Friday, November 25, 2011

Willets Point's Living Wager: A Bad Bet All Around

As we have discussed the issue of living wage has encompassed the issue of the city's plan to develop Willets Point -- and in that discussion we underscored just how mendacious the city has been in promoting the project. It appears that NYC EDC and various deputy mayors for economic development come straight out of the ends justify the means school of public policy-or is it the Lenin school of omelet making?

Put simply the city lied -- in Paradise by the Dashboard light fashion --to assorted labor leaders when it made promises around the living wage provision for Willets Point. Once it had gotten off, so to speak, it no longer felt the need to honor those promises so they were conveniently ignored. But the bad living wage wager is only the tip of the duplicitous iceberg when it comes to this development. Shall we count the ways?

(1) Created an illegal lobbying scheme to to promote the project: Set up Claire Shulman's LDC-a phony charity that was comprised of grasping developers - with tax payer money - to present an ersatz grass roots support group for the development plan;

(2) Shulman hid her lobbying activities until the whistle was blown by Willets Point businesses. The result? The largest fine for this kind of underhandedness in the city's history;

(3) Illegal activity exposed by the NY Times: resulting in an investigation that has disappeared into the miasma through two Attorney Generals' tenure -- raising the specter of a cover up and political corruption at the highest levels of city and state government;

(4) Failure of City Council oversight: The council approved the project sight unseen and left the details for later-opening the door because of legislative non-feasance for unacceptable uses such as Wal-Mart;

(5) Scandal of the Van Wyck Ramps: Another failure of council oversight that lead to a lawsuit from WPU against the city;

(a) Lawsuit dismissed when Deputy Mayor Lieber swore to the court that the city wouldn't condemn any property until the ramps were approved;

(b) Ramps application from EDC spit back: EDC consultants filed deceptive and/or fraudulent traffic data that has held up the approval process for over three years;

(6)Governor Cuomo appoints Joan McDonald as new SDOT commissioner: a former EDC executive and ringer who fits comfortably into the cover up narrative;

(7) City reverses its stand on condemnation: Ignores Lieber's sworn deposition and begins "Phase I" of the development that includes condemnation but no ramp approval. Phase I is a fiction that undermines all of the representations that EDC had made to the council in the approval process-indicating the extent to which nothing that the agency says about the development can be believed;

(8 Shulman's LDC receives a $1.5 million grant for the Flushing Waterfront: Grant is challenged by WPU which leads to NYS AG's Office contradicting itself about the existence of an investigation into Shulman's illegal lobbying-raising further questions about a cover up;

(9) City reverses itself on living wage: Comes full circle with its duplicity;

(10) Small property owners still facing eviction;

(11) Thousands of Hispanic workers still being displaced and losing their livelihoods;

(12) Crony capitalism: WPU property to be handed over to rich developer(s);

(13) Still no price tag on what this scheme is going to cost NYC tax payers.

What this narrative dramatizes is just how the city has exhibited a thoroughgoing bad faith throughout the Willets Point development process. The entire scam needs to be halted in its track-beginning with the act of bringing to justice the ringleaders of the illegal lobbying scheme that started this process off in such an initial stench.