Saturday, June 30, 2012

IRS Needs to Step Up Evenhandedly

Reuters is reporting on the efforts of the IRS to increase its scrutiny of not for profit groups engaging in political activities:

The Internal Revenue Service is signaling that it will increase its scrutiny of tax-exempt political organizations, which are becoming a force in elections by raising tens of millions of dollars from undisclosed donors. The IRS has been corresponding with such groups and is preparing questions to ask them as part of effort to determine whether their fundraising or advertising work runs afoul of tax law."

All well and good but this gets back to our complaint that the agency-just like the case we made about the selectivity of NYS AG Schneiderman-needs to be evenhanded in its enforcement efforts and give a very close look at the illegal activities of the Flushing Willets Point Corona LDC: "A Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday indicated that an IRS probe was under way for large conservative tax-exempt groups such as Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity, which is funded in part by the oil and gas tycoons David and Charles Koch."

And Reuters sees the Schneiderman parallels: "The fuzzy lines surrounding political donations were clear on Wednesday, when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said his office is investigating whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is complying with rules for tax-exempt groups."

Many on the Republican side feel that this is rank partisanship:

"Earlier this year, some smaller, local advocacy groups, many of them affiliated with the conservative Tea Party movement, received IRS questionnaires asking about their qualifications for tax-exempt status. At the time, some conservatives accused the IRS of playing into liberals' hands by trying to intimidate and silence conservative groups.

Democrats have been increasing pressure on the IRS to step up its oversight."

The IRS denies any partisanship is at work and we believe that it can advance the cause of justice-while at the same time demonstrating its fairness-by investigating and properly chastising the Shulman LDC. And we have an idea what the proper penalty should be: "The IRS has the power to revoke the tax-exempt status of such groups, which could trigger a tax bill for them."

Let's not forget that, unlike a group like Karl Rove's Crossroads, the Shulman entity actually lied on its application for not for profit status by claiming against all evidence that the LDC would not engage in any lobbying. Yet the NY Times report that broke this story told a different tale:

"That was the whole idea,” Ms. Shulman said in an interview. “The idea I had with Dan Doctoroff was that we would help the city do what the mayor wanted, to clear Willets Point and develop it in the best interest of the city, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.” In other words, Ms. Shulman added, “We lobbied the city for the city.

And in lobbying for the city Shulman violated NYS law at the same time she was violating the claims she had made to the Feds-a wonderful daily double whose payoff should be criminal and civil prosecution for conspiring to organize and implement a scheme to deprive the WPU property owners of their land while at the same time aggrandizing the real estate interests of her member organizations.

In commenting on this IRS effort, Congressman Chris Van Hollen makes a very compelling, if unintended, point-and he deserves the last word: ""(The) IRS has a responsibility to make sure that these groups are not defrauding taxpayers, that they are not abusing the ... charitable organization status pursuing political purposes," U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who is leading an effort to overhaul campaign finance rules, said at the Reuters Washington Summit this week." (emphasis added)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Local Deception Corporation

There is a good reason why the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. has resisted all efforts to have it classified as a public authority-an arm of the NYC EDC in this case. If so classified the thinly disguised front group for certain real estate interests would have been forced to submit its records to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act. And what a treasure trove that can of inquiry would yield!

Let's be very clear folks. This LDC was created by and for real estate entities like Sterling Equities and TDC-and its birth was midwifed by Claire Shulman who goes back a long, long way indeed with these real estate interests. Now, having already used subterfuge and illegal tactics to win development rights for Sterling Equities in the West Side of the Flushing River, the LDC has its sights set on the river's eastern flank. As the Queens Tribune points out:

The local development corporation helmed by former Borough President Claire Shulman had a second public hearing last week on its vision to transform the Flushing waterfront east of College Point Boulevard into a coastal parkland and mixed-use development."

What's the goal here? Nothing less than the transformation of the Flushing waterfront-an effort that will raise the real estate value of a significant swath of property that by accident is owned by the aforementioned TDC:

"The Flushing waterfront is an area of grossly untapped potential,” said Nick Roberts, project manager for the LDC, who along with his colleagues projected that the 60-acre area mainly comprised of industrial or unused lots could eventually handle an additional 2 million square feet or 1,600 units of housing, 140,000 square feet of entertainment space and 95,000 square feet of retail, among other potential uses."

What a boon for the lucky TDC folks. And it is also no accident that this local deception corporation sees this as complementary to the fiasco it has wrought over at Willets Point: " It is designed to complement another proposed development at Willets Point across the river. Shulman’s vision even includes a footbridge between the two."

What we have here is very plain to see-a group masquerading as simply an advocate for the public interest has been able to garner public funds to devise plans to transform an "underutilized" area for the benefit of one of its leading funders-the great philanthropists at TDC. As the Real Deal reports:

"The plans, crafted by the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp., were funded by a $1.5 million grant from the state’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas program and aim to upzone the area to allow for mixed-use development. According to the Queens Courier, in the near-term the land would get 600 units of affordable housing and more than 250,000 square feet towards retail, restaurants, office, hotel or entertainment options."

Shulman for her part, although getting on in years as we all are, hasn't lost her sense of humor. As she cracks to the Tribune: “Read my lips: There’s no eminent domain,” she said in an interview following the meeting. “I’m not in the business of taking people’s property.”

This from the comedienne who spearheaded the eminent domain effort of the city over at Willets Point. In fact, after watching her slice and dice the property owners across the Flushing River we are tempted to say that her major business interest involves the taking of other people's property-while fronting for developers who are salivating to take those properties off of the hands of people who would rather inconveniently want to keep it for themselves.

In our view the Shulman Deception Corporation is a criminal enterprise-and her efforts to pretend she is operating in the public interest is simply a cover for her illegal activities.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flushing Shulman's Dreck

The stealth campaign being run by Claire Shulman's LDC to convert the Flushing waterfront into prime real estate that will benefit one of its charter members-TDC Development-is moving forward. This underscores what we have said all along about the development corporation-it's a phony charity acting as a cat's paw for its developer members. As the Queens Courier reports:

"Flushing’s future will have a revitalized, accessible waterfront — bridging the downtown area and Willets Point — if early projections proposed by a local development group become finalized. “Downtown Flushing, or the Flushing waterfront rather, is an area of enormous untapped potential,” said Nick Roberts, project manager at Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (FWCLDC) — the north-central Queens-based organization spearheading expansion efforts. “We believe that revitalizing Flushing’s waterfront is the next crucial step to furthering Flushing’s status as one of the city’s greatest neighborhoods.”

WPU's statement says it all: "The project has already drawn fire from Willets Point United, a group of property owners battling the city to keep their land. Group leaders said in a statement that the brownfield project is “actually a thinly-disguised land grab” and predicted FWCLDC would use eminent domain in the future to acquire all land in the 60 acres — a move WPU is familiar with."

Make no mistake about it, this is all being engineered by Claire Shulman who, in her dotage, remains as she always has been: a toady for every large business interest that wants to get its way in the borough of Queens. She has never stood up for communities or small businesses fighting large real estate concerns but now she is getting compensated for what she has in the past done gratis. As she told the Courier:

“This is a very exciting area in terms of economics, despite the fact that some other areas of the country aren’t doing so well,” said former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, who heads the FWCLDC. “Flushing is really on its way up.”

The only thing going up in Flushing is a future development that will eventually be shoved up the ass of all of the smaller property owners in the area-making the LDC's not for profit status a cruel joke.

More on Schneiderman's Partisan Law Enforcement

Yesterday we took a look at NYS AG Eric Schneiderman's partisan approach to law enforcement-going on a well publicized fishing expedition against the Chamber of Commerce-and by extension, the Supreme Court's decision allowing corporate contributions to political campaigns. Over at Contentions Jonathan Tobin takes this criticism one step further:

"Liberals are still seething over the way the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Citizens United decision in the Montana campaign finance law case where state restrictions on political spending were rightly overruled. But this defense of free speech rights will not go unanswered by a Democratic Party that thinks allowing citizens and groups to support ideas and candidates is a scandal. That’s why New York’s left-wing attorney general is launching a brazenly partisan attack on the right of political speech in the guise of an investigation of alleged violations of the tax code."

What's our fair and balanced AG doing here? "New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a hard-line liberal who has been itching to use his post to both fight for restrictive campaign finance laws and to garner the publicity that will enable him to advance his career. On the surface, Schneiderman is merely conducting a probe into contributions to tax-exempt groups. But by focusing his attention on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business conservative group, the political intent of the investigation is obvious."

On the other hand, as we pointed out yesterday, Schneiderman has a slam dunk case against Claire Shulman, Sterling Equities-and the whole gang over at the Willets Point, Flushing, Corona LDC-for violating the strict NY State prohibition against any lobbing by these local development entities. And that illegal lobbying paid off handsomely for Sterling when the mayor handed over acres of city property for $0.

But because of the Democratic support for this group Schneiderman does nothing-while pretending otherwise to the press. He's the same kind of guy that will always be screaming about the perfidy of his political opponents-and now he is exposed as a hypocrite.

As Tobin goes on to highlight, any not for profit could be targeted under the Schneiderman rules: "The same amorphous questions could be put to any non-profit involved in public advocacy. But political observers on both sides of the aisle understand that when probes like this are conducted, the only possible motivation is not respect for the law but a desire to criminalize political opponents."

And in the case of Eric Schneiderman-self righteous to the max-it also means to stonewall investigating obvious wrongdoing by his political allies-a situation that would call for a special prosecutor if NY State had any semblance of bipartisan political balance.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Schneiderman's Politicizing Law Enforcement

The NY Times is reporting that NYS AG Eric Schneiderman is going after not for profit groups that are-in his view-illegally using their tax exempt status for campaigning: " Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York has begun investigating contributions to tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns, focusing on a case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the largest outside groups seeking to influence recent elections but is not required to disclose its donors."

This is clearly a political move since the AG is focusing on groups that are aiding Republican candidates and causes-as the Times points out:

"Mr. Schneiderman’s investigation is the first significant one in years into the rapidly growing use of tax-exempt groups to move money into politics. The biggest such groups, including Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, which was founded by Karl Rove and other Republican strategists, are expected to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this year on issue advertisements against candidates to sway the outcome of the presidential and Congressional elections."

That brings us to the question of the old double standard. Keep in mind-as we have continually pointed out-that the AG's office has been sitting on an investigation of the improper lobbying of a Claire Shulman led local development corporation-an entity that is barred from lobbying by New York statute. In this case, however, the group is heavily backed by Queens Democrats-and Shulman herself is a longstanding member of the Democratic establishment.

Keep in mind that the AG is still claiming-after three years of shucking and jiving-that there is an ongoing investigation-as Crain's reported: "Schneiderman's spokesman said: “We cannot comment on an active investigation.” Can't comment? Here they are issuing press releases and talking their heads off about the US Chamber of Commerce but they can't say a darned thing about crusty old Claire?-after three years!

This rope a dope tactic of both the current as well as former AG is a disgrace-and leads one to believe that when it comes to justice in New York it is "just us."

Do as I Say: Mike Bloomberg Really Dislikes Warming SUVs

We have been following closely Mayor Mike's breathtaking hypocrisy about global warming and his so-called efforts to reduce NYC's carbon footprint. Five years ago the NY Post reported the following:

America's greenest mayor generates enough greenhouse gas to choke the Lincoln Tunnel.Mayor Bloomberg - who has advocated everything from ditching incandescent light bulbs to taxing Midtown commuters to clean the air - produces 364 tons of smog-inducing carbon dioxide a year, according to a Post analysis of the billionaire's trans-Atlantic real estate portfolio and travel style.That's a carbon footprint larger than what's produced by 18 average Americans, 53 Europeans or 404 Guatemalans. It's equivalent to keeping 69 cars a year on the road or lighting the Empire State Building for 4 & frac12; days."

Let's not forget that the mayor also reeks hypocrisy when it comes to his economic development policies that have seen a proliferation of auto-dependent malls under his watch. His latest foray is over at Willets Point where he has replaced what his minions had described as a new "green neighborhood" with a huge-you guessed it-big box shopping mall.

We had thought that we had seen it all from the two faced chief executive but this latest missive from the Post really takes the cake:

"Who’s full of hot air? Mayor Bloomberg wants to maintain his politically correct credentials on global warming — but hates to get into a hot car when he leaves an air conditioned building. The solution his aides came up with could easily have doubled as a stunt on David Letterman’s show.

In full view of bemused tourists and other passers-by, workers yesterday performed what looked like a comedy routine: They hoisted a standard room air conditioner to a side window of one of the mayor’s SUVs parked in the City Hall lot to see if it would fit. If the strange plan gets a green light, the units would be plugged into electrical outlets and cause less pollution than running the vehicles’ own A/Cs on an idling engine."

What's next, a food taster for his highness? All of which brings to mind the happy thought that this experiment in noblesse oblige will soon be coming to an end-and even the Bloomberg rats are starting to jump ship, as the NY Times reports.

Its time that New Yorkers learned to live their own lives without the tutelage of hizzoner. New York is a great city and it doesn't need the meddling of a hypocritical billionaire to become even better. 2013 will demonstrate that: addition by subtraction.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bum Deal!

Kudos to the Times Ledger for their slicing and dicing of the city's giveaway to Sterling Equities and Related-even more so because the paper had endorsed the first development plan put forward by EDC. Kind of makes you really recognize how much the Daily News and Mort Zuckerman are in the tank for the mayor with their knee jerk praise of the new plan:

"Unless one believes in the benevolence, integrity and generosity of the Wilpons and Sterling Equities of the New York Mets, the city’s plan for the redevelopment of the area around Citi Field does not appear to be a good deal for the city."

The Ledger isn't sanguine about the postponing of the housing deal-rightly assuming the Wimpy nature of the postponement of the only real public benefit; and the paper gives thumbs down to the crony capitalism that animates this smelly scheme:

"But now we are told the construction of the housing and a school won’t begin until 2025 at the earliest. Worse, we learned last week this piece of land was given to the Wilpons and their partner, Sterling Equities, which formed the Queens Development Group, for free. To thank them for accepting this gift, the city is committed to spending $500 million building sewers, creating better access to the Long Island Expressway and repairing roads."

The Ledger also understands just how much EDC snookered the city council back in2008: "When the City Council approved the deal, it reportedly knew nothing of the land giveaway and trusted in the mayor’s promise to get back the money spent on buying out the businesses pressed into relocating."

This is a deal that is nothing more than a giveaway to two billionaire pals of the mayor-and if the mayor himself wasn't so rich the law enforcement community would be all over this. Apparently, taking care of your friends at the expense of the public interest is alright if you're wealthy. But that doesn't mean that the city council should go along with the deal-especially without the public benefit of housing front-loaded:

"Show us the numbers, Mayor Bloomberg. How will the city recoup the money it already spent? Where is the study showing that hotels and a convention center will be viable? There are already hotels close by serving LaGuardia passengers. No shovel should hit the ground until a plan to build affordable housing is in place — and not in 2025. It should be done simultaneously with the other building.

Despite these reservations, we look forward to the day when Mets fans can walk through a beautiful plaza before and after a game. But let’s make sure the city gets a fair deal from the Wilpons and Sterling."

The Ledger almost had us-that is until this last thought. What the paper leaves out is that this was a scheme that was concocted by the Wilpons over 20 years ago-and they employed a number of dubious methods in its pursuit-not the least of which was getting the city to use the threat of condemnation to take away property that has now been given over to Sterling Equities.

They don't deserve a nickle of the tax payers' money-having already taken $500,000 for their truly inspired lobbying effort fronted by Claire Shulman. What they deserve is a swift retribution for their fraud and deception-and we also look forward to a plaza for Mets fans, on the west side of CitiField-bought and paid for by the new owners not by these scoundrels.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Park and Deride

NYC Parks Advocates have posted the following on their website-and they are really concerned about the possible use of city park land for the proposed Mets mall on the west side of CitiField. As their spokesman Geoffrey Croft points out:

"Alienation Of Parkland? A rendering of 126th Street, with Citi Field on the left and a revitalized Willets Point on the right. The Bloomberg administration's Willets Point plan includes handing over acres of public parkland in Flushing Meadows Corona Park adjacent to Shea Stadium (CitiField) to be developed into a massive shopping mall. The current plan calls for erecting “Willets West” on the existing Citi Field Parks Department owned parking lot and turn it into a million- square-foot retail and entertainment center with more than 200 stores, movie theaters, restaurants, a parking structure and surface spaces for 2,500 cars."

The park advocates are also raising a seious question about that alleged 1961 agreement that the city is using to justify the transfer of this property and the drastic alteration from its current use:

"Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., claims a 1961 agreement with the Mets allows the parkland to developed. No word yet whether or not the "agreement" was approved by the state legislation which would be required in order to use the public park land for a non-park purpose."

If this purported agreement can't stand up to scrutiny it would put a severe crimp in what we call Bloomberg's Folly.

What Suits the Giants, the Jets, and the Mets?

On Friday word came down-courtesy of the omnipresent Charles Bagli of the NY Times-that the Giants and the Jets were suing the developer of a shopping mall right next to their stadium in the New Jersey:

"The Giants and the Jets filed a lawsuit on Friday to block the proposed American Dream shopping and entertainment mall in the Meadowlands, which they contend will threaten their ability to successfully hold games at the nearby MetLife Stadium. The Giants and Jets said the mall, in East Rutherford, N.J., “will clog the complex’s already congested transportation networks” on game days, according to the lawsuit."

What in Wellington Mara's name could be the problem? You guessed it-traffic:

"The teams and the mall’s developers had been negotiating for months over their differences. The teams asked the developer to close the planned mall — which includes an amusement park, an indoor ski jump and an indoor water park — on game days, 20 times a year, when more than 80,000 football fans converge on the stadium. So far, the developer, the Triple Five Group, has said it will not do so.

“The Giants and the Jets have $1.6 billion invested in this stadium,” said John K. Mara, president of the New York Giants, “and we can’t afford to make it more difficult for our fans to get in and out of here on game days.”

How much traffic? "We’ve got 25,000 to 30,000 cars here on game day,” he added, “and now we’re going to have the biggest mall in America. Common sense tells you there are going to be problems with ingress and egress.”

Yuh think? But apparently the Wilpons are such deep thinkers-or is it perhaps that they really don't give a rat's ass about the ability of their fans to ingress and egress on game days? In addition, keep in mind that EDC submitted an application for Van Wyck ramps to the Federal Highway Administration that didn't include almost a million square feet of big box stores-and the benighted planners are still envisioning the full scale build out of the entire 62 acres of Willets Point that already has projected 80,000 car and truck trips a day.

That application was submitted by EDC to the Feds when it knew that the new development concept was about to awarded to the Related/Sterling Equities partnership-talk about a real bait and switch! This was fraud on the part of the NYC EDC and now WPU may just have to go back to the regulators and demand that the entire ramp review be re-opened.

On top of this fiasco we have a brain dead elected official shilling for, "the largest convention center in the United States," on the remaining land inconveniently owned by others. Imagine the traffic nightmare that would generate on top of the mall and the Mets' game motorists. (And shame on the Queens Courier for posting this on-line and not the accompanying WPU rebuttal).

Folks, this is what passes as planning in NYC-economic development officials deeding tax payer bought properties to members of the mayor's billionaire boys club to generate horrendous environmental damage and inconvenience to the residents of the borough; aided and abetted by a cohort of elected officials with no sense of responsibility for the public good.

The Giants and the Jets understand the realities of this better than those who should know better in NYC. You don't build a mall right next to a baseball stadium-and right down the road from a tennis venue. But you do if you're looking to enrich your cronies at the expense of the hapless citizens.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mets Scheme Unmasked-by Queens Chronicle's Sports Guy!

Just like the little boy on the Hans Christian Anderson story about the emperor's new clothes, Lloyd Carroll, a sports reporter for the Queens Chronicle, exposed the city's land giveaway to the NY Mets and their real estate arm of Sterling Equities. Writing about a conversation he had with Mets great Jerry Koosman, Carroll reported the following:

Jerry shook his head in disbelief when I told him how Mayor Bloomberg had used taxpayer funds to have the city purchase a good chunk of the land just east of Citi Field so that Sterling Equities, the real estate company run by Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, and Related Companies, the commercial realty behemoth owned chiefly by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, could develop Willets Point. The mayor did not even try to pretend there was competitive bidding in this land grab. So much for transparency in government."

Carroll, thankfully not corrupted by a cozy relationship with Queens muckety-mucks-unlike the Chronicle ownership itself-goes on to ask the key question about what we are calling Bloomberg's folly:

"I am still trying to figure out why Sterling and Related couldn’t buy up the property directly from the owners without Bloomberg’s intervention. Twenty years ago Tribeca was a neighborhood of warehouses and printing plants. The free market was responsible for the area becoming home to the city’s priciest apartments and trendiest restaurants. As far as I know, Tribeca redevelopment never received any nudging from City Hall."

Carrolll does, however, have a limit to his insights-not jaded by years of covering NYC politicians. In his naivete he speculates: "Wilpon and Ross want to use the land across from the Mets’ home for a parking lot and shopping mall, and apartment buildings that would not be built until 2025. Why the housing would lag badly behind the parking lot and mall is a mystery."

No Jerry, it's not a mystery, it's a scandal-and why this aspect of the scheme has been designated to be a "Wimpy deal." The housing, to use sports jargon is, "a player to be named later." In this case, much later-or as Johnny Mathis used to sing, "The Twelth of Never."

Carroll ends his piece in a rhetorical flourish-exposing the stench of the crony capitalism involved in this forced land transfer:

"Forget Occupy Wall Street. New Mets minority owner, and host of HBO’s popular “Real Time,” Bill Maher should try to organize Occupy 126th Street. This is a clear case of one percenters scratching each other’s backs at the taxpayers’ expense. There is something that stinks about the Willets Point development plans and it’s not the stench of Flushing Bay on a hot, humid day." (emphasis added)

We'll add just one small note to this outstanding piece of commentary. In publishing our letter the other day the Chronicle managed to omit the money paragraph-and we are not surprised since it went directly to the corrupt bargain, and illegal lobbying, that was crafted by City Hall and the Wilpons. We will take the last word:

"It aggrandizes the owners of the New York Mets, who schemed for 20 years to get the property adjacent to their stadium for development, then funded a local development corporation which became the subject of an ongoing NYS Attorney General investigation due to its alleged unlawful influence of legislation authorizing the proposed Willets Point development. As far back as 2008, City officials could not rule out the possibility that developer firms involved with this LDC would be prohibited from bidding on the Willets Point project. The issue has never been resolved, and yet the owners of Mets – which funded the LDC – now stand to benefit."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

WPU Letter Attacks Bloomberg's Folly

In this week's Queens Chronicle the paper prints the WPU letter that attacks the city's "bait and switch" tactics at Willets Point:

"The city’s newly announced plans for Willets Point are an outrage — and should be seen as such by every City Council member who voted in favor of the plan that was originally proposed, and by all New York City taxpayers who are being stuck with the bill for what will forever be known as Bloomberg’s Folly."

Read the whole thing.

Opposition Increases to Bloomberg's Folly

The Queens Chronicle is reporting on the new Willets Point plan and, lo and behold, others are chiming in with concerns about the proposed development-particularly the proposed use of the CitiField parking lot west of the stadium:

"This is the part of the project that has some in the community scratching their heads. Gene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, who attended the breakfast, said he isn’t sure of the plan’s legality. Citi Field and its parking lot sit on public parkland, and Kelty doesn’t think putting up a commercial shopping center is the proper usage. Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, who organized the breakfast at the mayor’s urging, thinks such a use of the parking lot could be alienation of parkland."

Wow! Jack Friedman demurs-this really is arguing against interests and hats off to him for his integrity. This is starting off to be a real headache for the city. And what about that supposed 1961 agreement on the parkland? The city thinks it's still valid: "But Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corp., said following the mayor’s speech that a 1961 agreement with the Mets allows for development."

Kelty disagrees-and adds some other concerns about the favoritism being shown to the Mets: "Nevertheless, Kelty said, the plan “worries me” and he wants to see the 1961 agreement. In addition, he is concerned that the other three developers who sought the Willets Point contract were in a less favorable position with the city than the winner and could not compete with the Mets parking lot scheme. “The others didn’t get something special like the Mets,” Kelty added."

But Kelty isn't done and has his sights set on Related as well: "He also said that The Related Companies, which built the 20th Avenue shopping center in College Point, does not have a good record with the community. “The company does not take care of the local community,” Kelty said, pointing to the 10 years it took for the firm to agree to a cut-through on the property to alleviate traffic, one that it didn’t even have to pay for."

As for WPU we are still not going to lie down and roll over: "Michael Rikon, an attorney representing WPU, said Friday there are a number of problems with the mayor’s proposal, but the bottom line is “it’s not legal. He noted that the city does not have an assembled site, meaning it doesn’t own all the land, and “It won’t pass muster on the environmental review since the added traffic with the shopping center will be explosive. It’s horrendous to put in a mall there.” He called the proposal “a gift of taxpayers’ money” to the Mets, adding that it’s illegal to build on public parkland. Rikon expects WPU to file more lawsuits against the city over the latest proposal."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Naked Concessions" and "Shaky Retail"

The Bond Buyer has an interesting look at Bloomberg's Folly over at Willets Point, and for a business publication makes an interesting observation about the viability of the retail development:

"In a positive sense, it’s more attuned to the reality of the marketplace today, much less than what had been promised and described,” Sanders said. “There’s nothing bothersome or offensive, but for the most part it looks like just a great big shopping mall. Retail is a very fragile thing. That’s the dilemma.

Do you get that? What the real estate folks are saying is that this is a more doable project-not like the grandiosity of the original. But it was the flight of fancy in the original concept that got the attention of the city council-a body that was otherwise reluctant to use eminent domain and toss out small property owners on their butts.

Instead we get, "just a great big shopping mall," something that Karen Koslowitz, who chairs the city council Economic development Committee deems unnecessary. As for the transfer of the land-a sale that originally cost hundreds of millions in tax payer dollars-the Bond Buyer remarks that: "Boland said the Mets receiving the land for free is not a “naked concession” and thus no cause for alarm."

"Naked concession?" Is that a term of art? That leads us to ask what the difference might be between a concession that is naked and one that is fully clothed-and in the case of Sterling Equities the fact that the concession is not apparently naked to this one observer means that he is unaware of the company's skulduggery and conspiracy to acquire the property over a twenty year period.

In fact, this concession is so naked a theft of public property that the Wilpons might as well have been streaking across the outfield of their own ballpark. In our view the deal resembles the Emperor's clothes of the Hans Christian Anderson fable-Emperor Bloomberg is quite without clothes in our view and he's pleasantly sharing a hot tub with Jeff Wilpon who is laughing his naked ass off.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Daily News, Daily Blues

In predictable fashion the NY Daily News has come out strongly in favor of the land grad scheme at Willets Point: "City Hall has struck a deal that looks forward to transforming one of the city’s most blighted and polluted tracts into major retail, hotel and housing development. The plan has the makings of a home run."

And we sure know for whom-the Mets and the Wilpons-as the subhead in the editorial points out: "Plan will put the Mets' Citi Field at the center of a whole new neighborhood." Which is exactly our point all along-this has always been about the urban renewal vision of Jeff Wilpon and now he has gotten his wish. Not only that, but he's gotten the tax payers to pick up all the acquisition costs-something that the News admits isn't exactly kosher:

"To enable construction, the city was to kick in $400 million to acquire the land piece by piece and invest in infrastructure. The purchases have gone forward, but the rest went off track when the economy went south... The die-hard Willets Point property owners have pointed out fairly that the original proposal called for the city to recoup at least some of the public’s investment by selling the tract to the developer. Fair point: This plan does not include such a payment."

Not only that. The plan now envisions that CiitiField will be the centerpiece for development on the West as well as the East: "The components are envisioned to flank both sides of the stadium, not just one." Home run indeed! But at what cost? We notice that the News doesn't mention the fact that the city used eminent domain to effectively transfer private property from smaller landowners to Sterling Equities-all for the public good of course.

Now we're not surprised that Mort Zuckerman praises this deal, after all, he is a charter member of the billionaire boys club that the mayor has founded. Welcome aboard Jeff Wilpon! And as for the $35 million indemnity that this new unholy alliance between Sterling and Related will owe the city if it doesn't build any affordable housing we hear these kudos from Zuckerman.

"The builders are investing $3 billion; have assumed all responsibility for an environmental cleanup; have put down a $4 million deposit and have committed to paying $35 million and surrendering the land if the project fails to proceed as fast as they have committed."

That should't be a surprise since Mort is no stranger to deals that fall apart-he stuck the city with a $30 million indemnity for his failed Coliseum bid-he know that no one is gonna hold Sterling's feet to the fire when the housing fails to get built but it's a great talking point for him to praise his fellow club members with-and can any one remember when Zuckerman had any bad thing to say about a Bloomberg real estate deal?

That brings to mind the old Tom Paxton song about the Daily News-and it still holds true four decades later:

Daily News, daily blues
Pick up a copy any time you choose
Seven little pennies in the newsboy's hand
And you ride right along to never, never land