Sunday, July 29, 2012

Greg Meeks, the Port Authority and Willets Point

At first glance the title of this post sounds confusing. After all, how is the congressman related to both the Port Authority and to Willets Point? An item in today's NY Post helps us to begin to unravel the mystery-and it relates to Meeks' role in steering money to the Greater Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, an effort that began when the Port Authority was fighting to get approvals for the AirTrain in 1999. (

There was a great deal of community opposition to the Port's train down the Van Wyck and in order to overcome it the agency began to dangle hundreds of millions of dollars of goodies to local pols like Meeks in exchange for their support. Keep in mind that there was a group of over 500 African-American homeowners who were actively opposed to the project-along with civic groups all along the proposed train's corridor.

None of this seemed to bother the acquisitive Meeks who famously told the homeowners at a meeting in his office that, "You know, I can't get elected just from contributions from the district." Nice. Meeks, aside from garnering huge campaign money from the likes of Skanska and Bombadier, also negotiated millions of dollars to be delivered by the PA to the Greater Jamaica Chamber-and that's the beginning of what the Feds are likely to be examining because those millions, let's say, got nicely spread around and the government is looking to see if any spare change went into the pockets of Meeks, or his family and circle of friends.

That gets us to the case of Willets Point-and our own letter to the PA last year where we pointed out (as Crain's Insider cited): "Opponents of the Willets Point redevelopment plan say the Port Authority may have funded a study of the area that will pave the way for increased travel delays to La Guardia and Kennedy airports, which the Port operates. Part of $100 million that the agency allocated for the city in 2004 may have been used to prepare an environmental impact statement “for a project that can only lead to the compromise of efficient airport access,” the letter said. The Port says it has not reviewed the letter."

So the city took the Port's money-an agency that sponsored the AirTrain in order to improve airport access-and used in the preparation of traffic reports that will promote a project that will bring the Van Wyck to a crawl! As we pointed out in our post:

"The irony here is that the Port's money may have been part of a deal on the Airtrain, whereby the money was allocated in a quid pro quo for the city's support of the project-whose sole rationale was and is to ease airport access. The PA's Chris Ward signed off on the $100 million deal in 2009, a year after the Willets Point EIS had determined that 46% of the 80,000 car trips a day generated from the project would be diverted to the Van Wyck. Don't suppose the city alerted Ward to this."

The Port engaged in a series of questionable deals over a decade ago in the promotion of the AirTrain boondoggle. Now we find that some of that questionable activity may end up with Meeks walking the plank for abandoning his constituents. Now if only someone will intervene in similar fashion to cashier the shady Willets Point ramp fraud-if that happens we could say, Greg Meeks and Willets Point: Perfect together!