Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Big Ben Haber

Throughout this entire Willets Point struggle there has been one voice of intellect and integrity that has stood out-and that voice belongs to Ben Haber a man whose letters to the local papers have struck back at the city's hypocrisies and venality. True to form he continues in his role as the voice of reason by lashing out at the city's sewer hypocrisy:

"In its mishandling of Willets Point, the city Economic Development Corp. has qualified for the Chutzpah Award of the Year. Notwithstanding the lack of sewers in Willets Point, the city not only ignored repeated requests from property owners for many years to install sewers, but collected sewer rent for the non-existent sewers...It willfully allowed the area to fall into structural disrepair and then mislabeled it as substandard. Now comes the pinnacle of absurdity in that the EDC has awarded the sewer contract to a New Jersey-based company (“Avella, biz group slam EDC,” Flushing Times, Dec. 1-7)."

Haber also underscores the central point that WPU has been making about the city's eminent domain abuse: "It made a mockery of the understanding that eminent domain was to be used for public purposes and not to subsidize fat-cat real estate developers."

Make no mistake about it, the Willets Point development will go down in the annals of the city's history-along with the theft of the Bronx Terminal Market by Dan Doctoroff for his friend Steve Ross--as the exemplar of crony capitalism and what Newsday's Dan Janison has coined as patricianage. Unfortunately there are far too few Habers around to righteously call out the self servers.

He does, however, end his letter with an important policy suggestion-and for that he deserves the last word: "By no stretch of the imagination can the proposed Willets Point development in its concept, planning and implementation qualify as democracy in action. Machine politics would fit the bill. The time has come to remove the EDC’s jurisdiction from the mayor and make it accountable to the City Council."