Thursday, September 27, 2012

Willets Point West Scoping Session Today: City Doubles Down on Deception

There will be a scoping session today on the city's attempt to allow the grifting Wilpons to benefit for the establishment of an illegal lobbying entity to promote development around their CitiField. The Wilpons-barely slapped on the wrist by the NYS AG for snatching $450,000 from the city to lobby for their own benefit-have been gifted $200 million worth of property and are now poised to blow smoke around what will be the biggest environmental disaster Queens has ever seen.

Consider the fact that the city is trying to do a short down and dirty "study" of the Wilpons' mall-and basing this cursory analysis on the city's already demonstrated fraudulent data submitted to the city council, State DOT, and the federal highway folks. As WPU's traffic engineer Brian Ketcham will testify today:

"What is particularly disturbing about this proposed scoping document occurs on page 3 (and is repeated on page 10):  “The SEIS will analyze the extent to which the development and discretionary actions as proposed could potentially result in any significant adverse environmental impacts not previously identified in the FGEIS.”  Emphasis added.  This suggests that NYCEDC will attempt to bury the real impacts and bury the many flaws and errors disclosed by Willets Point United in a confusing and disorienting comparison of numbers that, in other attempts (for example, Fresh Direct in the Bronx) has made full disclosure of real project impacts an illusion.  Considering the huge number of “errors” and miss-statements (286 pages worth) compiled for NYCEDC’s earlier work a concocted comparison intended to minimize project impacts cannot be permitted for the proposed expanded project (another 1.4 million square feet and 2,900 parking spaces) demands a full environmental impact statement based on new information and clearly stated assumptions that are vetted by Willets Point United’s engineer."
This is one of the most egregious examples of deception we've ever seen-and this from an administration-and a bicycle riding DOT commissioner-that claims it is trying to reduce carbon emissions and limit automobile travel. Sure, in Manhattan where their limos need unfettered access to all the 1% clubs frequented by the 1% that the mayor caters to. As for Queens, hear what Ketcham will say about this massive attack on neighborhood quality of life:

"Just take a look at this latest project, Willets Point “West”.  NYCEDC is adding 1.4 million square feet of new retail/entertainment space creating the largest retail mall complex in New York City.  When added to the 1.7 million square feet included in the original Willets Point proposal, retail/entertainment space will total nearly 3 million square feet.  Total project space including parking will be nearly 13 million square feet including 9,200 parking spaces.  The 2008 Willets Point plan was estimated to generate more than 80,000 car and truck trips a day—and considering their very conservative (under reported) trip generation assumptions probably closer to 100,000 trips a day.  Half of their trips would have been generated by the 1.7 million square foot retail mall.
"Now, NYCEDC is proposing to add another 1.4 million square feet for an entertainment and retail center with approximately 200 new stores in what they call Willets Point “West”.  Considering NYCEDC is proposing nearly 3 million square feet of retail space there is every likelihood they will include one or more big-box retail stores like Wal-Mart.  The resulting number of car and truck trips that would be generated by Willets Point “West” without a Wal-Mart would total approximately 35,000 daily car and truck trips over 24-hours and about 2,600 pm peak hour trips.  These totals would increase to about 45,000 a day with a Wal-Mart SuperCenter with 3,600 trips during the pm peak hour for Willets Point “West” alone. 
The combined total of the original Willets Point’s 11 million square feet plus the approx. 2 million square feet of Willets Point “West” (both including parking) including a Wal-Mart Supercenter would therefore be about 125,000 daily vehicular trips with pm peak hour trips totaling about 11,000 auto and truck trips.  NYCEDC is assuming that about a third of this total would be diverted to the Van Wyck Expressway.  Can anyone imagine what the Van Wyck would look like with nearly 4,000 more cars and trucks during the evening peak hours?  Or what local access roads will look like once it became clear that the Van Wyck cannot accommodate so much more traffic?"
What this means is that the city-after submitting a series of conflicting and likley fraudulent traffic reports geared to different audiences-is now trying to paper over the discrepancies and submit a new traffic study that simply takes off from the original series of deceptions. And the traffic fudging doesn't encompass all of the dishonesty-impacts on over-uitilized mass transit are also fudged:

"The SEIS plans on relying on the flawed transit analysis included in the FGEIS.  As has been demonstrated by independent review by Willets Point United, the FGEIS analysis – for whatever reason – cut the number of trips actually entering the Number 7 subway line during peak hours by 2/3rds.  In other words, the FGEIS under estimated subway impacts by three times.  Moreover, the FGEIS failed to consider the line haul impacts along the No. 7 line.  And no analysis was done for LIRR capacity constraints."
What the city has done in this entire review process that began in 2008 is to cook the books with a consultant whose expertise is too good to lead anyone to believe that the errors were not purposeful. Now it must cpome clean. We'll give Ketcham, who outlined all that the city must do to modify this environmental review, the last word:

 "Should EDC fail to incorporate these concerns into the scope for the SEIS for Willets Point “West” neither Willets Point United, nor the citizens of Queens nor any of New York’s elected leadership will be able to fully comprehend what EDC is again trying to pull off in proposing a 13 million square foot major mixed-use development in terms of traffic and transit impacts let alone the related socio-economic impacts on nearby residential and commercial communities and the millions of daily commuters who pass by and suffer the already “worst congested” expressways in the United States."
Scoping Session is today at 4:30 at PS 19 Marino Jeantet, 98-02 Roosevelt Avenue.