Thursday, September 29, 2011

WPU's August 17th, 2011 court appearance

From the Queens Examiner:

Michael Gerrard, an attorney with the law firm Arnold & Porter, which is representing Willets Point United, argued that the city deliberately misled the court when it claimed it could not go forward without the ramps, and instead began eminent domain proceedings and began moving forward on phase one without the approval.

“It should not be without consequence when the city makes a promise to the court and it violates that promise,” Gerrard told Madden.

Gerrard also argued that the city could complete phase one, and then not be able to finish the rest of the project because it never obtains approval for the ramps, a scenario which was never taken into consideration in the initial environmental impact statement.

“If phase one of the project goes forward now, and the ramps are not approved, who knows what the impacts will be,” he said. “The technical memorandum said what happens at the end of phase one, but it does not say what will happen after that.

“It doesn't say what will become of the rest of the project in the years that follow the completion of phase one,” Gerrard added. “That was nowhere analyzed.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

NY Post's Dead Horse

The NY Post is lashing out at Comptroller Liu for fingering the profligate ways of the unaccountable EDC:

"City Comptroller John Liu dumped a bowlful of ugly on New York last week, accusing a city agency of sitting on $9.3 million meant for job creation, mostly in The Bronx, where unemployment is 12% and rising.

The bulk of the cash -- 95% -- was earmarked for The Bronx’s Harlem River Rail Yard project but hasn’t been spent by the city’s Economic Development Corp. “It makes little sense that millions intended for economic development remain unused for so long,” said Liu, “especially in The Bronx, where jobs are greatly needed.”

This observation of Liu's gets the Post into high dudgeon: "Full stop. The job-slaughtering Liu has absolutely no standing to lecture anyone about jobs in that battered borough. And if he’s looking for reasons The Bronx is so desperately starved for jobs, he should start by looking in the mirror."

What sin did Liu commit? Well it seems as if he's responsible for the fall of the Kingsbridge Armory: "Liu’s leadership as a member of the City Council helped implode a $310 million plan to build a mall in The Bronx’s Kingsbridge Armory, which would have created 2,200 jobs in retail and construction.Back in 2009 he listened to union bosses -- rather than ailing Bronxites -- and voted to kill the Armory deal because developers wouldn’t buckle to labor and guarantee salaries there that were 50% above the state’s minimum wage."

This is all quite comical to us. First to label Liu as the mover and shaker for what the entire legislature decided-it's not as if Liu was the tie breaking vote on an overwhelming rejection of this form of crony capitalism-is plain dumb. But beyond dumb is the Post's view that the project would have created those couple of thousand jobs-without raping and pillaging from the existing businesses in and around the Armory. Maybe the Post didn't see the Juan Gonzales postmortem on the Gateway Mall-the one that found that those thousands of projected jobs came in at lower than 1,000-after EDC gave the property away to a friend of Dan Doctoroff!

Secondly, the Post does not discuss the role of EDC in this debacle and the decision to use millions in tax payer subsidies to make this project go forward. It was always going to be an example of the misuse of public funds which should rarely be used to subsidize retail malls that compete with local business.

So kudos to Liu for holding EDC's feet to the fire. Now the comptroller should set his sights on the Willets Point boondoggle-something that makes the misguided armory project look like little more than a candy store heist.

Bloomberg's Contracted a Disease

The other day we commented on the city council's move to restrict outsourcing-citing the WSJ article: "The City Council is expected to approve legislation aimed at reining in the billions of taxpayer dollars that are spent annually on outside contracts, a move that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration contends will increase government inefficiency and bureaucracy."

Well, it appears as if the stopped clock council is telling the right time on this issue because now we have found out-via the NY Times-that another city computer initiative has hit the competency shoals: "Soon after becoming mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg announced a plan to modernize the computer system that handles personnel information for New York City’s vast work force. The $66 million project was to be one of the signature technological innovations of his tenure. Nine years later, his administration has already spent $363 million — and the work is far from done."

On the heels of the CityTime scandal we have this-and how pathetic is this when it comes from an administration whose leader has amassed a freakin' fortune exploiting computer technology! But the culprit here is a lack of managerial acumen-and the use of outside contractors who apparently were left to their own devices:

"The administration has pressed ahead despite repeated warnings that the project is deeply troubled, according to a review of thousands of pages of city records, as well as dozens of interviews with officials and private contractors. The administration’s own internal monitors regularly filed reports detailing chronic mismanagement, cost overruns and rampant waste."

Mismanagement and rampant waste procured by the richest man in the room. How droll. But the most shocking accusation-from someone who was in the room and should know-is one of incompetence: "It was a runaway project,” said Raj Agarwal, a city official who managed the early stages of the new system before resigning in frustration over what he saw as the administration’s incompetence."

Is this going to be the Bloomberg legacy? That he couldn't manage to get the computers running on time-and under budget? But this gets to the heart of the outsourcing debate-and as we said yesterday it is not about who gets to do the work but the money spent and the oversight of the work:

"The administration has already weathered a scandal surrounding another sprawling project, CityTime, which was supposed to revamp the city’s payroll operations. The little-known tale of the personnel system offers fresh evidence that Mr. Bloomberg, who made his fortune revolutionizing information technology for Wall Street, has had difficulty carrying out a pledge to do the same with city government.

In both projects, the administration, bent on proving that outside consultants could improve the workings of government, ignored clear signs that the projects were foundering, the interviews and records show.

“No sense of economy, efficiency or value is evident in any area of the project,” the administration’s contract monitors wrote about the personnel system in March 2003, according to an internal report obtained under the Freedom of Information Law

Third Term Mike has got a lot of explaining to do-and his early self praise can now be repeated as mockery: "City Council members questioned the costs, but Mr. Bloomberg saw high-tech innovation as his mandate. “The people that thought I had the skills to be the mayor at this period would say, ‘Yes, that is one of the reasons we wanted Bloomberg,’ ” he said in 2002. “ ‘He modernizes things and brings people together with technology.’ ”

Well, as far as CityTime is concerned he's probably right since a number of those contractors will be spending a lot of time together-in federal prison. But what's clear is that the mayor's management style of delegating stuff to others is lacking-and that New Yorkers should never have given him another four years.

Which brings us back to Willets Point-where we have an unaccountable development agency outsourcing consulting work that is also unaccountable-unaccountable for any degree of accuracy. Or, in our view, unaccountable squared!

Three years after the city council approved the development NYC EDC is still stuck in the mud-in a ditch right below the off ramp.-and no one in the Bloomberg camp has yet to give this fiasco a price tag. Perhaps when this hapless sucker leaves office his successor will total up the bill-get appropriate sticker shock-and send this fantasy land project to the circular file.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Controlling Contracting

The WSJ is reporting that the city council is considering legislation to rein in outsourcing of city services through independent contractors: "The City Council is expected to approve legislation aimed at reining in the billions of taxpayer dollars that are spent annually on outside contracts, a move that Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration contends will increase government inefficiency and bureaucracy."

That's a real backslapper! All of a sudden the mayor is interested in increasing government efficiency after ten years of larding up the public payroll? No friends this is all about control and the ability to award contracts and have the contractors beholden to-well, the mayor, of course.

Here's the mayoral spokesman's comical turn of a phrase: "Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said the administration has "worked hard to reduce the cost and inefficiency of government by streamlining bureaucracy and cutting red tape." He said the bill "not only adds to those requirements, but erects barriers and limits commissioners' discretion to get services as quickly and efficiently as possible."

This is all Kabuki theater because-in a plague on both your houses fashion-the mayor and the council are twin culprits in the growth of government. The council's move is really to insure that more services are performed by the elite corps of unionized public servants that are known for their efficiency-not to mention crippling pension and benefit costs.

What neither Speaker Quinn nor the mayor are inclined to do is reduce the size and scope of this ever expanding and useless government edifice-the real culprit for the fact that NYC ranks at the top of the list as one of the worst places in the entire country to do business. These two are simply quibbling over the manner in which the tax payers are to be fleeced.

But if the council is really serious about containing outsourcing it might profit from taking a long hard look at the out of control NYC EDC-a "quasi-governmental" agency that runs amok without any supervision. As the NY Daily News reported last year:

"The agency that collects rent on city property failed to turn over millions to the city - but still managed to spend big bucks on extravagant travel.

The Economic Development Corp. paid for luxury hotels in China, London, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and Washington, expenses from January 2008 through April show.

The records show that EDC operates under looser travel rules than city employees, who are supposed to fly coach, stay in economy hotels and limit how much they spend on food and drink

And the same cavalier attitude applies to the agency's contracting-where they let contracts out without competitive bidding. Who decides? Who sets the rates? Who cares? We have seen what this attitude brings when it comes to the incestuous relationship between EDC and the environmental firm AKRF-phony data proffered with no accountability. AKRF is chastised for a bad data submission to state DOT by being awarded more money to clean up its filthy act.

So let's not get misdirected by the council's actions here-it's Quinn tip toeing past her Bloomberg loving past to try to curry union support for 2013. The only thing missing is a truth in advertising provision. What we need are elected officials who understand that the NYC Leviathan is the problem-the current crop couldn't understand this without a frontal lobotomy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Helmeted Arrogance

The recently released news that an epidemic of bike related injuries is inundating NYC hospitals points to the arrogance of the mayor and his crank traffic commissioner-consider that all of this biking up the wrong tree was done without any independent review of its potential impact on either traffic congestion or car safety:

"More than 500 New York City residents are injured badly enough to be treated in hospitals after being struck by bicyclists each year, according to an analysis by Hunter College professors. The number, while small compared with the number of pedestrians injured by cars, is a much higher figure than an earlier study by the same researchers found."

And this may be only the tip of the iceberg since many of the injured are utilizing local doctors and clinics: “We don’t know how many people are injured and just go home, or see their family doctor,” said the study’s co-author Bill Milczarski, an urban planner at Hunter College. “We have lots and lots of people competing for scarce space.”

What the mayor and this nut Sadik-Khan have done is to attempt a transformation of the city's streets into one big bike lane without subjecting this massive experiment to any proper land use review-and now comes the ridiculous 10,000 bike sharing idea that threatens to make a bad situation that much worse:"And now, of course, Mayor Bloomberg and his bike-happy transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, are gearing up to put 10,000 more threats on the streets through their bicycle-sharing program."

What this demonstrates to us is the massive contempt that the elitist Bloomberg has for New Yorkers-imposing by dictat what should properly be considered through legislative review. Not that a stugy would have been any much better since the Bloomberg administration can spew out more phony data since the old Soviet Union started to concoct its fantasy Five Year Plans.

We should know. We are still sitting in amazement at the disgraceful proffer of phony traffic data for the Willets Point development-all of which points to the appropriate epitaph for the Bloomberg regime: Figures don't lie, but liars figure.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Sorry Apology on Kelo

We just got word from Queens Crap that one of the Connecticut Supreme Court justices is now apologizing for his decision against Suzette Kelo on the New London condemnation case. The Hartford Courant has the story:

"Afterward, Susette and I were talking in a small circle of people when we were approached by Justice Richard N. Palmer. Tall and imposing, he is one of the four justices who voted with the 4-3 majority against Susette and her neighbors. Facing me, he said: "Had I known all of what you just told us, I would have voted differently."

I was speechless. So was Susette. One more vote in her favor by the Connecticut Supreme Court would have changed history. The case probably would not have advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Susette and her neighbors might still be in their homes.

Then Justice Palmer turned to Susette, took her hand and offered a heartfelt apology. Tears trickled down her red cheeks. It was the first time in the 12-year saga that anyone had uttered the words "I'm sorry."

It was all she could do to whisper the words: "Thank you."

With all due respects to Judge Palmer, you can keep the apology because it is meaningless and not only that-it is irrelevant to the legal framework that the court used to decide Kelo's fate. As the inversecondemnantion blog observes-citing the court's ruling:

"The point of us quoting these passages from the majority opinion is that it did not matter to the court whether New London's development plan would "materialize." Thus, even if the property owners had been able to show that the plan likely would fail and that the area had a high chance of becoming "barren and wholly undeveloped," the rational basis standard of review endorsed by the Connecticut Supreme Court majority meant that these factual predictions would be meaningless unless the city's predictions of success were utterly impossible or completely irrational, which they were not."

Maybe it's high time for court's to exercise a little judgment and not simply allow municipalities to run roughshod over the property rights of its citizens:

"So while it's nice to see one of the justices who endorsed that rationale make nice and say sorry, it seems to be a bit of historical revisionism to suggest that if only he'd known the future accurately he would have voted differently (wouldn't we all, Your Honor, wouldn't we all), when he expressly held that predictions of success or failure of the plan were legally irrelevant. The rational basis standard of review he applied to the case makes his present assertion that he he didn't know of the failure of the plan because those facts "were not yet in existence," itself pointless.

How about instead of these heartfelt -- but legally meaningless -- post hoc gestures, courts adopt a standard of review that would allow consideration of evidence about whether redevelopment plans such an New London's really have a genuine chance of working?"

When SCOTUS ruled that condemnation for public benefit was legal as long as there was a well developed economic plan-Justice Kennedy's brainstorm-what it failed to consider was the nefarious nature of so much that is done in the name of economic development-especially in NYC. What we have been demonstrating throughout this long fiight over Willets Point is that these city officials have an arm's length relationship with the truth-and there's a decent chance that Willets Point will be transformed-just like Suzette Kelo's neighborhood-into a dump!

The effort by NYC EDC to end run the environmental review of the required traffic ramps in a newly concocted first phase development underscores how duplicity reigns in Bloomberg's New York-and how no one's property is safe here as long as Iron Triangle Mike is holding onto to power.

Friday, September 16, 2011

TDC: Only in America?

Now that we know that TDC is vying for a large slice of the Willets Point development isn't time to ask the question: With whose money is the company playing? This is not a rhetorical question because TDC-having been stymied in its Flushing Commons project at Muni Lot I is looking to Chinese investors to jump start its project.

We covered this-and the Flushing Times had the story: "Last July, the city approved TDC’s proposal to build Flushing Commons, a mixed-use project with a price tag of more than $800 million, in the space currently occupied by Municipal Lot 1 in downtown Flushing. But the company has yet to secure the funding it needs to move forward on the condominium-centric development. TDC has turned to Chinese investors and possibly breaking the project’s construction down into phases in hopes of getting a shovel into the ground soon."

So let's get this straight. The city is actually allowing a company that-as we said yesterday-was part of an illegal lobbying scheme to bid on a project that will displace American land owners, and do so with foreign money? Isn't it enough to violate Constitutionally protected property rights without adding insult to injury by outsourcing the land purchase?

AG Schneiderman, you're on the clock.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

TDC Submits a Bid: Will Crime Pay?

The Flushing Times is reporting that EDC has accepted bids on its bogus Phase I of the Willets Point development and, guess what?-TDC has submitted a bid:

"Michael Meyer, president of TDC Development — one of the premier firms in the Flushing development industry — said his company was one of the ones that submitted a first phase proposal. The company has long been a part of the ongoing process to choose a proposal and developer for the site.

“I’m just going to say at this point, since [the EDC hasn’t] gone public with anything that from the time we submitted our Request for Expression of Interest six years ago, we’ve been consistent throughout,” Myer said Tuesday. “I am very interested to know how many people submitted.”

Well, well, well, isn't this interesting. TDC has been an integral part of the Claire Shulman LDC crime scheme-you know the one that cloaked the selfish interests of developers like TDC under the umbrella of a phony not for profit; a not for profit we may add that is enjoined from legally engaging in any lobbying whatsoever. This same entity received $500,000 in tax payers money to advance the interests of Mr. Meyer's company. Nice, no?

This is the fraudulent scheme that AG Cuomo was supposed to have been investigating before he got the endorsement of the mayor-can you say, quid pro quo? It is the scheme that the current AG, Eric Schneiderman is-at least according to his staff discussions with us-supposedly still investigating. What's the hold up, Eric? Not interested in taking on the mayor and the Queens Dems-led by Virginia's own Joe Crowley?

The bottom line in all of this is that Mike Bloomberg, Mr. The Rules Don't Apply to Me, concocted a plan to create a phony grass roots support group to advance the Willets Point development-and created an LDC that was simply a stalking horse for TDC and its cohort of developer colleagues. So, in essence the tax payers funded an astroturf effort to deprive the WPU property owners of their Constitutional rights.

But what are property rights to Mike Bloomberg-a man who's only interested in protecting his own rights but not those of small landowners. Oh yes, Bloomberg will give a lachrymose speech at Ellis Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty to support some hucksters advancing a plan to build a GZ mosque. Freedom of religion and all. But property rights, fuhgeddaboudit!

Mike's got his, so the hell with anyone else. We wonder what it will take for law enforcement to take a long hard look at the mayor's unilateralism-maybe it will come from the Haggerty trial and the exposure of the Bloomberg electoral bribery scheme. Who knows? But no one should allow TDC to profit from its scheming-after all, crime doesn't pay, right?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Mayor

Well we have to say that it's about time that the local press caught up with our less than stellar view of Hizzoner the mayor. His actions around the development of Willets Point-and particularly the employment of illegal lobbying tactics-have earned Mr. Bloomberg failing grades with WPU. He has exhibited nothing but arrogance and dishonesty when it comes to our basic Constitutional rights.

Now as the mayor slogs through his illegal third term-bought and paid for by a whole host of underhanded methods and bribes of good government groups-his true colors are shining through; and the vertically challenged Bloomberg is actually getting smaller before our very eyes. This fact was amply demonstrated by his actions surrounding the dismissal of Deputy Mayor Goldsmith-as far from a profile in courage by Mikey the Mayor as possible.

Back in August, you see, Goldsmith got into a heated argument with his wife in Washington DC and the police were called-Goldsmith was arrested for domestic violence and spent 36 hours in jail before being let go when the wife wouldn't press charges (Not so lucky was Hiram Monseratte). After a conversation with the mayor, Goldsmith was sent packing.

So, what did Bloomberg tell New Yorkers about the goldsmith exit? Certainly not the truth-as the prevaricating little wilted flower prattled on about "seeking opportunities in the private sector." It took the mayor a month to come clean and when he did, he actually had the temerity to defend his actions-prompting an outcry from a formerly obedient press ensemble. Clyde Haberman captured the insouciance of the arrogant leader:

"With his smooth handling of Tropical Storm Irene, Mr. Bloomberg seemed to be getting his groove back. But now he has gone back to foot-shooting. Worse, he has lost a large measure of credibility with his unapologetic half-truths about why Stephen Goldsmith left as deputy mayor for operations.

It took a month for New Yorkers to learn the real reason, by way of The New York Post: Mr. Goldsmith had been arrested in Washington and jailed for the better part of two days on a domestic violence complaint."

The NY Post's Michael Goodwin also chastised Bloomberg:

"Face it, New York. Our mayor is just not that into us anymore. Bloomy Dearest has checked out and moved on. The job of mayor is beneath him, and it's no longer worthy of his full attention. Besides, there's no point being a billionaire if you have to follow the same rules as everybody else.

No man who cares about his job or reputation would behave as Bloomberg did. By claiming the right to deceive the public, he recalls the attitude of JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater, who famously grabbed some beers, opened the emergency chute and told the world to "f*&% off."

Not to be left out we have words of wisdom from Michael Powell of the Grey Lady herself:

"Now 10 years into his mayoralty, Michael R. Bloomberg still tends to view the office of the mayor as akin to a hallway at Bloomberg L.P. Rules apply as the boss prefers. He wants a deputy mayor to run his foundation, which in turn ladles out dough to constituents’ nonprofits? Done. With precious little input, he wants to pick a Park Avenue friend as schools chancellor? Done. You want to take undisclosed vacations to undisclosed mansions on undisclosed islands? That too.

So it’s not surprising to find the mayor at it again on Sunday, this time defending something less defensible: His refusal to disclose that Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith resigned under duress, after police had arrested and jailed him on a domestic violence charge in Washington."

In summary we are saddled with a chief executive who doesn't believe that the rules apply to him-and therefore it isn't surprising when he resorts to extra-legal tactics as he has done at Willets Point. We have been assaulted by His Arrogance for three years now and he and his minions have pulled every trick in the land use book-from illegal lobbying and doctored data, to bribed environmental groups and an illegal new development phase never before vetted by the city council.

Enough is enough. We have seen as much of this little Caesar as we care to see-and it is high time that clearer thinking folks pull the plug on his vanity development over at the Iron Triangle. If they don't Willets Point will be turned into a garbage dump just as Suzette Kelo's neighborhood has been in New London. We'll give Gideon's Trumpet the last word:

"As regular readers of this blog know, the redevelopment project that gave rise to the wretched U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, never came about. In spite of the city’s boasting about the quality of its plans, nothing was ever built on the Fort Trumbull site from which the city displaced an entire unoffending, well maintained lower middle-class neighborhood. Though the formal taking took place in 2000 and the U.S. Supreme Court gave its approval to it in 2005, the city’s project has been a failure, with 91 acres of waterfront property sitting there empty and overgrown by weeds.

Now, we learn from the local newspaper, The Day, that following the hurricane Irene, the city has designated the Fort Trumbull redevelopment site as a place to dump vegetation debris. For a video of locals dumping that stuff on the site, click here.

Connecticut taxpayers have thus been soaked tens of millions of dollars, not just for nothing, but for making things worse — for transforming a nice local neighborhood into a dump

Eric the Reticent

In today's NY Daily News the paper editorializes about AG Schneiderman's prosecutorial zeal and advises him to, "take a deep breath." Now what the News is talking about is the AG's utilization of his investigation of the banks as a fundraising tool but here at WPU we're more concerned that the zeal he is showing-and posturing about-is tuckering him out with an investigation that he inherited from his predecessor, Mr. Ethics himself, the new governor.

What the former AG Cuomo did or didn't do about the illegal lobbying of EDC, the mayor and the former BP of Queens Claire Shulman should be of paramount concern to law enforcement. In effect the mayor set loose an illegal lobbying scheme to deprive all of us of our property rights-and no, Mr. Mayor, it isn't something done all the time-a preposterous allegation that Bloomberg told a local paper.

The mayor, as the recent flap over his failure to disclose the reason for Deputy Mayor Goldsmith's resignation highlights, lives by his own rules and he doesn't feel obligated - just like Leona Helmsley - to live up to the legal requirements of all the "little people." This entire fiasco at Willets Point deserves a full and fair investigation - and if the AG can't do it then he should no longer posture as a champion of the people against the special interests.

Someone at the AG's office in late 2010 decided that it wasn't in the interest of the attorney general to do any further exploration of the illegal lobbying scheme. Inquiring minds want to know who made that decision-was it the current governor?