Thursday, July 19, 2012

Commemorating-The Decline of Honest Government

The Queens Courier has what to us appears to be a tongue in cheek article about the possibility that the new proposed development to the west of CitiField will be a chance to "commemorate" Shea Stadium:

"To the left of Citi Field’s main entrance is a parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood.In this parking lot, amid the white lines that now outline parking spaces, are four bronze plaques that mark the bases that made Shea’s diamond. A first base where Keith Hernandez and Ed Kranepool stood; second where Wally Backman darted back and forth; third base, where more than 120 have played the position, from Don Zimmer in 1962 to current all-star David Wright.Then a home plate 90 feet away from a bronze rectangle to outline where Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and many others would set team and MLB records.This site will soon, however, become home to Willets West, a one-million-square-foot shopping area that promises to bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the area.While there are no set plans how the bases, or Shea’s 44-year legacy, will be remembered, fans and developers agree there should be some sort of tribute to the ballpark."

What a nice touch! A deft way to elide the fact that the new mall-should it ever be built, and that's no grand slam-could better be used to commemorate the decline of honesty in government because the Mets and their real estate arm Sterling Equities engaged in an illegal lobbying scheme to obtain the development rights to all of this phony nostalgia.

And while we're at it, can we get a little journalistic ethics here? The Courier piece reads like a Sterling press release with no recognition of the fact that there are some serious obstacles to the success of this scam-not the least of which is the illegal methods employed by the city and the Mets' front group headed by their pal Claire Shulman. As the Ridgewood Times reports:

"The investigation also found that EDC, which serves as the economic development arm of the City of New York, played a behind-the-scenes role in the lobbying activities of the other LDCs.“These local development corporations flouted the law by lobbying elected officials, both directly and through third parties, to win approval of their favored projects. As a result of today’s agreement, these organizations will reform their practices to comply with the law and end lobbying through proxies in the communities they serve,” said Schneiderman. “This agreement will bring greater transparency, and ensure accountability for these and other local development corporations operating in New York State.”

But lawlessness aside, the project faces problems surrounding the question of whether the land slated for this lachrymose commemoration is actually parkland that has never been "alienated" as it must according to the Public trust doctrine. Under the public trust doctrine, State legislative approval is required before parkland can be alienated or used for an extended period for non-park purposes (Friends of Van Cortlandt Park v City of New York, 95 NY2d 623, 630 [2001]). We suspect that someone neglected to do this in 1961 when Robert Moses was the park czar.

Another minor point is the fact that the land east of 126th Street at the edge of Willets Point (fronting the CitiField entrance) is not fully under the control of the city even though it is slated to be used to replace the parking that the Mets Mall will sit on. 17 separate parcels are still privately owned, and with the city having given up its eminent domain push we wonder how these proprieties will be acquired.

So it's a little early for the Mets to go into a home run trot on this development-an early celebration may be spoiled by events spinning out of their control.