Monday, July 15, 2013

All Star Game Brings Focus to Willets Point

As tomorrow’s MLB All Star Game approaches, the Star Ledger has an article that explains how Willets point remains a “distraction.” From the standpoint of WPU, however, the All Star Game is itself the distraction-a way of misdirecting folks from the illegality and unethical path taken by the Mets in their quest to redevelop the area in pursuit of their own selfish interests:
Across 126th Street, in the shadow of the towering, brick-and-stone facade of Citi Field, the Willets Point section of Queens unfurled into its everyday routine on a humid afternoon.
The piercing zzzzzzzppppppp! of torque wrenches tightening bolts, the clanking of mallets against metal and the hum of Latin music rose from cluttered strips of auto body shops, scrap yards and waste disposal plants along a 10-block stretch.
When the Mets opened their sparkling, $850 million ballpark in 2009, this is not what they had in mind.” 
The reporter for the Star Ledger has no idea just ho right his observation is. What the Mets-and their real estate arm Sterling Equities-had in mind was a land grab. That’s why they situated their stadium right across from the so-called eyesore. That’s why they entered into the illegal lobbying scheme to support the city’s redevelopment effort-willfully accepting over $500,000 for the lobbying of aphony not for profit that they were an integral part of.

This brings us to today-and the Star Ledger recognizes the stakes of the battle:
Enduring is a classic blue collar-white collar clash and a struggle over what to do with the land, wedged between the Flushing River and Citi Field. Everyone is impatient for repairs, but although the city — along with the Mets owners — sees an untapped destination spot and a vehicle to draw more fans, the businesses, including some that have been here for more than 50 years, say they deserve to be part of any modernization, and they are refusing to budge.”
WPU has been engaged in a successful effort so far to prevent the theft of its property by the Mets and the city:
In 2007, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan for urban renewal in the neighborhood, famously calling Willets Points "another euphemism for blight." Two years later, the pitch fell apart when local business owners filed suit, claiming the plans had undergone inadequate environmental reviews.”
In NYC, as others have found out, “blight makes right.” And the fact that this blight is a direct consequence of the city’s neglect makes no difference to the land grabbers-they want your property and they have a billionaire mayor as an accomplice:
The merchants of Willets Point say a complete makeover isn’t necessary. If they had proper roads and sewers, the neighborhood would improve on its own. "If the city of New York was to invest money into an infrastructure, the area would redevelop," said Michael Rikon, an attorney who represents some Willets Point business owners. "But that requires the investment to give services everyone else has."
The dispute has been tense and bitter, and people in Willets Point are scared of losing their livelihoods.”
David Antonacci of Crown Container lays out the indictment of the city’s willful neglect:
Crown Container Corp., a family-owned waste management company, has been around since 1959. It provides service to more than 2,000 customers — homes, restaurants, shops, offices, factories and warehouses. Like many in Willets Point, those at Crown are fearful of being pushed off the land.
"They throw people out, where they going?" said David Antonacci, a Crown co-owner. "They’re just killing businesses."
But Antonacci acknowledges Willets Point desperately needs infrastructure. Like most business owners there, he had a water pump rolled up on his property to discard dirty, trapped rainwater.
"Let me tell you something," he said, looking overhead as a plane from nearby La Guardia Airport zoomed through the sky. "The reason this place is an eyesore is because the city created it that way. I pay taxes for clean streets. I get no services here. There’s no sewers. They don’t do snow removal. They just steal our tax money. There’s no lights, no stop signs, no streetlights."

What the Star Ledger shows, however, is that in spite of the neglect and the city’s attempt to steal the property of small business owners, there is still a vibrancy at Willets Point-real economic activity by immigrant entrepreneurs that in other contexts the mayor is hypocritically extolling:
But rain or shine, Willets Point never slows, Antonacci said. Shops are open seven days a week, 365 days a year. The area has provided jobs for generations of immigrants. On 126th Street is Chile Auto Glass, next to International Auto Body. A Halal truck sits on the corner of 37th Avenue. Men and boys in front of shops beckon to passing motorists, offering better prices than the next guy.”

Five years ago, Mike Bloomberg called the redevelopment of Willets Point the heralding in of the city’s “first green neighborhood.” Instead, we are being asked to swallow a parking lot and a mall to enrich the Wilpons and their partners-underscoring that the green in this new neighborhood is exclusively residing in the pockets of the Mets.