Tuesday, October 30, 2012

EDC Hearing Still on for Thursday

It appears that the EDC restructuring hearing scheduled for Thursday is still on in spite of all the efforts by Sandy to prevent business as usual. As you may recall the hearing is designed to address the decision by EDC to divide itself into two separate entities-apparently ignoring Abe Lincoln's sage advice that a house divided against itself cannot stand. But we digress.

In anticipation of the hearing WPU has reached out to the folks at South Bronx Unite who are fighting the EDC-led effort to funnel tens of millions of tax payer dollars to the online grocer FreshDirect-another example of how EDC and crony capitalism are perfect together. As it stands today we are planning a joint press conference with South Bronx Unite on the steps of City hall at Noon on Thursday-and we plan to have Norman Siegel keynote the event in order to reprise his court appearance on September 28th when he lambasted EDC's ill-conceived reorganization.

In actuality the proposed restructuring will not divide EDC at all since they are creating a sham or shell corporation whose power and resources will be controlled by the EDC mother ship-a transparent sleight of hand to avoid the state law that prohibits local development corporations from lobbying (the only glimpse of transparency we've ever seen from these folks).

There is a surreal quality to this hearing and it begins with the title that talks about “going forward.” How can the city council be talking about EDC and going forward without examining how and why we got to this point. Why is the council erasing history-something that totalitarian regimes have always done.
In this vein shouldn’t the council be demanding that EDC make sure that the Shulman-led LDC give back all of the tax payer money that it used for an illegal activity? Shouldn’t the council be demanding that the City of New York rescind the original tainted approvals of the Willets Point development-approvals that were garnered by subterfuge committed right before this body? And finally, shouldn’t a legislature interested in the rights of due process and the upholding of the law be calling for the resignation of those officials at EDC who violated the law and the due process rights of small property owners like me?
As the NYC comptroller implored in a letter to the mayor, soon after OAG announced its findings of illegal activity (via letter dated July 9, 2012) it is past time to "change the EDC's law-breaking culture, which, as documented in the settlement with the Attorney General, used the agency’s budget as a political slush fund for illegal lobbying" (emphasis added).
Instead of going forward with a whitewash we need to go back and properly sanction EDC and its co-conspirators at the Shulman LDC for their egregious disregard for the law. The council’s role here is to hold a hearing in order to get to the bottom of the illegal scheme and to subsequently recommend reforms to insure that the illegal and unethical behavior will never be repeated.

What the council needs to do is to examine how to rein in the activities of NYC EDC and to look for ways to strengthen its oversight role over this rogue agency. Any quasi-governmental entity that can take $200 million of tax payer bought property and hand it over to a partnership made up of Sterling Equities; while at the same time gifting tens of millions more to FreshDirect so it can unfairly compete with the city's brick and mortar supermarkets is a rogue outfit-and going forward we should be examining how to prevent the squandering of tax payer monies for those few favored capitalists that EDC deigns to smile on.