Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unconventional Wisdom

The governor made big news last week when he announced that he was selecting the Aqueduct raceway site as the location for a new NYC convention center-but not everyone thinks this is a good idea: "Still, the question is whether the Queens project makes sense, experts said. The convention business is highly competitive, and attendance is falling around the country. Most convention centers are run by public authorities at a deficit."

Add Helen Marshal to the doubters. In 2008 she approved the original Willets Point plan with the expressed purpose that it includes a convention center: "In an opinion signed today, Ms. Marshall called Willets Point “underutilized” and said it was time to redevelop the 61-acre neighborhood in the shadows of the Mets new Citi Field. But she added 11 conditions to her recommendation, calling for continued community input, more affordable housing, guarantees of a convention center..."

The removal of the convention center possibility only highlights how the Willets Point plan is really no plan at all-something that former Council member Monserrate realized back before he changed sides on the issue: "Unfortunately, the Queens Borough President chose to support this vague and noncommittal plan rather than question it,” City Councilman Hiram Monserrate said in a statement. “That's why the project's opposition continues to grow broader and deeper.”

The convention center bait and switch adds fuel to the fire of the WPU criticism of EDC's latest change of plans-a Phase 1 that was never envisioned when the city council approved the project. On January, 27th Judge Joan Madden will have the city and WPU's Mike Gerrard in court to argue the legality of this phased-in development. She should keep the convention center switcheroo in mind when she decides just what to do with the failed promises of EDC.