Friday, June 22, 2012

Mets Scheme Unmasked-by Queens Chronicle's Sports Guy!

Just like the little boy on the Hans Christian Anderson story about the emperor's new clothes, Lloyd Carroll, a sports reporter for the Queens Chronicle, exposed the city's land giveaway to the NY Mets and their real estate arm of Sterling Equities. Writing about a conversation he had with Mets great Jerry Koosman, Carroll reported the following:

Jerry shook his head in disbelief when I told him how Mayor Bloomberg had used taxpayer funds to have the city purchase a good chunk of the land just east of Citi Field so that Sterling Equities, the real estate company run by Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, and Related Companies, the commercial realty behemoth owned chiefly by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, could develop Willets Point. The mayor did not even try to pretend there was competitive bidding in this land grab. So much for transparency in government."

Carroll, thankfully not corrupted by a cozy relationship with Queens muckety-mucks-unlike the Chronicle ownership itself-goes on to ask the key question about what we are calling Bloomberg's folly:

"I am still trying to figure out why Sterling and Related couldn’t buy up the property directly from the owners without Bloomberg’s intervention. Twenty years ago Tribeca was a neighborhood of warehouses and printing plants. The free market was responsible for the area becoming home to the city’s priciest apartments and trendiest restaurants. As far as I know, Tribeca redevelopment never received any nudging from City Hall."

Carrolll does, however, have a limit to his insights-not jaded by years of covering NYC politicians. In his naivete he speculates: "Wilpon and Ross want to use the land across from the Mets’ home for a parking lot and shopping mall, and apartment buildings that would not be built until 2025. Why the housing would lag badly behind the parking lot and mall is a mystery."

No Jerry, it's not a mystery, it's a scandal-and why this aspect of the scheme has been designated to be a "Wimpy deal." The housing, to use sports jargon is, "a player to be named later." In this case, much later-or as Johnny Mathis used to sing, "The Twelth of Never."

Carroll ends his piece in a rhetorical flourish-exposing the stench of the crony capitalism involved in this forced land transfer:

"Forget Occupy Wall Street. New Mets minority owner, and host of HBO’s popular “Real Time,” Bill Maher should try to organize Occupy 126th Street. This is a clear case of one percenters scratching each other’s backs at the taxpayers’ expense. There is something that stinks about the Willets Point development plans and it’s not the stench of Flushing Bay on a hot, humid day." (emphasis added)

We'll add just one small note to this outstanding piece of commentary. In publishing our letter the other day the Chronicle managed to omit the money paragraph-and we are not surprised since it went directly to the corrupt bargain, and illegal lobbying, that was crafted by City Hall and the Wilpons. We will take the last word:

"It aggrandizes the owners of the New York Mets, who schemed for 20 years to get the property adjacent to their stadium for development, then funded a local development corporation which became the subject of an ongoing NYS Attorney General investigation due to its alleged unlawful influence of legislation authorizing the proposed Willets Point development. As far back as 2008, City officials could not rule out the possibility that developer firms involved with this LDC would be prohibited from bidding on the Willets Point project. The issue has never been resolved, and yet the owners of Mets – which funded the LDC – now stand to benefit."