Continuing the charm offensive that was begun by EDC's Seth Pinsky-all to counteract the incredible effort mounted by WPU against the Willets Point development-the lawyers and principals of Related met with the good folks down at the Times Ledger in order to explain why Willets West a necessary first step in the overall development of the area:
"The group selected by the city to build a $3 billion, mixed-use neighborhood at Willets Point has revealed ambitious plans for the new neighborhood, but their vision would not have been possible without a separate proposed retail center on a parking lot to the west of Citi Field."
Of course, all of the difficulties of developing the area should have been a caution sign the city heeded before introducing its grandiose plan for Willets Point five years ago. Instead it promised all kinds of wonders that we now find out can't be accomplished before the developers make a killing on their retail center-a shopping mall that will include at least two big box stores.
This will all be done in 3 stages:
"In order to build on the 23 acres, the toxic soil beneath needs to be removed and properly disposed of. And when that happens, an underground barrier will be put in place, like a subterranean wall running around the perimeter of the site, in order to prevent any toxins from migrating from the surrounding contaminated soil into the clean soil.
Replacing the soil, slated to be completed in 2015, is the first in what the team referred to as a five-step transformation. By 2016, the developers hope to have completed a series of low-scale retail and restaurant locations along 126th Street across from Citi Field, along with a 200-room hotel, which comprises the second step.
The third step is building Willets West. It will be composed of about 200 smaller stores along with one or two large anchor tenants, according to Goodman."
You'll notice that the first phase rehabs the area right in front of CitiField-the objective of the Wilpons for two decades and the reason why it put the stadium right across the street from Willets Point. Can anyone say quid pro quo? Does any reasonable person believe that the Mets sited the stadium there-and spent $600 million-without any sort of guarantee from the city? Yet EDC would want us to believe that this was a competitive bid.
And while we're mentioning this elephant in the room where were the Wilpons during the charm offensive? Something above their pay grade? And then there is the nettlesome issue of the fact that Willets West sits on parkland:
"A law stipulates that anything built on the property is legal as long as it benefits the Mets, meaning no other development firm could have proposed to build on the land aside from Sterling. The partnership contends the law allows the movie theaters, restaurants and other entertainment venues they would like to build.
But opponents say the development is not only an egregious misuse of parkland but also illegal. The law would only permit something like a souvenir shop, for example."
What this comes down to is that this development remains a Wimpy deal-with all of the negotiated goodies from 2008 simply a player to be named later-much later:
"Either way, Jesse Masyr, an attorney also from Wachtel, Masyr & Missry, said including a retail engine like Willets West was the only way to make the entire project economically feasible, a way of hedging the partners’ bets when they have to also put in housing, a much more risky investment that is required as part of the bidding process. “It was fundamental to our thinking,” he said. “We need to create a critical mass, an economic development engine.”
So you need a massive shopping center and box store haven first in order to create critical mass for a nieghborhood to be built later? Makes any sense to you? Of course not, it's all part of the bait and switch because the last thing in the world Related or Sterling Equities wants to build is housing--it's not what they do:
"Amid grousing from city lawmakers about the delay of the housing, Masyr contended delaying the housing is essential to responsibly developing the area.
“To put some amount of housing in Willets now we think would be inappropriate,” he said. “There is no community there, there is no service there, we think development needs to occur organically and doesn’t get dropped from a helicopter.”
Didn't the city realize this in 2008? The cherry on this rancid cake is the question of those pesky Willets Point ramps-construction to start in 2021!
"The fourth step in the plan calls for the construction of additional exit ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway, built on the city’s dime, in 2021, which will pave the way for the final portion of the project, the construction of market-rate and affordable housing set to begin in 2024 and end in approximately 2028."
This is all laughably fraudulent, and if the city council falls for this deceptive three card monte game it ought to be ashamed of itself. At the end of all of the illegalities and all the lies that have gone into the development of Willets Point we are still left with a giant con game-with Related and Sterling believing, like W. C. Fields, that a sucker is born every minute.