Thursday, August 2, 2012

Seth Pinsky's Charm Offensive

What's an obvious oxymoron? The pairing of EDC and charm comes to mind-but that's what the EDC's head boy toy Seth Pinsky is actually doing now on Willets Point, meeting with local press in an effort to combat all of the negative news stories emanating from the agency's lawlessness. The latest is an interview with the Times Ledger where Pinsky blames all of the project's mutations-and the giveaway of $200 million worth of land to the Mets-on the global financial meltdown of 2008:

"Critics of the proposed $3 billion, mixed-use development in Willets Point can look to the 2008 global economic downtown for controversial changes to the massive project, according to city Economic Development Corp. President Seth Pinsky, who discussed some of the thorny issues associated with developing the Iron Triangle."

Oh sure, it had nothing to do with the 3 year effort of WPU to stymie the ramp approvals and resist condemnation in the face of EDC and Claire Shulman's illegal lobbying campaign. But charming reporters can only take you so far-especially when you attempt to pull a Groucho Marxism: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own lyin' eyes."

Here's Pinsky doing just that about how the current project iteration is exactly like the one approved in 2008-as if repetition would make it so: "Bloomberg and Pinsky both tout the project as exactly what the City Council and community signed off on in 2008 when the proposal was wending its way through the city Legislature."

The Ledger lays out the contradictions:

"But the EDC has come under fire for changes to how that original plan will be realized.For starters, the affordable housing component of the project will be the last to be built instead of being constructed concurrently with the retail and hotel portions.Pinsky partially attributed the change to the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank, which sent world markets into a tailspin, and the ensuing downturn of the housing market.“The housing market right now is a challenge,” he said, pointing out that the EDC heard from developers that building the affordable housing in the first phase of the project was simply not feasible."

That is why we have labeled the new phase a Wimpy deal-the effort to convince the city council that they'll get paid (the housing) in a millennium of Tuesdays from now. In the lexicon of consumer fraud this is called the old bait and switch. Pinsky, however, presents this as a field of dreams theory-or in other words, hold on to your wallet:

"In addition, he said changing the perception of the neglected conglomeration of industrial shops would entice people to want to move there. 'Over time you would build in people’s heads a positive connotation,' Pinsky said of the area, although there was no mention of this philosophy when the more than 1,000 units of affordable housing were being touted in the Council in 2008."

What we have here folks is an attempt by Pinsky to put lipstick on a pig-and the change in the market and the delays caused by property owners fighting fiercely to hold on to their land should have given the city some pause and sent the planners back to the drawing board for something a bit more sexy than an auto-dependant mall. What we have here is the city spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to condemn private property so the Mets can raise the value of their own land next to CitiField.

What about the giveaway? Also excused because of the financial meltdown:

"Pinsky has also taken heat for giving the land away for free to Sterling Equities and Related Cos. after the city spent millions purchasing most of it from property owners.But he again cited the global economic crisis and the cost of cleaning the toxic soil that lies beneath the auto body shops as to why plans changed. 'At the time we were talking about this, it was a different market,' Pinsky said. 'In that market, there may have been sufficient value in the land that it would have covered those costs.'"

Making this bad situation worse-as if the city engaging in lawlessness to take away the property of existing landowners could be topped-is that the condemned property will be used for a parking lot! Condemning property is a serious step and generally runs foul of most New Yorkers sense of fair play when the condemnation is used to feather the nests of billionaires. But a parking lot?

And the assertion by Pinsky that this will attract others to come to the area-joining with the traffic nightmare the mall will create-is sheer fantasy. But young boys do dream, don't they? Their dreams, however, should not be the nightmares of small property owners and adjoining neighborhoods that will be overrun by traffic.

Perhaps the biggest Pinsky prevarication comes when EDC is explaining why the city dropped its eminent domain lawsuit-leaving out how it would have exposed the illegalities to a skeptical court:

"EDC contends it has purchased 95 percent of the land needed for the Sterling and Related project, although a lawyer representing property owners disputes that number. The city recently dropped its legal quest to use eminent domain to condemn the remaining properties because, according to Pinsky, the addition of Willets West may have changed the project enough that the original proceedings would not longer apply to it.Julie Wood, spokeswoman for the mayor, said the city’s decision to drop the bid “ensures that our plan will comply with the site’s myriad technical and legal requirements.”

Well, well-an admission that this new development is not really just like the old one; something that you can try to sell to a gullible public but not to a court of law. But the biggest load of crap from little Seth is on the subject of the agency's illegal lobbying:

"Pinsky also touched on the EDC’s recent admission that it lobbied illegally as defined in a report from the state attorney general, saying the law was never clear and that the EDC fully cooperated with the civil investigation.Many nonprofits, including the National Rifle Association and unions, legally lobby to try and influence legislation, according to EDC. The lobbying was not the problem, but rather how the EDC was categorized by the state as a nonprofit, which triggered the law, according to Pinsky."

This is one lying sucker. EDC isn't like the NRA, it is a local development corporation that is forbidden by law to lobby-and the folks at EDC knew that to be true and tried to cover things up with a classic front man like Shulman-something that the AG's investigation uncovered. EDC took steps to deceive the public in its illegal scheme and the failure of the AG to sanction these playahs is to his lasting discredit. The fact that they are continuing to deceive demonstrates just what happens when law enforcement fails in its proper mission.

So that's EDC in a nutshell-truth adverse and still trying to sell an Edsel as if it were a late model Mercedes. The lesson? Don't believe a word that these folks have to say-and, oh yes, keep holding on to the tax payers wallet when Pinsky opens his mouth.


One thing just struck us as we considered the tall tale that Pinsky told to the Ledger. Pinsky only talks about the EDC lobbying effort and leaves out the fact that it was Shulman's group-sponsored by the Mets-that did all of the heavy illegal lifting. Did it ever enter his mind that this "not-for-profit" was fronting for the private interests of its members?

Did EDC ever discuss internally the propriety of allowing the members of the LDC-that it had hired to illegally lobby-to bid on the development rights? This is what Deputy Mayor Leiber was asked about at the city council hearing in 2008 but couldn't manage a coherent response. Was the fix already in for Sterling Equities and is that why Leiber got so tongue-tied?

All of these questions were shoved under the rug when AG Schneiderman took a dive at enforcing his finding that these groups broke the law in their scheme to take away our property-to his everlasting shame.