Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wages of Sin: The Unknown Cost of Phase I

The NY Times is weighing in on EDC's illegal end run over proper environmental review at Willets Point-popularly known as Phase I-and buried amidst all of the hoo ha and faux enthusiasm is this elephant in the room nugget:

"Specialists in real estate financing who are not working with any of the Willets Point bidders point out that a project of this scale is likely to require a great deal of public financing at a time when the city and state are slashing their spending.

Scott A. Singer, a principal of the Singer & Bassuk Organization, a New York company that arranges financing for major property owners, said that some construction financing is still available today, but that the hurdles for developers — especially outside Manhattan —are much higher than they used to be.

“It’s not necessarily impossible,” Mr. Singer said, “but it wouldn’t be at all surprising if this moved forward only in fits and starts.”

Undaunted the comedians at EDC drag out their own economic development expert-the renowned fiscal watchdog and EDC's Charlie McCarthy, CM Julissa Ferreras, to insist this is all eminently doable-Bloomberg's version of a stimulus no doubt: "Yet is it realistic to imagine that redevelopment will occur anytime soon on a site that has bedeviled city officials and civil leaders for decades? “I think it’s absolutely realistic,” Ms. Ferreras said, citing the proposals the city has received. “It will kick-start our economy.”

It will kick start the economy? Is there LSD in the Corona water? This project will kick start-if at all-when Ferreras is an abuella. And WPU is fighting hard to make the long road ahead that much harder. As the Times reports, there are a number of legal potholes ahead:

"Though the project has the support of politicians, some business owners are still fighting it. Michael Rikon, one of their lawyers, accused the city of trying to clear the site to make way for additional parking for the ballpark, which is much closer to Willets Point than its predecessor, Shea Stadium.

“It’s just a sham,” Mr. Rikon said, referring to the project. “No developer can build there, and it will cost billions of dollars to correct the conditions that exist. What will happen is that Bloomberg will go out of office, and the project will be forgotten again.”

And then there are the ramps-those mitigating traffic necessities tha the city has decided-kind of like when the school test scores were trumpeted as evidence of Bloomberg's educational miracle-that the ramps were not needed. Honestly, they studied this very carefully and came to this conclusion in an above board and transparent manner. ("City officials say the ramps are included in the overall plan but are not needed for the first phase.")

Here's WPU's Mike Gerrard on this issue:

"Opponents say there are other legal hurdles that could delay or thwart development. They have argued that dividing the project into stages was not permitted under the plan approved by the City Council because cleaning up only one part of the site at a time runs the risk of recontamination.

They also contend that it would violate environmental laws to start building at Willets Point until two ramps are added to connect the new development to the Van Wyck Expressway to ease traffic.

“It is our belief that this project, if built, would put so much traffic on the Van Wyck as to immobilize it,” said Michael B. Gerrard, a Columbia law professor who is also representing the business owners."

When the book and the movie on Willets Point come out there will be an all star cast of villainous characters to headline the event-and when the dust settles it will be clear just who did what to whom-and who kept their mouths shut when they should have spoken out.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is one righteous law enforcement or judicial soul who will say, "This isn't right or fair." We're not holding our breathe and we now know how badly Diogenes felt looking for the one honest man. There is one philosopher whose observation is appropriate for this fiasco-and it was Voltaire who pointed out; "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."