Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Managerial Expertise?

We have been forced to listen ad nauseum about how Mike Bloomberg is a superior manager-we heard it through three election cycles and it's now about time for the media to finally do its job and simply say: the emperor has no clothes! With yesterday's indictment of the entire CityTime crew of gangsters it has become painfully obvious that Mayor Mike's inattention-and absence-during last winter's snow storm was just the tip of the iceberg.

Here's the WSJ's report:

"Fraud permeated "virtually every level" of the development of New York City's long-delayed and over-budget automated payroll system, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Monday as he announced the indictments of two New Jersey executives accused of paying off contractors.

Padma and Reddy Allen, the top executives at TechnoDyne, a consulting company that worked on the city payroll system known as CityTime, were accused of handing out more than $40 million in kickbacks as part of an elaborate scheme to defraud city taxpayers. The couple had already returned to their native India, and authorities are pursuing them."

So, where exactly was Mike when all of this was going down? Right on top of this if you believe the risible response to the news from his lackey: "In a statement, Mr. Bloomberg's spokesman, Marc LaVorgna said, "Our Department of Investigation uncovered this fraud, bringing it to federal prosecutors, and we will be using all available avenues to recover any funding owed to the city."

Ho, ho, ho! DOI did no such thing, and credit goes to Comptroller Liu who first blew the whistle on the scandal. In fact, the mayor should go on one of his self promoting advertising jaunts to give profusive mea culpas to the citizens he hood winked a third time in 2009.

This is nonfeasance on a grand scale-and those prospective mayoral candidates who are looking for the mayor's coattails should re-think that strategy in light of the naked emperor's non-performance on this grand theft.

We at WPU are not surprised. On the front lines of one of the most wasteful boondoggles in city history we know first hand all about the city's managerial expertise-and the mayor's misguided priorities. That he can use corrupt consultants is no surprise here. The only difference is that the CityTime consultants ripped off the clueless Bloomberg administration and, of course, the tax payers; EDC's consultants are part of a conscious scheme to rip off small property owners along with the auto-choked residents of Queens.

It's time for the mayor to step down. His purchase of a third term should be returned to the buyers because of the fraudulent advertising the sale involved. He no longer has any credibility left and should leave red-faced immediately!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Out to Lunch-Breakfast and Dinner

Yesterday the NY Post commented on a Peter Vallone sponsored bill that was the brainchild of someone quite near and dear to our hearts. The bill would bell the Bloomberg cat when he picks up and leaves the city rudderless down in Bermuda, or wherever. The paper calls the legislation the, "MIA Mayor" bill:

"Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., still stewing over City Hall’s blizzard response — or lack thereof — at Christmastime, has introduced legislation meant to force the mayor to leave notice whenever he vacates town. Bloomberg apparently decamped to sunny Bermuda in December, as a blizzard approached the city. The rest, as they say, is history: A rudderless city was left to fend for itself."

Addition by subtraction, you say? How unfair of you. But what is taking the legislation so long to be brought to a vote? The Post doesn't say, but should have because it is the dilatory tactics of Speaker Quinn-you know, the woman who would be mayor-that has held it up this long.

The Post does, however, do a good job at poking fun at the mayor's defense: "A mayoral spokesman insists smartphones render the bill unnecessary: “In this day and age, the person New Yorkers elected mayor can always act as mayor — wherever he or she is.” Well, presumably Bloomberg took his BlackBerry to Bermuda at Christmastime — but that clearly didn’t prevent the near-total collapse of the city chain of command when the storm hit. He’s lost the benefit of the doubt, in other words."

As he should have about almost anything-including the viability of the Willets Point development and particularly the efficacy of those ramps off the Van Wyck. Nothing the mayor says, and no policy he advocates can be taken with anything but a grain of salt. Even though this fool wants to ban salt.

Relocating Simple Common Sense

According to the NY Post there's one guy at Willets Point who doesn't need to worry about having his property condemned-Ralph Paterno who sells Met memorabilia across from Citi Field. Ralph expressed his concerns to the paper and lashed out at the Bloomberg administration: "Mayor Bloomberg is stealing from the poor to give to the rich," charged Paterno."

But Ralph can rest easy. The reason? Well, here's the brain-dead city's response: "A city source said officials are offering to relocate the business and re-train workers." WPU's Jerry Antonacci has the only possible response to this inanity:

"Wow what a response! Re-train a guy that sells Met hats? To be what, a guy that sells Yankee hats? And why would he want to be relocated away from the stadium whose team shirts and hats he is selling? Does this make any sense?”

But this is how the city thinks, in canned sound bites divorced from any sense of reality. But then again the entire Willets Point project is divorced from reality so why should the city’s lame explanations be any different?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ramp Tramp

The last time we met Julissa Ferreras she was supposedly advocating for an oversight hearing on the proposed Van Wyck ramps-cognizant it seemed of the deficient EDC traffic estimates and worried about the potential impact that the increases in car and truck trips would mean for her Corona and East Elmhurst neighborhoods.

That, as we say was then, but this is now. As the Flushing Times reports from last week's ramp hearing, Ferreras has been elevated from her bench role into the EDC starting line up: "As the Council member who represents Willets Point, I am writing to express my support for the proposed ramp to be located off the Van Wyck Expressway,” Connell said, reading from a letter Ferreras wrote to EDC President Seth Pinsky. “This ramp is essential to mitigate the expected additional traffic as redevelopment of Willets Point moves forward.”

Ferreras has gone from wanting an oversight to being one-is it any wonder that she's on her fourth chief of staff? But the Queens Tribune, unlike the council member, captures all of the complexities surrounding this ramp controversy.

As the paper reports: "The lead-up to Wednesday’s hearing provides an abject lesson in the density, scope and epic mountain of red tape required to slap new ramps around Flushing Bay. It’s a three-year odyssey of competing reports, varying math formulas and legal gamesmanship. What emerges is a veritable chess match, with leading opposition group Willets Point United and the EDC playing an exhausting series of countermoves based on the ramps."

The odyssey, as it were, began when it became clear that EDC was cooking the books: "At the outset, WPU latched onto the ramps as the potential linchpin to any challenges of the project. The interchange between the Grand Central Parkway and the Whitestone and Van Wyck Expressways already presented a nightmare of congestion at peak rush hours. The City presented a bleak picture of the ramps’ ability to ease traffic in the surrounding local roads, WPU argued, with the added congestion of a planned monolithic mixed-use redevelopment of the 62-acre Iron Triangle. The City Council approved the plan regardless."

But the ramps were identified in the original EIS as the linchpin of mitigation-and at that point EDC decided to play its own version of Three Card Monte: "That draft EA, held alongside the FGEIS, provided a morphing depiction of the ramps’ impact, according to WPU. The group enlisted Brian Ketcham, a Brooklyn-based transportation engineer with a history of being a pain in the City’s backside (he effectively killed Westway, the Koch era’s massive West Side Highway proposal). Ketcham’s number crunching and colorful assertions have become the dogma behind WPU’s opposition. His reports, the most recent a 286-page rebuttal of the draft EA, amount to the group’s sacred text."

Keep in mind, however, that SDOT originally sent EDC back to the drawing board based on the sacredness of the Ketcham critique-a skepticism that seems to not have survived the changing of the guard at SDOT: "WPU’s plans took a second hit when the ramps made it past the DOT. Though lacking the state agency’s final endorsement, the plan was sent out for public review. EDC welcomed the move as a signal of the ramps’ imminent approval. WPU contended the DOT’s new commissioner and former EDC Transportation Vice President Joan McDonald was returning favors to her former employer."

Indeed! But the Ketcham's work is impeccable which is why the state and EDC both dread an independent review-afraid of the chicanery that it would reveal:

"Should the redevelopment of Willets Point go through as planned, all roads within a two-mile radius would become a hellhole of steady brake lights, honking horns and an incapacitated mass transit system, according to Ketcham.

“They’re essentially proposing the largest shopping mall in the city,” he said. “The impact on the surrounding local access roads is so horrendous. They low-balled the traffic, they have overstated the impact of transit. These folks are playing games with the numbers.”

And they've altered their original evaluation-fraudulently tailored to the SDOT and the Van Wyck: "Ketcham’s point lies in the differences between gridlocked hell depicted in 2008’s FGEIS and smooth driving portrayed in the draft EA, both prepared by engineering firm AKRF. According to Ketcham’s submission, the latter hides many of the flaws laid bare in the FGEIS, underreporting the estimated car trips by as much as 100 percent."

EDC responds with gobbledygook, but the Tribune is alive to the agency's obfuscation: "The gulf between the FGEIS and draft EA can easily be explained by competing formulas, according to the EDC’s dense, three-paragraph response to Ketcham’s assertions.

“[The draft EA], which is more regional in its approach, and focused on highway systems, uses different modeling procedures for forecasting future traffic volumes,” the agency said. “In contrast, the FGEIS analysis conservatively assigned vehicles according to the most direct route between their origins and destinations. Both approaches are appropriate and represent industry-standard protocol for evaluating traffic.”

Easy for them perhaps, but Ketcham remains incredulous: "While the FGEIS states half of the Iron Triangle’s auto traffic would use the Van Wyck Expressway, the latest EA lowers the figure to one third. An estimated 2,000 cars were not reassigned to local roads in the report, according to Ketcham, showing “operating conditions on local roads that are better than reported in the FGEIS despite carrying 26 percent more Willets Point trips. More trips, lower impacts: it is mysterious why EDC thinks anyone will believe this.”

Because EDC believes that in politics, clubs are trump-to wit the new SDOT commissioner, mysteriously elevated in the middle of this traffic storm. And perhaps, the witless Ferreras should pay attention to the full impact of Ketcham's critique: "Ketcham claims the EDC’s reports willfully ignore the ongoing development within Downtown Flushing, with the likes of Flushing Commons, the RKO Keith’s, Skyview Parc and other big ticket projects adding to traffic congestion.

“They just don’t complete all the calculations,” he said. “My analysis does. The frustration for someone like me is where is the planning? Where is the upfront analysis? They will build it and nobody will come because they can’t get into or out of it. Or the whole area will be gridlocked.”

Que lio!-as our Hispanic friends might say. But WPU is hopeful that the courts and the Feds will expose the state/EDC collusion: "Ketcham’s latest rebuttal to a City-produced report will play a major role in any lawsuits challenging the planned ramps, including a case returning to Judge Madden’s court.

“If the court rules [it] does have jurisdiction and that we should litigate the merits of the traffic impact, Ketcham’s report would definitely be integral,” said Michael Gerrard, WPU’s attorney for the case.

Gerrard also hopes Ketcham’s findings will encourage the Federal Highway Administration to undertake a Federal Environmental Impact Statement, which would most closely mirror WPU’s desire for a non-partisan third party to assess the traffic impact of the plan."

Where does leave the hapless Ferreras? As always, relegated to the servant class where she will remain as a beggar at the feast. It will, however, be her communities of Corona and East Elmurst that will be beggared if this project goes forward. As we warned almost two years ago, these neighborhoods will become the dirty door mats for the new development; and it is fitting that booth Ferreras and Queens BP Marshall live there so that their constituents can look at them see a daily reminder of their betrayal should this ill-conceived monstrosity go forward.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Projected Failure

The Queens Courier focused attention on the EDC ramp hearing last week, citing once again how WPU feels that the proposed ramps-along with the concomitant massive traffic emanating from the Willets Point development-will bring traffic to a halt on the Van Wyck. The ramps, instead of ameliorating the traffic as they are supposed to-will degrade the highway-the only concern that should bother state and federal regulators.

What EDC wants to do-violative of the state and federal environmental rules-is to convince the oversight authorities that the development of Willets Point is a given, making the ramps necessary to ameliorate the traffic mess it's creating. Of course, that's simply false since the project will not be built without these ramps. And if it isn't built the Van Wyck will be better off-therefore the only two scenarios that regulators should be considering are:

(1) The Van Wyck with the 80,000 daily car and truck trips from the project, or;

(2) The Van Wyck without the project.

It is not the job of SDOT to become a development partner of EDC-no matter how much the new DOT commissioner hearts her old agency. On top of this false baseline assumption by EDC the agency consultants have still not provided the state with accurate professional analysis of the traffic impacts-something that has been true for the past three years of the review process.

That is why WPU continues to demand an independent review of the traffic from the project. WPU's Mike Gerrard makes the case: "Michael Gerrard, a lawyer for Willets Point United said that the group fully intends to push for an independent environmental assessment.“We believe that the environmental assessment completely misrepresents the impact that the ramps would have and we’re going to urge the state and federal transportation departments to prepare an independent environmental impact statement,” he said."

At the presser before the hearing Councilman Dan Halloran railed against the years of deprivation of basic services for the property owners: "Besides being a prime spot for retail and housing, the city argues that Willets Point is a blighted area and therefore should be redeveloped. Halloran shot back at this claim, saying that it was the city’s inaction that put the industrial area is such dire straits.

“The city chose not to improve the area – they chose not to plow, not to provide sewers, not to provide infrastructure of any kind,” he said. “There needs to be development in Willets Point, but it needs to be done with the cooperation of the people there and not at gunpoint. What is happening now is downright un-American.”

The question that remains, is how will the regulators respond to the continued obfuscation of the EDC "experts?" And will the state move quickly to rubber stamp the ramp approval knowing how deficient the analysis is? After all, WPU's Brian Ketcham has produced and 264 page critique of the EDC EA-and a quick approval will demonstrate that SDOT is in the tank using equipment provided by its new boss.

One thing that still disturbs us, however, is how this commissioner/puppet was chosen in the first place. In politics it is always useful to examine, cui buono? And in this case the designation of Old McDonald benefits the mayor who endorsed the governor at a timely moment. Just saying.

So, as Meatloaf's girl friend might have said: "What'll it be boy?" Will SDOT do its job fairly. or will McDonald be a good marionetta and follow her marching orders armed with a rubber stamp? We shall see.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NYC's Waning Freedom

For all of us at Willets Point the undeserved third term that Mike Bloomberg bought can't be over soon enough-and the idea that Speaker Christine Quinn, the midwife of this fiasco, is seen by some as a front runner to replace the mayor is, well, laughable. Some of our feeling were reinforced when we read about the George Mason University study that labeled our state, "dead last in liberties."

It goes without saying that NYC drives a great deal of what's wrong with the entire state. And, as the study pointed out, the permissive use of condemnation was one of the reasons why NY was criticized so severely:

"Ranking worst in the categories of economic freedom and fiscal policy, New York also landed near the bottom for the categories of personal freedom (48th) and regulatory policy (40th). The study cites New York's restrictive gun-control and anti-smoking laws and sky-high cigarette taxes and the Big Apple's ban on trans fats. The researchers also slam New York's "excessive" home-schooling regulations and its strictest-in-the-nation health-insurance rules. The authors rap New York for curbing the rights of individual property owners. "Eminent domain abuse," the report says, "is rampant and unchecked."

Mike Bloomberg is, without a doubt, the driving force behind the city's restrictive control over so many of our personal freedom-imposing his own paternalistic sentiments without concern for what the citizens might want. An English paper captures the Nudger in Chief perfectly: "If you had to think of one city on earth where the rulers should not try to impose a standard of ‘good behaviour’, it would surely be New York. Who in their right mind would seek to sanitise this concrete jungle, to sedate the city that never sleeps, to demand conformism and obedience from the inhabitants of a place which, in the words of a popular tourist T-shirt, is known as ‘New York F**kin’ City’?"

Yup, Mike Bloomberg's the one-and the Spectator goes after Super Nanny with a vengeance: "It is hard to convey the impact of this state-enforced calorie-counting. It effortlessly zaps the fun from eating out. It is designed to induce caution, even guilt, in New Yorkers, to make them stop and think before snacking or dining, to make them treat calorific consumption as something akin to snorting cocaine — an act that can have grave consequences. As a regular TGI Friday’s patron told a reporter when the display law was introduced, after she noticed that the Brownie Obsession dessert had ‘1,500 CALORIES’: ‘I’m so upset. I wish they wouldn’t have done this.’"

This is precisely the soft despotism that Tocqueville warned about years ago-and it fits right in to the unethical third term that most New Yorkers didn't want: "In a complete reversal of the traditional democratic relationship, Bloomberg and co don’t consider it their duty to mirror the desires and outlook of those who elected them. They want to remake New Yorkers as models of what they consider to be healthy citizenship."

So it's not only your property that these proto-fascists want; your soul is up for grabs as well. Disdain for property rights, high taxes, and unwanted intrusions into our daily personal lives, is the legacy Mike Bloomberg will leave us with. And, by the way, he couldn't even plow the streets in a timely fashion. Quite a legacy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Delay Tactics?

The NY Daily News, commenting on the EDC ramp hearing of last week characterizes the fight for an honest traffic study as a "delay tactic." What's missing in the story., however, is that the delay that EDC has been forced to endure for the past year and a half has been as a result of its own dishonesty-and that the current effort of the development agency to go forward is a continuation of the same pattern of deceit.

Put simply, the same reason why this ramp application to the state has been delayed-shoddy consultant work that does violence to the truth-is now why WPU has called for an independent study of the ramps' impact on local roads and the Van Wyck. Mike Gerrard says it concisely and accurately:

"Willets Point United attorney Michael Gerrard said the city's environmental study "utterly lacked objectivity."

"The massive Willets Point project will destroy the ability of the Van Wyck Expressway to carry traffic any faster than a snail," Gerrard said after the city's Economic Development Corp. unveiled plans for the ramps at a public hearing Wednesday."

Is this true? Or shall the state step in and subject the city's application to an independent analysis? Clearly there was something amiss that led the state to send the original EDC ramp report back to the drawing board. Has it suddenly undergone a radically righteous makeover?

Hardly, as WPU's Brian Ketcham has pointed out. In fact there is nothing that has really changed in the equation aside from the fact that the SDOT has a new bobble head who appears to take her orders straight from William Street-where she recently received her pay check from.

All of this makes the upcoming hearing before Judge Madden very interesting indeed-and the judge may look at this entire effort with a jaundiced eye since the city seems to feel that it can act with impunity-and contrary to the judge's own decisions.

The reality here is that Kermit the Mayor is a big green hypocrite and is cooking the books in an attempt to force feed traffic onto all of the roads around his boondoggle. When the final chapter is finally written on the Bloomberg administration, Willets Point will be high on the list of blatant examples of dishonesty and hypocrisy.

EDC Plays Charades

Last week WPU came out in force to an EDC farce hearing on an environmental assessment that has as much validity as all of the state ed tests that proved beyond a reason doubt that our NYC school system was in the middle of some kind of Bloomberg educational miracle. In other words, the EDC EA isn't worth the paper it's printed on, and if our legal watchdogs in the state weren't so busy picking low hanging fruit-or prototypical villains from Wall Street-the EDC consultants over at AKRF would be answering subpoenas.

Instead we are given a charade that has been inappropriately sponsored by SDOT, whose commissioner doesn't need instructions to know where to find the bathroom down at EDC headquarters on William Street. Here's WPU's Mike Gerrard's response to the Flushing Times last week: "Michael Gerrard, a lawyer for Willets Point United, a group of Willets Point property owners and business owners, said Tuesday the organization planned to present arguments at the hearing. “We believe that the environmental assessment completely misrepresents the impact that the ramps would have and we’re going to urge the state and federal transportation departments to prepare an independent environmental impact statement,” Gerrard said."

EDC for its part remains confident that its political muscle can overcome any absence of technical accuracy and credibility: "The city remains confident despite the efforts of opponents to block one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s largest economic development initiatives. “Recently, we overcame several procedural hurdles allowing us to proceed on this overwhelmingly supported and job-creating project,” an EDC spokeswoman said in a statement. “The city remains committed to Willets Point becoming a center of economic growth and the site of substantial environmental cleanup.”

This destroy the village in order to save it mentality demonstrates that there is nothing more dangerous in this town than a bureaucrat with an eminent domain gun. Willets Point is going to be "cleaned up" so that it can eventually thoroughly clog local roads and highways with traffic. Makes sense, doesn't it?

But in order to first do this, it has to fudge all of the numbers and find a willing muñeca who will cover up the, well, coverup. SDOT Commissioner McDonald cheerily assumes the role of See No Evil and Hear No Evil. But it is Mike Bloomberg and the city that bears ultimate responsibility for this outrage-keeping the tradition alive of speaking out of both sides of the mouth when it comes to carbon footprint reduction.

Now, it the city had planned to turn Willets Point into a park or recreation center. We got carried away with the thought. If it went in that direction than the mayor couldn't do what he has done best for the past ten years-turn over economic development to his real estate cronies-happily screwing small businesses every step of the way.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ramp Hearing Today: WPU Press Release

Press Release

Willets Point United, Local Civic groups, Workers and Elected Officials to Speak Out At Press Conference before Hearing on the Van Wyck/Willets Point Ramps

Where: Flushing Public Library; 41-17 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355

When: Today

Time: 3:30

Today the NYC EDC will be holding a hearing on an Environmental Assessment (EA) for ramps that it wants to build off of the Van Wyck in order to accommodate the 80,000 daily car and truck trips that will be generated by the massive Willets Point development project. The EA has been prepared by EDC’s own consultants and has not been the subject of any independent review-something that local civic groups and the Natural Resources Defense Fund have been requesting for over a year.

The delay over the approval of these ramps has been caused by the intervention of Willets Point United and its consultant Brian Ketcham who reviewed the original ramp report and convinced state regulators that it was either deficient or simply fraudulent. The first EDC sponsored assessment had flatly contradicted the study that EDC had submitted to the city council when the Willets Point project had gone thorough land use review.

As Ketcham, a traffic engineer with over 40 years of experience will tell the hearing today, the EDC assessment of the traffic impacts of the proposed ramps remains deficient and, because it does, should not be approved by state regulators at the Department of Transportation. Instead State DOT needs to conduct an independent review of the ramp proposal in order to accurately gauge the traffic impacts-and remove the review process from an EDC that has little interest in accurately gauging these impacts.

As Jerry Antonacci of WPU says, “EDC has cooked the books for too long. The citizens of Queens need an impartial and independent review of the traffic impact of this development and the ramps that are supposed to mitigate the huge number of vehicles that are going to be clogging local roads and highways."

In addition, WPU is calling on the State Department of Investigation to remove Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald from any role in the ramp review process. Until just a few years ago McDonald was an executive at EDC and her presence in the process lends credence to the suspicion that the review will not be impartial.

The ramp approval process had been characterized by EDC’s dishonesty from its inception. But no matter how you slice it, there is no way that 80,000 daily car and truck trips can be mitigated by two ramps-or even by a multiple of ramps. Local roads will be massively gridlocked and the Van Wyck will be brought to a grinding halt. As a result, SDOT must turn down EDC’s ramp proposal and force the city to revisit the entire Willets Point project.

For a Bloomberg administration that purports to be for lowing NYC’s carbon footprint, the auto-dependent Willets Point development stands as a monument to the mayor’s hypocrisy. In addition, at a time when the mayor is laying off teachers and proposing to close firehouses, the massive use of public money for the Willets Point boondoggle represents a perfect symbol of the mayor’s disordered priorities.

Contact: Jerry Antonacci: 917-335-5427

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

EDC:Ramp Tramps

EDC's hearing on its proposed ramps off of the Van Wyck is scheduled for tomorrow at the Flushing Library at 4 in the afternoon. There's a little bit of surrealism involved in this because it is another example of the lack of genuine transparency-disguised as an opportunity for public participation. Make no mistake about it, however, the audience for tomorrow's event will not be the fraudsters at EDC-but those in the regulatory authorities that may be tempted to collude with the deception that the city has been perpetuating since this whole process began over a year amd a half ago.

The NY Daily News has the hearing story:

"The city will unveil design plans this week for traffic ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway, a key cog in the city's bid to revamp Willets Point.

A public hearing to discuss the ramps and other environmental concerns is slated for Wednesday at the Flushing branch of the Queens Library. It's the latest step in the city's process to take over "Phase 1" - a 20-acre plot of land in the gritty industrial zone."

Well, not exactly. The ramp hearing is part of a process that-as will be seen next month when the issue is brought before Judge Madden-should have been allowed to be completed before any condemnation proceedings were initiated-just another example of the lying that has come to define this administration.

EDC believes it is above the law-or, at least it believes that WPU doesn't have the resources to stop it from taking illegal actions. The question that remains unresolved, is whether these proposed ramps can alleviate the massive traffic from the Bloomberg/Willets Point boondoggle. The corollary to that question is, just how mendacious is the EDC traffic report?

What is typical for this administration-and more and more New Yorkers are becoming aware of this fact-is just how callous it is when it comes to the concerns of small business people: "Marco Neira, 53, a plaintiff on the suit and a business owner in Phase 1, said the city is turning his American dream into a nightmare. "I feel bad that this is what it has come to, but we have been discriminated [against]. We want just compensation," he said."

The last word in all of this fiasco belongs to WPU's Jerry Antonacci-someone who believes in the constitutional right to his property, as anachronistic as this concept is to the billionaire mayor when it comes to the city's peons: "Jerry Antonacci, president of Willets Point United, said he's glad he can finally make his case in a court of law. "Willets Point United will never back down from protecting what's ours and will respond vigorously to defend everyone at Willets Point against this unnecessary suffering caused by the City of New York and the [Economic Development Corp.]," he said."

Friday, June 3, 2011


In yesterday's NY Post, the paper's editorial board took a shot at AG Eric Schneiderman for his support of our friends at the NRDC on hydrofracking-and claimed that the AG was enthralled to special interests. Well, we're not experts on fracking but we do know that Schneiderman has a perfect opportunity on Willets Point to demonstrate that his portfolio is not limited to the standard liberal policies-but the clock is ticking.

As we have pointed out before, the AG's investigation of the entire EDC/Claire Shulman illegal lobbying scheme is languishing while Bloomberg's lackeys run out the clock on the issues that the AG's office is supposed to be examining. We are approaching the two year anniversary of the launch of the inquiry and with an EDC hearing on the ramps scheduled for next week, and a court hearing the following month, it would be an opportune moment for Schneiderman's investigators to finally weigh in.

But it isn't only the Shulman imbroglio that is on the menu for the AG. His office has been made aware of other improprieties that go to the heart of the faux hearing that EDC is holding next week. Staying silent now is to become an accomplice to the fraud and deception that EDC is trying to perpetuate on the citizens of NYC. When considered on top of the illegal lobbying scheme, it is hard to see how the AG can continue to maintain his aloof silence while all the stuff is hitting the fan.

We will say once again to our intrepid friends: Justice delayed, is justice denied!

The Flaws of a Character

We have been following the travails of Congressman Anthony Weiner with just a wee bit of schadenfreude-after all it was the combative Mr. Weiner who met with WPU last year and promised us that, "if it looks as if the regulatory process is unfair, come back to me and I will intercede." Well we did-time and time again, but it now appears as if Weiner was engrossed in other more pressing matters than helping protect the property rights of Queens business people.

For us it comes down to a question of honesty and integrity, and in both issues-WPU's and the Twittergate scandal-the Congressman has come up in his shorts. The WSJ points this out:

"Costas Panagopoulos, assistant professor of political science at Fordham University, said, "The congressman has created the impression that there's the possibility he wasn't as forthright about this situation as possible. That has the potential to fuel voter speculation about his honesty, a characteristic that is very important to voters," he said."

And because he has fallen short in the honesty department his mayoral ambitions may have been severely penalized: "Bill Cunningham, a former communications director for Mayor Michael Bloomberg who was also an aide to New York Govs. Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, said the incident "calls into question his judgment." And that, he said, will have an impact on Mr. Weiner's dream of becoming mayor."

Well, if that's the case we can't say that we're all broken up. But there's another point that Weiner's blatant disregard of our property rights underscores. He has been so busy posturing as a left wing icon that he has forgotten his roots in the neighborhood-and the old Tony Weiner would be standing up for the small property owner; and to the mayor as well.

So it's just as well he has taken himself out of the running. And the city awaits someone who will reverse the disastrous anti-small business, anti-neighborhood policies of Billionaire Bloomberg. Clearly that someone isn't Anthony Weiner. Don't feel bad, however, he shafted himself.

Statement of Michael Rikon, Counsel to Willets Point United, Inc. on Lawsuit Filed

Queens, New York, June 2, 2011, Lawsuit Filed

Property owners and commercial tenants in the twenty (20) acre parcel, designated phase 1, in the Willets Point Development plan, filed a lawsuit pursuant to the Eminent Domain Procedure Law to annul a “Determination and Findings” adopted by the City of New York to take their property by use of eminent domain. The lawsuit was filed in the Appellate Division, Second Department in Brooklyn.

The Petition seeks to set aside the authorization to condemn because of violation of the United States and New York Constitutions. The Petition also alleges substantial violations of Federal and State Law.

No Public Use

Among the many challenges made to the decision to condemn is the fact that “there is no specific development plans.” This is a case of “condemn first, decide what to do with the property later.” Both the United States and New York State Constitutions provide that private property cannot be taken by the exercise of eminent domain absent a public use.

It is extremely doubtful whether any developer will come forward willing to undertake the development of such a large area of property. This is especially true when considering the potential need for environment remediation, the need for sanitary and storm sewers, and the need to fill seven feet or more to prevent flooding.

City Denied Spanish-Speaking Business People Due Process

The City knew that there are over 150 Spanish-speaking businesses in Phase 1. The City failed to provide Notice of the Public hearing or advise of the consequences of the hearing in Spanish.

It held a public hearing without providing a Spanish interpreter. The Spanish-speaking members of the public and property owners were not able to comprehend what was being said. Nor was the “hearing officer” able to understand what the Spanish-speaking individuals said. For these individuals, it was as if no hearing was conducted at all.

The City has deliberately misrepresented the rights of commercial tenants to obtain just compensation for their trade fixtures. It has told the small businesses that the limit of their entitlement upon condemnation is $4,000 for moving expenses which is absolutely untrue.

The City Violated the Environmental Conservation Law

The City has failed to take the necessary “hard look” at the environment impacts of the proposed condemnation.

The City proposes to condemn without first having obtained approvals for new ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway. The City has acknowledged that the proposed ramps were an “integral” and “key” part of the development plan.

The City is also violating the E.C.L. by segmenting the Willets Point Development project into segments.

The City’s Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) specifically rejected a phase development approach.

In order to proceed forward with a phase condemnation – without Van Wyck access ramps, the City must first complete a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS).

The City has failed account for the terrible and unmitigable traffic impacts the development will cause.

Failure of Equal Protection Of the Law

New York’s Eminent Domain Procedure Law requires that all condemnees, real property owners and commercial tenants receive a written offer of 100% of the highest approved appraised value for their property. This was not done in Willets Point for a single condemnee. Instead, the City made “sweetheart” deals with select prominent owners that garnered political opposition to the project’s approval. Once the “sweetheart” deals were made, City Council members formerly opposing the project, then approved it.

This selective treatment is clearly a violation of the statute and a violation of equal protection of the law.

The approval of the project was also the result of the illegal lobbying funded by the Mayor utilizing former Borough President, Claire Shulman, an unregistered lobbyist who was otherwise precluded from such activity because she was an officer of a non-profit organization which itself is barred from lobbying. The New York State Attorney General is conducting an investigation regarding the blatant violation of Law which corrupted the Legislative Process.

The environmental issues were drafted by Michael B. Gerrard, Esq., a partner in Arnold and Porter, LLP

Michael Rikon is a partner in Goldstein, Rikon & Rikon, P.C. 212-422-4000 ext. 23

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hypocrite in Chief: Or the Boy from Ipanema

We have been absolutely thrilled to learn that Mike Bloomberg is down in Brazil to attend a climate change conference. According to his own website, Kermit the Mayor gave a speech about the environmental responsibility of cities. Here's a fascinating excerpt:

"That’s especially true in meeting all the ominous challenges arising from global climate change. Our actions – our policies and practices – are pivotally important. Steps that we’ve already taken are making our cities, healthier, more energy-efficient, and more environmentally responsible. Mayor Kassab’s strong leadership has put São Paulo in the front ranks in this worldwide urban sustainability movement. And around the globe, the people of our cities are already reaping the benefits of cleaner air, lower energy costs, and longer and healthier lives."

Ho, ho, ho! Meanwhile, back in the real world, Bloomberg is busy despoiling the environment of not only Queens County, but the entire city. This comes as a result of his comprehensive five borough economic development plan to make the city safe for more and more auto dependent malls-brought to us by his billionaire buddy Steve Ross.

This is rampant hypocrisy that a somnolent press corps can't keep its eyes open long enough to see. Here we are preparing for an EDC hearing next week that will examine how the agency is going to divert 80,000 daily car and truck trips from Willets Point off into urban sustainability universe-and are fudging the numbers in order to minimize the damage it is doing.

Where you might ask is the League of Conservation Voters on all this? Well LCV is protecting its own bottom line that is dependent on the mayor's generosity. The League joins with Bloomberg, Commissioner Tricycle-Khan, and the entire Queens political structure in playing hide the traffic afikomen.

All of this rank hypocrisy is summed up today by the NY Post's Michael Goodwin who rightfully describes our great leader in this way: "Mayor Moneybags, having solved all of New York's problems, is off in Rio, lecturing on climate change. I assume he traveled on his carbon-spewing private jet, the standard ride for a Gulfstream Liberal."