Monday, July 16, 2012

EDC's Splitting Headache

Crain's is reporting on the reorganization efforts of NYC EDC-efforts that were forced upon it because of its lawless actions regarding the development of Willets Point:

"After its illegal lobbying led to a settlement earlier this month with the state attorney general, the city's Economic Development Corp. is not giving up trying to influence legislative decisions surrounding land use. Quite the opposite: It is restructuring so that its lobbying activities will no longer be against the law.

It has formed two new entities: the New York City Economic Growth Corp. and the New York City Land Development Corp. As early as Aug. 1, the EDC will merge with the EGC, assuming the EDC's name. The organization will be able to lobby, giving the EDC an advocacy ability it has lacked since the attorney general's investigation began several years ago."

All of this three card monte is simply a sham-and the idea that the new entity designed for lobbying will be independent of the parent is simply unbelievable: "Whenever the EDC is involved in land disposition, the land will first be transferred to the LDC, which will in turn hand it to over to EDC to do with it as it sees fit."

There was a good reason why the legislature separated these LDCs from lobbying: "They are not allowed to lobby as a result of a decades-old law designed to make sure their unique power to receive land while bypassing traditional bidding rules does not lead to corruption."

So, the organization that broke the law against lobbying-and initiated a corrupt scheme to deprive our property owners of their land-is now going to set up a lobbying beard that will be separate and apart from the EDC powers that be. What a laugh-and an indication why the AG's failure to sanction the entity was poor law enforcement.

What did get our funny bone tickled, however, was the allegation that this impediment to lobbying was the reason why EDC failed in its effort to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory:

"The EDC agreed to suspend its lobbying while the investigation played out, which hamstrung its ability to fight for key projects, including the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx. While the EDC could provide information to elected officials about its plan to turn the landmarked armory into a shopping mall and the potential impact of the project, it could not lobby for it. The City Council rejected the plan in December 2009 over concerns that the jobs would not pay high-enough wages."

What a load of crap. The City of New York is founded on a mayoral form of government that gives the chief executive inordinate powers-and there are good reasons why the city council has been seen as a rubber stamp. Almost all land use projects are approved by the council after some bickering over the crumbs that the city deems fit to hand out to placate the wavering council members.

The idea that there is the need to add another lobbying entity to enhance mayoral power is ridiculous-and camouflages the extent to which EDC is-and has always been-a mayoral agency. But this splitting of the agency into two fictitious parts should be rejected-challenged by the council because of its clear intent to end run the law.

As for the Kingsbridge Armory debacle that occurred not because EDC was hamstrung by a lobbying ban-but was instead stymied by the stone stupidity of Deputy Mayor Lieber-another refugee from Wall Street-and by the absence of the mayor who was global warming in Copenhagen at the crucial run up to the council vote. Of course, the stupidity of the plan and the intrasigence of the mayor's folks on the living wage contributed to the defeat as well.

What this tells us is that the AG erred in not sanctioning the miscreants at EDC for their illegal shenanigans-because the illegal lobbying was just the tip of the iceberg of the illegal activities engaged by the EDC in violation of its master agreement with the city. Let's not forget that EDC set up the Shulman LDC to not only advance its own interests, but those of the Shulman-led real estate developers as well-and did so by allowing a phny not for profit masquerade as a grass roots organization.

EDC did so because it wanted to create the appearance of strong community support-something that the Willets Point project lacks to this very day. What will the new lobbying entity be doing in the future, creating bogus community groups to pretend there's more local support for a developmment than actually exists?

Our comments to Crain's sums this charade up pretty well:

"The Willets Point opponents whose complaint launched the lobbying investigation called the reorganization a cosmetic move that changes little. "This latest sleight of hand reminds us of what former New York Gov. Al Smith once said: 'No matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney,' " said a spokesman for Willets Point United."