In this week's Queens Chronicle the paper reports on Judge Madden's decision to re-open the lawsuit that WPU filed against the city: "Just days after the city made a show of starting sewer work at Willets Point, a state Supreme Court judge has decided to reopen a Willets Point United lawsuit that could halt the $3 billion mixed-use development project."
Madden was unfazed by the city's legal arguments about the phased implementation of a Willets Point development that the city told to one and all simply must be done all in one piece because of the remediation issue from years of environmental neglect. There is one reason, and one reason alone that the city is willing to risk the court's ire-and that is because it is desperate to get this boondoggle started before Mayor Megabucks finally leaves for greener pastures.
The city is desperate because it told the court that it wouldn't condemn a single property until the Van Wyck ramps were approved-and almost three years after it sought this approval the regulators at the state and federal levels have yet to give the ramps the green light:
"In addition, the city has said in the past it would not start condemnation proceedings until the ramps were approved. In her ruling, Madden said: “As the city has now changed its position and is seeking to exercise its powers of eminent domain without approval of the ramps, in direct contradiction of its prior representations, and based on the significance of the ramps to the plan, I conclude that the integrity of the decision-making process has been impacted and sufficient reasons exist for me to consider vacating my prior judgment.”
This about face is what has irked the judge-and WPU's attorney weighs in on the duplicity: "WPU attorney Michael Gerrard said the decision “casts a large, dark cloud” over the development project. Gerrard added the ruling shows that the city “cannot run roughshod over the environmental laws and over the rights of the businesses that are struggling to survive.”
In the entire article, however, the city never attempts to defend the indefensible: the fact that its deputy mayor-the late great Robert Lieber-had lied to the court about condemnation. Instead it falls back on the fact that all the powers that be support the project-standing in line drooling at the prospect of being beggars at the EDC feast. We'd love to see a referendum on this development conducted with the voters of Queens-one where an equal amount of money was allocated to both sides to make their case.
We're confident that if the facts about the 80,000 cars per day and the lack of adequate transportation infrastructure were made known-not to mention the billions needed to complete this project-the voters of Queens would give it a thumbs down. Here's the fatuous statement from EDC:
"The Willets Point project is overwhelmingly supported by elected officials and the community and will transform this blighted and underutilized area into a vibrant neighborhood where thousands of New Yorkers will live and work. We are confident that the environmental review was properly conducted, and the project is proceeding as planned.”
Well, the fact that the ramps remain unapproved is the best indication that a proper environmental review wasn't conducted-and this situation came about because EDC's consultants fudged the traffic data and were caught red-handed. This entire development needs to be subjected to an independent fiscal as well as environmental review-the folks at EDC have proven their inadequacy to this crucial task.