Friday, September 14, 2012

EDC Evades State Law and Chaos is About to Ensue

As the Queens Tribune is reporting, NYC EDC is trying to evade the state legal prohibition on lobbying by local development through a subterfuge-setting up a shell corporation that will lobby because technically it is not be an LDC. This shell, however, will be a wholly owned and controlled entity of the new LDC that is being created in the restructuring.

What's truly mind blowing here is that EDC is actively trying to prevent a court hearing on this charade-and is wailing to the judicial system that little old WPU has no place if a hearing is determined to be required (as the law states). The Trib lays this out:

"A collective of Willets Point property owners wants to know why they are being shut out of a potential court hearing on the restructuring of the New York City Economic Development Corp.

Willets Point United wrote a complaint to the attorney general’s office last week arguing that they should be present at a State Supreme Court hearing on NYCEDC’s imminent merger which will bring the quasi-public entity into compliance with existing laws. In July, NYCEDC admitted to illegally lobbying the City Council, ending a three-year probe into their lobbying practices by the AG

WPU lays out the charade for the Tribune:

"In a settlement, NYCEDC said it would shed its status as a local development corporation—LDCs are barred from lobbying— to comply with the law. They will merge with the New York City Economic Growth Corp. and keep the NYCEDC name.

WPU argued that NYCEDC was simply circumventing the law on a technicality, and would now be able to lobby elected officials, unfettered by previous restrictions. Though NYCEDC shot back that WPU has no place at the hearing on their merger, WPU, always highly-critical of NYCEDC, wants to be present. They believe state law entitles them to be there

As our own press statement makes clear: “This corporate shell game will ultimately allow the ‘new NYCEDC’ to circumvent the restriction on lobbying that had previously applied to NYCEDC, and which applies to all local development corporations…a restriction which the Legislature [sic] has deemed appropriate to economic development entities.”

As the Tribune points out WPU does have a direct stake in the restructuring because the newly enabled EDC-by whatever name it is called-will be setting its lobbying sites (we believe illegally) on the new phase of the Willets Point development: "NYCEDC will play a crucial role in the contested development of Willets Point, now a swath of auto repair shops and junk yards. Property owners are fighting Bloomberg, who announced in May a far-reaching plan to bring retail outlets, offices and housing to the site."

All of this controversy is about to be folded into another fight over the re-making of Flushing Meadows-where the city wants to put a soccer stadium. The combined burden on the road and mass transit infrastructure would be immense. The WSJ has the story:

"An ambitious Bloomberg administration plan to remake a corner of Queens with two professional-league sports arenas and a roughly 1-million-square-foot mall is meeting with unexpected and growing opposition that could stymie the effort.

Although the projects are separate from each other, they are all in or near Flushing Meadows Corona Park and have roiled groups that accuse the city of eroding green space without considering the impact of an influx of traffic and thousands of new spectators and shoppers

The soccer stadium, the new mall and the expansion of the USTA tennis facility would create an unholy mess-and there is a nonnegotiable need to evaluate all three projects together:

"Importantly, the coalition of about a half-dozen groups has the initial support of the local City Council member—who, in the tradition of the council, has almost unilateral power to hold up necessary approvals.

The challenge could stall the projects, which are among Mayor Michael Bloomberg's signature development plans: an 8,000-seat U.S. Tennis Association stadium, a possible 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium—both in the park—and the mall on a gritty swath near Citi Field, across from the park.

More likely, it could force new concessions from developers as the groups push the City Council to look at the fallout of all three projects combined when voting on approvals for them individually

Concessions? The fact is that the area simply cannot handle the increased infrastructure load-and the opposition has the support of CM Ferreras:

"Council Member Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area, echoed concerns about the temporary loss of community soccer fields during construction, reduced access to the park, increased traffic, pollution, noise, safety, litter and the impact of the mall on mom-and-pops.

"I have an obligation to make sure that our community gets a voice in the process…The community needs to decide if these three different proposals are a good use of parkland," Ms. Ferreras said

The Bloomberg administration needs a time out. All of this development-with the Willets Point phase built on illegal and unethical maneuvers-needs to be shelved and a comprehensive area plan be prepared for the communities that will be impacted-and before, not during, a truncated ULURP process. So much underhanded dealing has gone on that the mayor should no longer have the benefit of any one's doubt.