NY 1 did a story on Willets Point and focused on the attempt by WPU to recover the money spent on the city's failed eminent domain law suit. In describing the effort the station refers to the property owners as, "holdouts." This is a poor turn of phrase. The property owners are not holding out for anything-and the use of the term implies that there obstinancy is a negotiating ploy-and nothing could be further from the truth:
"When the city announced its redevelopment plans for Willets Point eight years ago it didn't rule out using eminent domain to seize the land from property owners who refused to sell. So some of those landowners sued to stop that from happening. It turned into a costly legal battle.
"We've spent thousands upon thousands of dollars," said Willets Point United Property Owner Len Scarola.
Business and property owners say they've shelled out more than a million dollars in legal and expert fees for a case that never happened. The city withdrew its claim of eminent domain in May. Now the landowners are suing to get that money back."
This is not the action of clever negotiators, but represents the earnest effort of people who believe in the Constitution's protection of property rights-something that the mayor apparently only holds dear for himself. As Mike Rikon told NY1:
"It's Eminent Domain procedure law section 702 and it says if the city abandons condemnation then the property owners are entitled to get reimbursed," said Willets Point United Attorney Michael Rikon.The city says it's reviewing the claim while it moves ahead with the development which has grown from 62 to over 100 acres.The plan to build a retail, residential and entertainment district was recently expanded to include a one million square foot mall and hotel next to Citi Field."
WPU's Lennie Scarola comments on the city's new phased approach: "Now they are increasing it to 108 acres which is going to be almost double the traffic including a million square for mall," Scarola said."
The city's response is pretty funny: "The changes mean the plan needs a new environmental impact study and re-approval by the City Council. But the city's Economic Development Corporation insists it will ultimately mean not only "investment, jobs and housing in a long-blighted area but it will result in even more environmental cleanup than originally anticipated."
Sure, and affordable housing in the next millennium. The scoping hearing on September 27th should be very entertaining.