Monday, August 27, 2012

Doubling Down on Fraud and Illegality

The city's notice of a scoping session for a supplemental EIS for the Willets Point development tells us a number of things. In the first place it affirms what WPU has said all along about the need for a SEIS-and that the city's bogus Technical Memo 4 was inadequate. More importantly, however, this scoping session demonstrates the brazenness of the Bloomberg administration-seeking to build this new edifice on the foundation of fraudulent and illegal conduct.

As we have already pointed out, the city is claiming that this new phase is being advanced on the environmental assumptions laid out in 2008-and that the new aspect of the plan incorporates all that was envisioned back then. Put as simply as possible, the city is saying that all of the successful illegal lobbying done by EDC and Claire Sulman's LDC should be allowed to stand. That it's okay to engage in illegal conduct and not have to re-visit that results of that conduct with a new and untainted process. In essence, rewarding the wrongdoing.

In addition, what this means is that Sterling Equities-one of the key illegal players-is being rewarded for its complicity in the illegal lobbying scheme-with the added bonus baby of $200 million of free property donated to them by their partners in crime at EDC.

But even as significant is the fact that the city is claiming that all of the original plans are still operational-albeit for many years down the road. What this means is that 1 million square feet of retail shopping mall has been added to the already immense traffic impacts that the original plan envisioned-an estimate of 80,000 car and truck trips a day. The city's notice also says that the ramps are slated to be built by 2024, raising the question of how all of the mall traffic will be mitigated prior to their construction.

In our view the mall traffic will generate a similar or even greater traffic flow than that forecast for the original plan. This means an absolute case of unmitigated gridlock for Corona and Flushing-not to mention all of the other surrounding communities. In addition, the city knew that this mall was in the works before the ramps were approved but withheld the new information from the regulators. This means to us that an entirely new ramp application needs to be forwarded to the FHWA after a comprehensive traffic report is issued-and not by the clowns at AKRF who deceptively doctored the ramp report in the first place.

If our assumptions are correct that nothing should be done until the ramps are fully operational-this is the only way to avoid traffic chaos. But at the very least the city cannot be allowed to utilize the fraudsters at AKRF to do any traffic analysis-and the entire work should be put out for bid from an unbiased firm.

The city also needs to be heavily pressured about the use of the adjacent parkland for this gigantic retail use. No ULURP process-full or truncated-should precede an alienation bill in the state legislature. But what is really needed now is for the parks' advocates to be joined by the labor supporters of living wage and the affordable housing advocates as well. The word should be no mall until after the housing is built and until the city agrees with the living wage memorandum it signed in 2008.

That brings us to the mall itself and the possibility that Wal-Mart and other noxious retail uses could be located at this Willets West site. This should be a deal breaker-and the supplemental EIS needs to include a socio-economic impact analysis of the impact of box stores on nearby Corona and Flushing. This impact analysis needs to encompass the projected impacts from Flushing Commons and the Muss mall as well. For once we need a comprehensive review that takes into consideration all of the new and projected retail activity.

Related should be considerd as a person non grata unless it enters into an agreement to not include any Wal-Mart on the site. This is a precondition and not a quid pro quo for any approvals.

In our view the entire development needs to start from scratch-with Sterling Equities barred from any involvement whatsoever. Housing and living wage must be included upfront-and not in some distant future when many of us are using walkers and wheelchairs.

Willets West is a brazen fraud that needs to be aborted before it cripples the surrounding communities and before the Wilpons are allowed to reap any reward for their lawlessness.