Monday, September 24, 2012

BP Oil Spill

Just when you think that the comedy surrounding the Willets Point development couldn't reach new levels of hilarity, along comes BP Helen Marshall to write a ghosted editorial in support of the new plan in the Queens Courier:

"This June, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious proposal that aimed at facilitating a complete transformation of Willets Point into a thriving and dynamic mixed-use neighborhood and destination for visitors. While the historic realization of this community-driven vision was approved by the New York City Council in 2008, the promise of its fruition has not been realistic. Until now."

Shouldn't Jeff Wilpon's name be given pride of authorship here - along with the invaluable contributions of Related's Steve Ross? What is crystal clear is that Marshall simply signed a draft sent to her by the developers - and she omits entirely her previous contention that a convention center needs to be the linchpin of any new Willets Point development.

In June, when the governor nixed Willets Point for a convention center, Marshall lamented:

“The need for a convention center in Queens has not diminished,” she said in a statement. “I remain hopeful and optimistic that something will get built. We have the labor force to build it, and we need the thousands of jobs that would be generated.”

We guess she has new marching orders. And one thing she neglects to point out is that this new plan is nothing like the one approved four years ago - and the mixed-use new neighborhood BS is designed to throw oil on the fact that this is one gigantic mall and land giveaway to the Related/Sterling partnership that she's shilling for. (Certainly not for Queens residents!)

But having spilled the toxic oil so as to obfuscate, the BP can't help but continue:

"The Willets Point Development Plan is at a critical nexus – the stage of the review process that will put into action a comprehensive construction plan that facilitates development pursuant to the originally envisioned Special Willets Point Zoning District and Urban Renewal Plan along with additional development beyond the Special Willets Point District."

This pursuant stuff is pure baloney - and what brings this all out clearly is Marshall's regurgitation of EDC/developer boilerplate blarney:

"The project will not only link Willets Point to basic infrastructure, but also establish a major new mixed-income neighborhood with commercial destination facilities creating jobs and recapturing billions in spending that is now lost to the suburbs."

Just as they always say when they want to build a mall - and they hire the same usual suspect consultants to, don't you know, claim that the business will not be drawn from the scores of contiguous local shopping centers. By this time the "billions" being captured from all the malling that Bloomberg has done should mean that there is no NYC shopper left who's going out of the city to shop - or, since all of this has no collateral damage, that there are no store vacancies on local shopping strips when we know for certain that vacancies and retail bankruptcies are at record high levels.

But the propaganda never stops with Helen of Queens: "The first phase of the project will include the acquisition of 23 acres of land to the east of Citi Field by the Queens Development Group." If true, why are the city folks contacting the 9 property owners that have not sold their land and not the developers themselves? Is there another sweetheart deal in place to use more tax payer funds to buy those folks out?

Helen can't help herself when it's her lips moving but the developer ventriloquists are actually pulling the strings. Therefore, we get this:

"Ultimately, the new plan will develop into a thriving residential community of 2,500 units, 35 percent of which will be designated affordable housing, as well as additional hotels, offices, commercial space, a school and open space, with the eventual plan to develop over 5 million-square-feet in a unified neighborhood, transforming a contaminated wasteland into a model community for the future, with up to 5,850 units of housing, a convention center and a central eight-acre park."

Ultimately we are all dead, and Marshall fails to mention that this ultimate reward we're all going to get is 2025 at the earliest, if ever - and that we have to put the mall in first to, for the first time in memory, act as a catalyst for all of the affordable housing that can't be built as promised in 2008.

Marshall finishes all of this palaver with a disgraceful flourish when she says:

"But after years of deliberation and delay, we now have a plan for Willets Point that can truly transform the area into an economic epicenter for Queens. Not just remove an eye-sore, but create something that has positive impacts for the community and throughout the entire borough."

She doesn't even have the decency to mention all of the land owners, renter business owners and thousands of workers who will be sent packing. They're collateral damage for the 1% who will be making billions over their dead bodies. No matter how you look at this it is a toxic witch's brew-and that makes Helen Marshall the most appropriate designated cheerleader we could envision.