Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Affordable housing advocates steamed

Council Member Julissa Ferreras at Queens Housing Coalition meeting.  (Queens Chronicle)
The Queens Chronicle last week reported about a meeting in Corona about affordable housing at Willets Point:

The city’s announcement that the burgeoning and long-contested development project at Willets Point would not be proceeding as originally outlined and the lack of sufficient affordable housing for the middle- and lower-income families living in the borough led about 100 distraught residents to pack a Queens Housing Coalition meeting on Nov. 20 in Jackson Heights.

The Willets Point Redevelopment Plan was approved by the City Council in 2008 and included the construction of 5,500 mixed-income residential units, 2,000 of which were to be affordable housing.

This past June, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the affordable housing plan would be delayed until 2025.

“We just want the mayor to remember the promise he made about affordable housing at Willets Point,” said QHC’s coordinator Ivan Contreras. “We feel betrayed.”

The group informed attendees of the revised plans for the area, including neighboring Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which include a 25,000-seat Major League Soccer stadium, additions to the U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the construction of the largest shopping mall in the borough. The MLS and USTA projects are separate from the Willets Point plan, but the shopping center is part of it.

When Contreras turned to the crowd and asked, “Do we need another mall?” he was greeted with a resounding “No.”

“We need housing,” he said. “We need the mayor to construct low-cost housing. Affordable housing is not a luxury. It’s a priority. We need it and we need it now,” he said.

Now, WPU would like to remind housing advocates that they can't be sure there'll ever be housing at Willets Point - let alone affordable housing - because the City conveniently slipped an "opt-out" clause in the Willets Point plan. The only thing that can be counted on is the gigantic proposed mall. Housing advocacy groups were persuaded to support the development project on the false pretext that housing will happen in the future. They shouldn't have fallen for it!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Scientist questions development of Flushing Meadows

Blue areas of map show extent of Hurricane Sandy's storm surge.
Site of proposed Willets Point mall project was under water.
Dr. Jason Munshi-South, an assistant professor of Environmental Science and Biology in the Department of Natural Science at Baruch College, penned an op-ed printed recently in the Daily News:

The borough of Queens was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Breezy Point, the Rockaways and other neighborhoods were completely devastated and may never be the same. We’d be foolish to think that Sandy was a once-in-a-lifetime storm. Instead, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Irene are what we can expect more often in our future with climate change a clear and present danger.

[Flushing Meadows-Corona Park] acts as a natural sponge for tidal surges and stormwater runoff. It is a flood protection area — protecting our neighborhood (and basements) from serious flooding during big storms.

Because Bloomberg understands climate change so well, it is baffling that his administration has signed on to development plans for Flushing Meadows that are alarming — the construction of new stadiums, roads, parking lots and a massive mall in the park.

These construction projects will substantially increase the percentage of impervious surface cover (materials that do not absorb water) in the park as green spaces are converted to structures (stadiums and malls) and concrete roads, parking lots and walkways. Any gains against pollution runoff and flooding in the Meadow and Willow Lake watershed will be damaged by these developments, and storm runoff into Flushing Bay will likely increase.

Such development will also further damage Flushing Meadows’ historical role as a marshy buffer against storm surge and coastal flooding, placing residents and businesses located near Flushing Meadows in a more vulnerable position during extreme weather events. Do the developers of the soccer stadium have plans to address the potential damage from flooding to surrounding neighborhoods wrought by their work?

Monday, December 3, 2012

City is subsidizing billionaire's project

The following letter to the editor was printed December 2, 2012 in the Times Ledger:

The New York Times reported in its Nov. 12 issue that Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to increase school lunches to $2.50 from $1.50, slash $8.3 million from libraries and increase fees on parking meters.

It is to be noted that Bloomberg has no plans to reduce the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that will subsidize his ill-advised Willets Point plan, nor does he plan to reduce subsidies that will benefit New York Mets billionaire owner Fred Wilpon for a shopping mall adjacent to the Mets stadium.

While Bloomberg is to be applauded for his philanthropic contributions as a private citizen, his current plans demonstrate once again that as mayor he has no interest in the poor, the middle class and small businesses in this city.

It should make one recognize the value of term limits.

Benjamin Haber