The Queens Courier focused attention on the EDC ramp hearing last week, citing once again how WPU feels that the proposed ramps-along with the concomitant massive traffic emanating from the Willets Point development-will bring traffic to a halt on the Van Wyck. The ramps, instead of ameliorating the traffic as they are supposed to-will degrade the highway-the only concern that should bother state and federal regulators.
What EDC wants to do-violative of the state and federal environmental rules-is to convince the oversight authorities that the development of Willets Point is a given, making the ramps necessary to ameliorate the traffic mess it's creating. Of course, that's simply false since the project will not be built without these ramps. And if it isn't built the Van Wyck will be better off-therefore the only two scenarios that regulators should be considering are:
(1) The Van Wyck with the 80,000 daily car and truck trips from the project, or;
(2) The Van Wyck without the project.
It is not the job of SDOT to become a development partner of EDC-no matter how much the new DOT commissioner hearts her old agency. On top of this false baseline assumption by EDC the agency consultants have still not provided the state with accurate professional analysis of the traffic impacts-something that has been true for the past three years of the review process.
That is why WPU continues to demand an independent review of the traffic from the project. WPU's Mike Gerrard makes the case: "Michael Gerrard, a lawyer for Willets Point United said that the group fully intends to push for an independent environmental assessment.“We believe that the environmental assessment completely misrepresents the impact that the ramps would have and we’re going to urge the state and federal transportation departments to prepare an independent environmental impact statement,” he said."
At the presser before the hearing Councilman Dan Halloran railed against the years of deprivation of basic services for the property owners: "Besides being a prime spot for retail and housing, the city argues that Willets Point is a blighted area and therefore should be redeveloped. Halloran shot back at this claim, saying that it was the city’s inaction that put the industrial area is such dire straits.
“The city chose not to improve the area – they chose not to plow, not to provide sewers, not to provide infrastructure of any kind,” he said. “There needs to be development in Willets Point, but it needs to be done with the cooperation of the people there and not at gunpoint. What is happening now is downright un-American.”
The question that remains, is how will the regulators respond to the continued obfuscation of the EDC "experts?" And will the state move quickly to rubber stamp the ramp approval knowing how deficient the analysis is? After all, WPU's Brian Ketcham has produced and 264 page critique of the EDC EA-and a quick approval will demonstrate that SDOT is in the tank using equipment provided by its new boss.
One thing that still disturbs us, however, is how this commissioner/puppet was chosen in the first place. In politics it is always useful to examine, cui buono? And in this case the designation of Old McDonald benefits the mayor who endorsed the governor at a timely moment. Just saying.
So, as Meatloaf's girl friend might have said: "What'll it be boy?" Will SDOT do its job fairly. or will McDonald be a good marionetta and follow her marching orders armed with a rubber stamp? We shall see.