Monday, October 22, 2012

The Real Case for Restructuring EDC

As we have been commenting, EDC has argued that it needs to restructure so it can garner more political power than it already has-and therefore be in a position to cause even more harm. The controversy surrounding Flushing Meadows Park dramatizes the insanity of this proposal.

It isn't enough that EDC is a destructive force for neighborhoods and small businesses-all in the interests of their real estate patrons-now they want to add the destruction of parks to their ghoulish resume. Parks advocate Geoffrey Croft lays this all out in the NY Daily News:

"Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is under siege. The Bloomberg administration is attempting to push through three major projects that would permanently seize nearly 75 acres of public parkland for commercial projects that will also have enormous additional impacts on the surrounding communities. We now live in era where not only are our public parklands readily available for commercial development but it is activity being encouraged under this administration."

Under siege is an apt term for the kind of assaulting that the EDC real estate lackeys do when fronting for their real masters-certainly not the people of New York. As Croft points out the Willets Point side of this land grab is being justified by a 1961 ordinance that should be seen as having no validity more than 50 years later:

"The majority of the land for the $3 billion Willets Point project would be taken from parkland adjacent to Citi Field currently used for parking. The administration is attempting to get away with not alienating the land as is required under state law in order to use parkland for non-park purposes.The city is desperately trying to rely on a 1961 bill that never replaced parkland used for Shea Stadium.

If the 40-plus acres being proposed for mall use are no longer needed for parking then it should revert back to its original recreational use. Our elected officials should be pushing for that instead of giving away our public spaces to the highest bidder."

As if that wasn't bad enough, EDC wants to put a dagger right into the heart of the Flushing Meadows:

"Major League Soccer is pushing to build a 35,000-seat professional soccer stadium on up to 13 acres. The $300 million plan calls for filling in the former Pool of Industry from the 1964 World’s Fair. Proponents of the project have sought to characterize the site as decrepit and “under-utilized.” One of the more absurd MLS claims is that it’s a water body and that only 1 acre of grass would be used.
According to that philosophy, our water features, which make up fully one-third of all city parkland, are okay to develop. Besides providing pleasant views, the fountain area is used for jogging, as well as for wildlife."
In addition to these two land grabs there is also a proposal to expand the USTA tennis facilities as well-a cumulative shot in the solar plexus for the Corona and Jackson Heights neighborhoods-not to mention all of the Queens residents who enjoy this parkland refuge. Yet, as Croft reminds us, EDC is not looking to examine the overall impact of these three separate but combined developments:

The city Economic Development Corp. is also irresponsibly attempting to push this massive project through without conducting a full environmental review of all three projects, needed to assess the cumulative impact."

This is the EDC that wants to expand its powers because it feels that its current reach is not adequate in spite of the fact that it is in reality an well-armed weapon of the mayor's office. We agree that EDC needs to be restructured-not to give it more power, but to rein it in so that it is no longer a voice for the crony capitalists but a real expression of the popular will.