DOT and FHWA must find that the proposed ramps do have significant impacts, and therefore that a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is mandated. The ramps enable the full Willets Point development, which in turn generates traffic – 80,000 vehicle trips per day –having severe adverse impacts which are indirect impacts of the ramps and cannot be disassociated from the ramps.
What follows here is a bill of particulars concerning the lack of professionalism and basic integrity of the review process for the Willets Point/Van Wyck ramps. Why this is important devolves from the fact that the proposed project-even according to the low balled estimates of EDC-will generate 80,000 new car trips every day; inundating local streets and the highway grid with traffic gridlock.
*Gross Discrepancy between original EIS and the ramp report (AMR): why wasn’t this flagged by NYSDOT staff before the intervention of Willets Point United’s consultant;
Discussion: The original EIS said that 46% of the Willets Point traffic would be diverted to the Van Wyck ramps; the actual ramp report-done under the supervision of the same consultant-informed State DOT that only 16% would be diverted. This discrepancy has never been adequately addressed or resolved.
*AKRF was the original consultant hired by EDC for both the EIS and the AMR (ramp report). How could this consultant not be aware of the discrepancies-really blatant contradictions-between two reports that it had supervision over?
*After NYSDOT was made aware by Ketcham that the two traffic reports were contradictory, why didn’t the DOT look for a disinterested consultant to analyze the viability of the proposed ramps;
Discussion: WPU called for an independent review; as did the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and half a dozen civic groups.
*If the AMR said that there would only be 16% diversion of local traffic onto the ramps (the EIS had said 46%), where did EDC think the additional 1900 vehicles would go during peak travel hours, if not to the already gridlocked streets?
*EDC’s consultants argue that half of the trips will be diverted to mass transit. But no one has analyzed whether the 7 Line and local buses can accommodate all of these thousands of daily extra riders. Shouldn’t this be a concern of the committee?
Discussion: The potential calamity here is made worse by the fact that Flushing Commons and an additional 20 million sq. ft. of development is not factored into any EDC analysis of traffic impacts.
*The NRDC has endorsed an independent review under the Environmental Policy Act because it believes that the applicant (EDC) is not a disinterested party-a fact borne out by the exposure of the contradictory reports;
*E-mails obtained under FOIA by Willets Point United indicate that there was a potential collusion between NYS DOT and EDC to expedite the review even after staff had pointed out what it believed were fatal flaws in the AMR;
*E-mails obtained by WPU indicate that the second ramp located near the Northern Boulevard Bridge is too close to the bridge and will have to be widened. Has a cost for this been estimated? But that widening would impact on the wetlands next to the Flushing River. Has this been considered by NYSDOT?
*Why has it been necessary for Willets Point United to FOIL information after it was promised that-owing to the manner in which consultant Ketcham had exposed the flaws of the AMR-it would be allowed ongoing access to the data and reports?
*The New SDOT commissioner is Joan McDonald who used to be an executive at EDC. Since she took over at the agency we have seen a complete sea change in attitude and a willingness to go along with EDC’s deficient data-witness the upcoming public hearing. Why hasn’t McDonald recused herself for a conflict of interest?
*When EDC went before the community board and the city council it told one and all that Willets Point needed to be developed as a, “totality.” Now, stymied by WPU’s critique of its deficient traffic data, EDC has gone back on its word and is developing a Phase 1 that it says doesn’t need the ramps. According to whom? The same consultants who have proven to be not up to the task of providing reliable data?
*EDC is arguing that the ramps are essential in order to mitigate the traffic from their development, but it is doing so dishonestly by saying that the choice is between a Willets Point project with, or without the ramps. The honest choice-since EDC has always said: no ramps, no project-is between a project with the ramps versus one with no project at all. This is the only true baseline analysis and EDC avoids it for the obvious reason that it would compel DOT to turn down the ramp application since the massive traffic influx will seriously degrade the Van Wyck.
Discussion: The Van Wyck ramps, and the entire Willets Point project will create a massive impact on the local road and mass transit infrastructure. In order for the true community impacts of the traffic to be properly gauged an independent review is essential. Anyone concerned with the public interest-and community quality of life-should support this position.
EDC’s notice of the public hearing associates the proposed ramps with purported “previous planning strategies undertaken by and for the local community”. Presumably, the plan “undertaken by the local community” to which EDC refers is the Downtown Flushing Development Framework (DFDF), which EDC routinely points to as proof that the our community consents to EDC’s plans. The DFDF cheerfully advocates extensive development in downtown Flushing; development of the eastern portion of the Flushing River waterfront that is located mid-way between downtown Flushing and Willets Point; and development of Willets Point.
Discussion: The Downtown Flushing Development Framework (DFDF) contains no mention – let alone any actual analysis – of any environmental impact of any of the untested development ideas that are imagined within the DFDF. Although the DFDF is a wish-list of potential future development projects, the mere existence of the DFDF does not permit any of the potential projects to evade appropriate scrutiny of the impacts that such a project will create; nor does the mere presence of an untested idea within the DFDF suggest that the community has granted EDC a license to create traffic gridlock, hinder business efficiency, and reduce the quality of life.
To the contrary: each and every potential project that is contemplated by the DFDF – including the proposed Willets Point development, and especially the proposed new Van Wyck ramps which enable the full development – must undergo a rigorous environmental evaluation, which necessarily must include the possibility that the potential project cannot be approved due to its impacts. The proposed Van Wyck ramps are presently undergoing such a review, which they did not undergo during the creation of the DFDF. Public support, if any, for any part of the DFDF has never taken into account any environmental impacts or the public’s concerns about them, and certainly does not constitute a willingness on the part of the public to tolerate any and all impacts that a potential project will create
Monday, May 23, 2011
For those of you who simply have not been paying attention, there has been a run on NYC's manufacturers-with all of the city's bakeries shaking and baking out of town while the Bloomberg brain trust over at EDC hones the mayor's "five borough" economic development policies. In truth, the only real economic development strategy this mayor has devised has been the one where he asks Related's Steve Ross what areas he'd like to put a mall into.
But the move by the produce market vendors would really add insult to injury-since the mayor and his liege, the comely speaker of the city council, have been chatting us all up about their "Fresh" agenda; a program to insure that all of the city's less fortunate eat their fruits and veggies.
In our view this all underscores the way in which this mayor is not only out of touch, but also downright hostile to those grubby existing businesses that lack the glamor of a brand new multi billion dollar mall that will put existing small retailers at further risk. The betting here is that Bloomberg cannot afford to let the Hunts Pointers go; no, it is only the lessors at Willets Point that are expendable.
The Hunts Point market is in the old cat bird;'s seat when it comes to making a deal with the city. Our advice: take Bloomberg for every nickel, and if he drags his feet, take Jersey's Fresh money and get out of town. We'll give Crain's the last word:
"Problems remain, though, and some observers view a New Jersey relocation as a strong likelihood. The sticking points in the lease discussion are mostly about money, including what portion of the renovation tab the city will pick up.
“It seems like a serious possibility that the market could move,” said Karen Karp, founder of food consultancy Karp Resources. “When the city wants something to happen, it makes it happen,” and uncertainty over the market's future has dragged on for years, she said."
Sunday, May 22, 2011
"Learn the subways, Mike! There’s only one way to make sense of Mayor Bloomberg’s off-the-wall statement that “there aren’t very many panhandlers left, c’mon,” on the subways: He mistook all those bongo players, “disabled veterans” and toothless women grubbing change for undercover transit cops, a few of whom actually resemble derelicts of the sort riders dread. Hint: The cops don’t usually smell like a backed-up toilet."
Cuozzo goes on to point out that Bloomberg's lack of real down to earth experience or awareness should make us all question his competence:
"If Bloomberg is so ignorant of a public disgrace apparent to every MetroCard user, what does it say about his qualifications to manage the block-by-block minutiae of a nearly $50 billion annual budget? (Layoffs because he gave away the store to unions? Blame the state!)
Or to run the schools? (Cathie Black was such a great commissioner!)
Or to maintain the streets? (Those proliferating impassable washboard stretches and potholes large enough to swallow a bus mustn’t be the fault of his bike-mad Transportation Department, but of Japan earthquake aftershocks."
But the mayor is really on a roll-and his comments about ignorant parents of school children made us chuckle:
"Mayor Michael Bloomberg put his foot in his mouth Friday when he said that parents who oppose his plan to shut down poorly-performing schools lack "formal education."On his weekly radio show, Bloomberg appeared to insult parents who are fighting to keep their children's schools, including several in Harlem, from being shut down."They never had a formal education and they don't understand the value of education," he said. The billionaire mayor showed his tone-deaf side when he continued to discuss the opposition to closing the schools, at which many students come from poor, homeless or immigrant families."
Now it wasn't us ignoramuses who claimed that we should be judged by how well the schools were running. And it wasn't us who ran for a second and third term falsely claiming that the school test scores showed how well the Bloomberg miracle was going. Now, however, as the miracle loses its luster we see the frustrated mayor lashing out to scapegoat-parents of the kids who have been shortchanged.
Everyone else takes the blame except for the actual man supposed to be in charge. With Bloomberg the buck stops in his pocket but not in his sphere of responsibility-and what we are witnessing here is the revelation of the man's actual perspectives and character-not a really pretty sight.
What's amazing to us is how long he has been able to keep this charade going-and much of the sleight-of-hand's success can be attributed to the lack of any real checks and balances in NYC government-with a speaker who has been the perfect yes-man. As things continual to unravel we can expect more of these gaffes from Mayor Mike-someone who doesn't suffer fools, and who puts all of us without his bankroll into the fools category.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The defense of this about face from the original pledge not to condemn Willets Point property before the ramps were approved rests on a hallowed Technical Memo 4. Here's EDC's response to WPU's attorney Michael Gerrard:
"Technical Memorandum 4, in accordance with the requirements of SEQR and CEQR, assessed whether the modified would have any significant environmental impacts that were not addressed or were inadequately addressed in the FGEIS. The assessment concluded that no new significant adverse environmental impacts would result from the phased development, and that therefor a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is not required under SEQR..."
This Technical Memo 4 is no as far as we can tell a Papal Encyclical, and its conclusions must rest on the work of consultants that ultimately provided this judicious reasoning that EDC is relying on. Now who could these consultants be? EDC is silent on this, and by keeping quiet unfairly deprives these gurus the kind of glory they deserve.
Our suspicion is that the consultants are the same Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight on the original AMR-you know, that work of fiction that was summarily returned to EDC because of its utter lack of either professionalism or believability. So what Technical Memo 4 amounts to is just another example of the city marking its own exam papers-a habit that we, along with the NY Post's Michael Goodwin, have already commented on. It is just like the loyalty oaths that Justice Black described as, "proof of loyalty to nothing but self interest."
This kind of arrogant self service is usually accompanied by a chorus of toadies in the city's land use review process. Not so with TM 4: "The necessary environmental review to support Phase 1 of the publicly approved plan has occurred...and Phase 1 may proceed without first obtaining ramp approvals." Wow! And it went by so fast we missed it entirely!
So all we have to go on in this instance is EDC's assertion that a real environmental review has been conducted. Given the agency's track record on Willets Point this isn't much to instill confidence in any but the most suborned of the cast of lackeys that EDC and Claire Shillman have assembled.
In our view it will not pass the smell test and we anticipate that Judge Madden will view these claims as fatuous. It is precisely why all of this chicanery needs to be set aside and an independent review established. After all, Willets Point is not just another bike lane.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
This was in reference to the fact that the new commissioner used to ply her trade over at EDC not too long ago. A legitimate observation? Not according to some anonymous and gutless city official: "A city official familiar with the situation rebuffed the allegation, saying, "That is a desperate and slanderous claim that doesn't merit a response."
So pointing out that there might be a conflict of interest for McDonald because of her previous employment amounts to slander on Bono's part? What deranged world does Mr. Anonymous live in? And why is the Tribune allowing someone from this corrupt bunch of land grabbers to speak so ignorantly without attribution?
As the paper does point out, we do see a change in attitude since McDonald was brought on board: "WPU has contended the odds have been stacked in the EDC's favor ever since the agency's former Senior Vice President of Transportation Joan McDonald was appointed commissioner of the State DOT on Jan. 14."
And the change runs counter to what we have observed from all of our FOIL requests of the state agency: "FOIL requests filed by WPU last year revealed reservations among State DOT engineers about the ramps' feasibility. A call to the agency regarding its decision to put the ramps up for public review was not returned as of press time."
All of this is on top of SDOT's unwillingness to engage WPU and its engineer Brian Ketcham in a real dialogue over the traffic data-and has resisted hammer and tong any independent review of the drivel EDC has submitted. Maybe our conflict of interest observation deserves a merited response form NY State Inspector General Ellen Biben? We'll see about that.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Oh boy! Pinocchio Pinsky is at it again-but now it appears that the city is throwing Momma Shulman off the train. It is doing so with an apparent and inappropriate straight face, claiming that EDC had no complicity with-and the mayor's office no foreknowledge of-the intended use of proceeds that Shulman's group obtained.
Yet, as we have pointed out ad nauseum it is Shulman herself who publicly stated that the expressed purpose of forming her group was to spearhead the lobbying effort on behalf of the project. And spearhead she did, so if EDC was unaware of this initially-which is as improbable as seeing the mayor slam dunk a basketball-then it must have gotten a hint of this when dear old Claire started to appear regularly all over the city in the guise of a lobbyist. Even EDC can't be that dense.
So, if not dense, then definitely disingenuous-and if the AG's office is still on the trail of these prevaricators then it seems like as good a time as any to lower the boom before any more whoppers are disseminated by these dishonest folks. But this bit of false witness wasn't the only one in the EDC hearing response.
The agency also denies that there was any, "precedent setting" deal with labor on the project (p.11) Gee, the unions should be surprised by that-especially 32 BJ and the RWDSU. Here's what they said in city council testimony:
"TESTIMONY AT CITY COUNCIL SUBCOMMITTEE ON PLANNING, DISPOSITIONS AND CONCESSIONS; OCTOBER 17, 2008:
MR. STUART APPELBAUM: … This past summer the Central Labor Council reached historic agreements with the New York City Economic Development Corporation to secure broad labor standard agreements on the Willets Point project that will require the selected developer and contractors to pay prevailing and living wages, hire workers from State certified apprentice programs, encourage expanded and enhanced retail uses, and discourage suburban models of big box stores. These agreements were critical to labor's support on this project, our goal being to ensure that workers and families in the surrounding communities can 2 participate in and benefit from the economic activity and job creation. …
MS. CAMILLE RIVERA: … This is Camille Rivera; I'm the Assistant Political Director for 32BJ. …This is a precedent setting agreement by the way. That we have--
MR. APPELBAUM: [Interposing] This is a--
MS. RIVERA: -- excuse me, I'm sorry. This is a historic agreement where for the first time we have prevailing wage language for building surface workers, construction trades, you name it, so that we could be able to--so that members that -- people that live and work in Queens can afford to live there. I mean this is a huge deal."
We would suggest that labor get the next agreement written in blood, and maybe it should rethink its support for this boondoggle considering just how deft the city is in going back on its word. But going back is something that they are getting quite proficient at; and we see historical revisionism in action as well on the issue of the need to completely rehab Willets Point. "in its totality."
Now, however, as EDC proceeds with an illegal phased in development approach they are unfazed by the need to alter the historical record. Here is what they say in response to the rehabilitation question (Comment 6; pp. 11-12): "Comprehensive development of the District, whether as a whole or in phases, would allow for the improvement of roadways and infrastructure..." (emphasis added)
But, as we have commented, this is not what was said during the initial land use review (watch the entire video). As we said last week:
"In the following embedded video you will get to see just how strenuously the city argued against any partial development of the Willets Point area-with serial prevaricator Robert Lieber leading the charge claiming that, because of the flood plain nature of the land, the "high water table," and the years of soil contamination, the project could not be developed in a piece meal fashion. Lieber told the city council that developing Willets Point was a, "transformative exercise," that must be dealt with, "in its totality."
Not to be outdone, EDC's Senior Vice President Thomas McKnight told CB #7 that because of the extensive nature of the environmental clean up, "those kinds of comprehensive things can't really happen with the businesses there...We want to redevelop the entire Willets Point district."
Sounds like the same manner in which EDC's consultants operated-arguing different points for different audiences. This entire development is looking more like it would fit comfortable within the confines of a federal RICO indictment-but that would mean that law enforcement would have to exhibit the courage of going after the powerful and entrenched interests: Mayor Bloomberg, his deputy, the entire EDC crew, and of course, Toby Stavisky, her son Evan who spearheaded the illegal lobbying, and the Grand Dame of the Queens Democratic Party, the one and only Claire Shulman
If the AG is really investigating all of these hijinks we can only say, "Come out, come out, wherever you are." The clock is ticking on all of this and the malfeasance should not be punished-if that's the Ag's intention-posthumously as far as the rights of WPU are concerned.
Isn't this peachy! After seven decades of neglect the area will finally get the services the current businesses have been pining for-posthumously. And we can always count on a placeholder like Toby Stavisky to add insult to injury: "State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said Willets Point, as it is now, is an embarrassment. The development will not only sprout housing but will also spark a fiscal boom, she said."
No Toby, it is you, your late husband, the embalmed Claire Shulman and the rest of the Queens political establishment that is an embarrassment and an eyesore to anyone with 20/20 vision. Depriving an area's property owners of basic services and then turning around and calling that very same area an embarrassment is real chutzpah. These sewers, if this ever gets built, will prove useful in discharging the bilge that comes from the lips of pols like Stavisky.
But the News fails to consider the other pressing infrastructure problem that the city is turning a blind eye towards: the road and mass transit network that won't be able to accommodate all of this development, and the additional 20 million square feet that has been built or is in the process of being developed in and around Willets Point.
If all of this comes to pass we suggest that they rename the Van Wyck-as they did the 59th Bridge-but this time in honor of Toby Stavisky. This way when Queens motorists are gridlocked on the highway they can pay homage-with the honorific middle finger-to someone whose accomplishments (we got stuck on this) may well be limited to the back upped highway she has championed for the ramps leading to the development she has slavishly championed.
Monday, May 16, 2011
From our standpoint, it's about time the folks woke up to the man's sheer incompetence-and if the press were paying better attention this reality might have made it into the public consciousness a bit earlier than this. Put simply, the man's got no game and all of the PR moves now won't put this Humpty Dumpty back together again.
As Goodwin points out: "Starting with the Christmas blizzard debacle, the grievances against him continue to pile up. Hardly a day goes by without a new scandal headline, yet he seems unable or unwilling to respond in ways that would move the needle. He spent several millions on TV ads and direct mail, but it didn't work. He fired his unpopular choice for schools chancellor, Cathie Black, but didn't get a boost from that, either."
And we like the description of the mayor's own defense as a "loser's narrative." Bloomberg doesn't understand that sometimes a cigar is only a cigar, and in his case the wrong moves are simply that-not in any way a sign of his righteousness in the face of the public's ignorance:
"Most peculiar, he seems stuck in a loser narrative -- that he is unpopular because he is right and everybody else is wrong. His mind is shut tight against any view except his own -- bicycle lanes uber alles -- even as New Yorkers believe his third term is a bust."
What about the mayor's signature issue of education, the one that was hyped as his defining exemplar of excellence? Not much good news, it seems: "By a whopping 64-25 percent, voters turn thumbs down on his management of the schools. Among New Yorkers with children in those schools, 78 percent disapprove, and only 20 percent approve. Overall, by 57 to 23 percent, New Yorkers say his takeover of the schools has been a failure. That could put mayoral control in jeopardy for his successor, with the unions and their lawmaker puppets eager to curb City Hall's power."
And it turns out that the entire educational edifice was little more than a house of cards: "The fundamental reason is that he and his first chancellor, Joel Klein, sold themselves as national school reformers based largely on gains in standardized test scores. But when those scores fell by 30 percent in a single day, thanks to moderately higher state standards, the "mission accomplished" claim looked hollow and, frankly, fraudulent. With 75 percent of high-school grads needing remediation when they get to CUNY community colleges, rising graduation rates are also suspect."
What this all means is that Mike Bloomberg-despite all of the money he has lavished on not for profits in order to create a shadow army of supporters-has little support left among the cohort of regular New Yorkers: "For Bloomberg, this is beyond the lame-duck danger zone -- this has the makings of a collapse. Unless his attitude changes, and he is able to convince the public he is fully engaged, I don't see how he can substantially recover...In all its angles, his predicament threatens the essence of Bloomberg's cultivated image: savvy guardian of the public dollar, competent manager and historic school reformer."
In spite of the mayor's collapsing popularity, however, he continues to plow ahead in the promotion of his corrupt enterprise at the Iron Triangle-propped up by an equally corrupt Queens political establishment led by the old war horse Claire Shulman. As WPU continues to expose EDC's malfeasance at Willets Point this will be the last shoe to drop-and we expect it will be one with a pointy steel toe right to Mike Bloomberg's arrogant self image.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
That being said, it is important to point out that Quinn and the Mayor, or is it the mayor and Quinn, have already supported a living wage when it suits them-on Willets Point, for example: "More recently, the city has entered into agreements linking higher minimum wages to subsidized projects in Greenpoint/Williamsburg and Coney Island in Brooklyn and Willets Point in Queens.
“We're already using wage standards for large-scale projects, and there's no indication they're impeding development,” says Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, citing, for example, the 29 responses the city has received to its request for proposals to redevelop Willets Point."
So, when it comes to the mayor's legacy project, Bloomberg's allegiance to principle is ruled by expedience-as even a Willlets Point supporter understands. Jack Friedman, the head of the Queens Chamber of Commerce feels that a living wage will kill any chance to develop the Iron Triangle, a development that he supports:
"Jack Friedman, executive VP of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, tells GlobeSt.com that the measure would all but kill development, which has already been hit hard in the region. “I can’t imagine Willets Point going forward if the living wage mandate goes forward,” Friedman says. “Because what retailer in their right mind is going to agree to sign leases in a place where they’re going to have to pay their employees 50% more than the people down the block?”
Well Jack. There are a lot more uncertainties surrounding Willets Point than the eventual wages that may be paid to retail workers at the projected mall at the site. Maybe he should be more concerned with the billions of dollars of tax payer money that will go to waste.
In our view, Willets Point-with or without a living wage-is still a boondoggle. But we get a grim kick out of people like Friedman who allege to represent Queens businesses but have no problem with the city condemning the properties of real life local firms-and use billions of tax dollars to do so.
The facts here are that if the city throws enough tax dollars into the Willets Point deal there will be enough gravy to allow for some of that money to do to pay low wage retail workers. But the idea of such a wasteful and environmentally unsustainable effort is an example of crackpot planning-and it should have been tabled long ago.
It was, however, deals like living wage that were crafted in 2008 that allowed the project to be approved by labor-just ask Stu Appelbaum of the RWDSU who threw his support to the development when a living wage was approved. For Friedman to no come out opposed to living wage because it might kill Willets Point is truly an ungrateful act.
But then the entire development reeks of ingratitude to those businesses who have invested so much blood, sweat and tears to the Iron Triangle for decades.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
In the following embedded video you will get to see just how strenuously the city argued against any partial development of the Willets Point area-with serial prevaricator Robert Lieber leading the charge claiming that, because of the flood plain nature of the land, the "high water table," and the years of soil contamination, the project could not be developed in a piece meal fashion. Lieber told the city council that developing Willets Point was a, "transformative exercise," that must be dealt with, "in its totality."
Not to be outdone, EDC's Senior Vice President Thomas McKnight told CB #7 that because of the extensive nature of the environmental clean up, "those kinds of comprehensive things can't really happen with the businesses there...We want to redevelop the entire Willets Point district."
Queens BP Helen Marshall, reading from the EDC script given to her, told the City Planning Commission that Willets Point, "must proceed comprehensively, and Not be phased in." Finally there's UpChuck Apelian, the chair of CB#7, who told his board that, "the site Must be remediated as one complete site."
Well what has changed, and why is EDC proceeding in a manner that it said was environmentally proscribed three years ago? The only possible answer to this is the fact that WPU's intervention on the ramps introduced a high level of uncertainty for the city's crack development team-and the new Phase I was and is a desperate attempt to end run, not only proper traffic reviews,but EDC's own prescriptions for an environmentally sound development plan.
It is hard to conceive of how this will all pass a legal challenge from WPU. In the end the city and EDC's own words will serve to convict them of a fraudulent attempt to rewrite history in order to promote an environmentally unsound development at the expense of small property owners.
"The city has started its search for a developer to transform Willets Point from a gritty industrial zone into a bustling mix of retail, housing and hotel space.
The Economic Development Corp. issued a request for proposals yesterday inviting developers to submit plans to turn a portion of the 62-acre site - known as "Phase 1" - into a "mixed-use, sustainable community and regional destination."
Take a look at the description of this phase: "The plan for Phase 1 includes 680,000-square-feet of retail space, up to 400 housing units, a hotel and 2 acres of open space and parking, EDC officials said. The agency estimates that Phase 1 of the project will create 1,800 permanent jobs and 4,600 construction-related jobs."
So EDC is cramming more retail into this partial development than either of the Gateway Malls that Related has built in Brooklyn and the Bronx, but the traffic will be fine. How do it know? Well, it knows because that the same charlatans over at URS/EngWongTaub/AKRF say that it is so and everyone is well aware of just how righteous these folks are. After all, the ramp delay is a direct result of their stellar analysis.
All of which makes Wrong Way Ferreras's support of this Phase all the more comical. She knows what the traffic will be like but she chooses to ignore this so she can be rewarded by the mayor and speaker with a half loaf of bread, How sad that the people of Corona and East Elmhurst are represented by a marionetta.
But make no mistake about it. This Phase is an illegal segmentation and the "Technical Memo" used to support it is as bogus a document as EDC has ever utilized to justify its land grab-and that saying a lot if you have ever taken a look at the original ramp report.
What we are discovering from all of this sleight of hand is that there is nothing that this Blooomberg-data-driven mad-government will do to falsify stats for its own self service. A day of reckoning just might be coming for these frauds-as well as their liars for hire.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
"The people here don't want to sell their land," said Jake Bono, whose family has owned property in the area for more than 70 years. "The whole thing is going to be subsidized by city and taxpayer money" while the city is preparing for budget cuts that will result in teacher and firefighter layoffs, Mr. Bono said. "Where is the priority for the city?"
EDC is playing with fire-exercising a kind of brinkmanship that may ultimately get it into trouble with the courts. This phased development is a violation of every assertion that EDC made when the project was approved. As WPU's lawyer Mike Gerrard told Crain's:
“We think this is premature,” said Michael Gerrard, senior counsel of Arnold & Porter, who represents 10 businesses that have been fighting for years to halt the Willets Point redevelopment. Some of Mr. Gerrard's clients are actually located in the first phase, he noted. “The project is still in legal limbo due to continuing uncertainty over whether the city will receive approval for the Van Wyck ramps that are essential to the project, which was approved as a whole, not something that could be broken into chunks or phases.”
Remember that Deputy Mayor Leiber had told the city council that this development could simply not be segmented because of the need to remediate the entire 62 acres all at once-just another self serving lie in a long list. And the WSJ recognizes-without much elaboration-that the city has other hurdles remaining-those stinkin' ramps again:
"The Willets Point plan has other legal issues outstanding. Critics of the plan contend that the city isn't allowed to build entrance ramps to the Van Wyck Expressway that is needed for the project. In August 2010, the New York Supreme Court denied the property owners request for an injunction to block the project. The city and the property owners head back to court in July. Michael Gerrard, an attorney representing businesses in Willets Point, said it was "premature" for city to move forward given the legal challenges unresolved."
Gee, shouldn't the Journal have elaborated on this point and the fact that we're going back to court because Judge Madden issued an Order to Show Cause? Kinda left its readers in the dark over the fact that the judge was peeved by having been lied to by the former deputy mayor-a story that the paper decided wasn't newsworthy when it broke last month.
We're glad to see, though, that EDC still has its finely honed sense of humor: "We're confident in the timeline for development that we have laid out," a spokeswoman with the EDC said." Which timeline is that? The one that the city had originally laid out with the ramps being approved in the winter of 09?
In our view the fat lady hasn't even begun to gargle on this development-and we anticipate that EDC is throwing itself into a briar's patch that only a certain rabbit could extricate himself from. Don't know what EDC's timeline is, but we think they should publish it forthwith so we can all laugh at its presumption down this road to perdition.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Given the fact that EDC has now issued its RFP for the illegal Phase 1 development of Willets Point, WPU is raising the issue of the legality of developers who are members of Shulman's LDC, and who financed illegal lobbying, participating in the RFP announced by NYCEDC.
This is not a minor point be any means. The NYS Attorney general is investigating the legality of using LDCs to lobby on behalf of city projects and if the office decides to chastise EDC for its funding efforts it would raise serious issues as to whether those firms who have partnered with Shulman’s group should be allowed to munch on fruit from their poisonous tree.
During testimony on October 17, 2008 before the New York City Council Subcommittee on the potential disqualification of LDC Members Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber could not rule out the possibility that "members of the board of the LDC" – presumably Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation ("FWPCLDC"), which unlawfully lobbied to influence legislation contrary to § 1411, and which also unlawfully concealed its lobbying activities – would be prohibited from bidding to become developers of the proposed Willets Point development, when NYCEDC would eventually issue its Request For Proposals ("RFP") pertaining to that development.
Hearing Transcript - Planning 101708
All of this was deliciously captured on video as a visibly perturbed Lieber answered the question from CM Monserrate. As those board members in part financed FWPCLDC activities which have been shown to be unlawful, the board members now must not be permitted to profit from any ill-gotten gains, especially by being awarded the developer contract for a project on behalf of which FWPCLDC unlawfully attempted to influence legislation which embodies the project's approval.
Of the 29 respondents to NYCEDC's prior RFQ concerning the Willets Point development -- which was a precursor to today's RFP, and from which NYCEDC was to select firm to receive the RFP -- the following respondents were full-fledged "Members" of Shulman's LDC:
(1) Ciampa Organization
(2) Muss Development LLC
(3) Sterling Equities (Mets)
(4) TDC Development (F&T Group)
In addition, the following RFQ respondents are identified as "Supporters" of Shulman's LDC, at the web site of Shulman's LDC:
(1) Albanese Organization, Inc.
(2) CPC Resources, Inc.
(3) Douglaston Development
The press needs to ask EDC who its select group of bidders may be, and if these colluders with the development corporation have been made eligible to bid in spite of their collusion. Our exit question: What would happen if all of this was subject to a RICO indictment?
That was then and this is now. CM Ferreras has a statement that is included in the EDC RFP press release-of all places: "This project has been delayed for too long and we must move forward so my district gets much needed relief thru jobs and affordable housing. This RFP is the start in making it a reality. Phase 1 is essential in furthering the economic growth of my district and I look forward to working with all parties every step of the way," stated Council Member Julissa Ferreras."
Et tu Julissa? There is no question that the ethically challenged Monserrate had his problems, but the citizens of Corona are ill served by his double talking replacement-someone who is now willing to put dialing for dollars with the mayor over independent and honest representation of all her constituents; including the workers she has pretended to champion.
Ferreras knows what a traffic knighmare Willets Point will mean for her district in the long run, but puts her own short term advantage over the public good. As Marx might say, what a farce she is.
Put simply, EDC cares not one whit about the Judge's hearing and appears certain that it will have its ramp approval before the July 20th hearing is scheduled to be held. We'lll see about that. EDC is also wrongfully sanguine about the legality of the segmented Phase I itself-and appears confident that it can simply bully ahead as if its prior statements, pledges, and environmental assertions are of little concern-tossed into the memory hole never to be seen again.
Interestingly enough, EDC will not tell anyone who among the development community is actually invited to bid on this illegal phase. We understand that only a select elite are invited from among those who answered the original RFQ-and the city refuses to disclose any of the relevant responses to the RFQ so all can see what the "qualifications" are of any of the developers invited to respond.
Given the fact that a cadre of developers have been funding Claire Shulman's illegal LDC, it would serve the public interest to know which among them is included among the invitees. And while we're discussing Ms. Shulman could there be a more disgusting display of cronyism than State Senator Toby Stavisky's paean to the former BP that EDC included in its press release?
We don't know what is worse, the fact that Lickspittle Stavisky made the homage to the illegal lobbyist, or the fact that EDC had the chutzpah to include it in its release. After all, EDC was the sponsor of the illegal effort and includes this in what appears to be a direct affront to the attorney generals office that still has an open investigation of the entire affair.
Our advice to the developers is to keep your powder dry and hold your money until the legal dust clears on all of this. EDC will be held to account for its underhandedness, and we plan to be around to see it happen.