Friday, December 2, 2011

Bloomberg Shovels it at Willets Point

The NY Daily News reports on the "groundbreaking for the sewer construction project that is the linchpin of the Willets Point development-70 years after the first property owners began to beg the city for primary services:

"Mayor Bloomberg broke ground Thursday on a controversial redevelopment that he vowed will transform gritty Willets Point into “a major engine for economic growth.” Bloomberg unearthed dirt with a slew of elected officials just steps from the mix of auto body shops and junkyards that abuts Citi Field.

“We are that much closer to the vibrant Willets Point of the future,” Bloomberg said at a news conference near the World’s Fair Marina along Flushing Bay."

All we can hear, however, is Paul Simon singing, "Slip Slidin' Away:" "You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away..." WPU's Joe Ardizzone hit back at the faux optimism: "But Willets Point United, a coalition of stakeholders critical of the project, blasted Bloomberg and Pinsky for jumping the gun. “The city is trying to create an impression of a fait accompli when there are serious legal and financial issues unresolved,” said Joe Ardizzone, 78, the lone resident of Willets Point."

In an NY1 story WPU's Antonacci blasts the city's years of neglect: "Business owners point out that it's not their fault the streets look rough. They paid taxes for years, and now they're the ones bearing the brunt of the city's neglect. Jerry Antonacci's family has run a carting business for 35 years.

"It's gotta be over a million dollars over 30 years in taxes, and what do we get for it? We're getting kicked out. I mean, we didn't get no streets, we didn't get no sewers, we didn't get no sidewalks, no street signs, no stop signs, no snow plowing, nothing," said Antonacci."

We did get a chuckle about the comments of EDC's boy president: "Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp., said the proposal will turn Willets Point into “one of the great and vibrant neighborhoods of New York City.” In fact we have a great name for the new "vibrant" neighborhood: Gridlock City! The overdeveloped Willets point might better resemble a Roach Motel-where the roaches get in but can't get out.

And what have they been putting in BP Marshall's coffee? Here's her observation about the plight of the existing businesses: "Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said she wants all Willets Point businesses to be re-located to the same spot. “I would like to see them placed somewhere they can work as a team,” she said."

EDC-in usual prevarication mode-chimed in: "As for threatened businesses, officials insist they're offering fair market value and relocation help." This amounts to the usual one way bus ticket out of town.

Of course no one at EDC shares her vision for the displaced workers and their employers-and especially not CM Ferreras who has given up any pretense of advocacy on their behalf in exchange for marionette strings. Here's her inane prattle on NY1: "This was an area that we just didn't walk by. It wasn't safe and I would come by with my dad only," said City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras."

What she was saying, however-inadvertently making a strong counter intuitive point-was that when her dad needed something for his car Willets Point was the destination. As for walking, why would you walk in Willets point when there were no paved roads or sidewalks? It was not, after all, El Malecón.

NY1 did also bring in the living wage issue: "A retail union also alleges there’s double-talk on higher wages for those that will eventually work there. In a 2008 letter, city officials said they will favorably view development plans that maximize the number of jobs that meet the city's living wage and health benefit. With construction union backing, City Hall officials now say that would jeopardize the project."

So the city is going to put over 200 businesses and 1800 mostly minority workers out of a job-put hundreds of millions of dollars into the development-and they say that a living wage requirement would kill the deal? What that means to us is that the plan calls for box stores and more box stores-another about face from the original Lieber letter to the city council-where the deputy mayor lied about, "suburban box stores being discouraged due to their significant impacts on traffic and vehicular circulation."

Willets Point was created in dishonesty and illegality and that pattern continues to this day. The "beautiful vision" that Marshall sees rests on fraud and deception and, as Max Weber once observed, the use of nefarious means to achieve good ends usually results in the opposite. Willets Point is a case in point.