Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rexamination: Madden Gives a Second Opinion

The Times Ledger is reporting on Judge Madden's re-examination of her decision from last year to throw out the Article 78 lawsuit that WPU brought against the city:

"A State Supreme Court judge reopened a lawsuit Tuesday that could throw a wrench into the $3 billion redevelopment blueprint for Willets Point after the city broke down its original plans into three separate phases. State Supreme Court Judge Joan Madden originally ruled against a group of property owners who sued the city to stop the project, but she said in her Tuesday ruling that she would reopen the case after the city Economic Development Corp. made changes to its plans for the 62-acre, mixed-use development, which would replace the auto body shops and industrial businesses that currently populate the Iron Triangle."

We've been calling the EDC phase-in approach a phony ruse and Madden concurred-using more judicial language: "According to the ruling, the city broke up the proposal into three phases without conducting a separate environmental study and also claimed that it did not need additional ramps on the Van Wyck Expressway to accommodate increased traffic. In addition, the city earlier claimed that it would not proceed with condemning property in the triangle until the ramps were approved but did so anyway, the ruling said."

Liar, liar, pants on fire! "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,” Madden said in her statement."

So much subterfuge it's hard to know where to begin-and as the Ledger also reports the city can't even conduct a sewer permit hearing honestly. WPU's chastisement of EDC/DEC brought immediate results, however:

"And Monday night, the group released a statement alleging that the EDC did not properly conduct a period for public comment, which is required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Michael Gerrard, a lawyer for Willets Point United, sent DEC a letter Nov. 21 accusing the agency of purposely concealing documents from the public’s view and not disclosing the environmental impacts of the project. In addition, Gerrard’s letter stated that the EDC did not initially include business owners in Willets Point on an outreach list ahead of the Nov. 9 meeting."

So, what happened? EDC and the DEC blinked: "The day after Bloomberg’s news conference, the EDC issued a statement that a new public hearing will be held Dec. 19, which Willets Point United chalks up to Gerrard’s letter. But Jennifer Friedberg, spokeswoman for the EDC, said her agency and the DEC collaborated on the public comment period, which is ongoing. A spokesman for DEC said the agency announced it would be conducting further outreach without the provocation of DEC."

What this clearly shows is that EDC can't do the right thing without provocation from an aggrieved party-something that has characterized this development from the very first time the agency set up its illegal lobbying scheme four years ago; "And to drum up support in the immediate area, the city has been giving funding to a Willets Point redevelopment advocacy group led by former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber confirmed, boosting an organization that has brought on a lobbying team of its own for the push. The city has approved up to $250,000 in matching funds for Ms. Shulman’s group."

So here we are-soup to nuts. The Bloomberg administration holding on desperately to have at least something to point to when these past 12 years are put into the record books will stoop to any tactic to get Willets Point developed-after all, with school test scores flat lining (what Daily Politics calls a "legacy" problem) there really isn't much for these folks to cheer about as they prepare to walk out the door at the end of 2013.