Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Willets Point, Sterling Equities, Related and Patricianage

Yesterday, we posted a commentary on the departure of Seth Pinsky, the leader of the criminal gang down at EDC who led the illegal lobbying effort to remove property owners from Willets Point so their land could be turned over to rich surrogates. We pointed out that EDC under the current mayor has been little more than a cat’s paw for wealthy real estate interests.

Nothing illustrates this fact more than the illegal lobbying scheme first orchestrated by Dan Doctoroff and later implemented by the talented underboss Pinsky. What EDC did-and what the NYS Attorney General cited as lawbreaking-was to fund a local LDC to lobby for the Willets Point project in spite of the fact that the law directly prohibits the LDC from doing any lobbying. As the WSJ reported last year:
New York City's economic-development agency and two related organizations admitted in a settlement Monday that they illegally lobbied the City Council on behalf of projects at the heart of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's redevelopment agenda.
The concessions came after a three-year probe by the state attorney general's office. Investigators found that the Economic Development Corp. worked behind the scenes with the groups—called local development corporations—to nudge lawmakers to support projects in Willets Point in Queens and Coney Island in Brooklyn."
Just who was this local development group? Well, it was a group headed by an aging figurehead named Shulman, but whose members were mainly large real estate firms that used the LDC to garner $500,000 in city funds to lobby on their own behalf. This is a neat trick. Arguably, it was Sterling Equities that was the leading member of the LDC.

This is some scheme that Pinsky masterminded. He took half a million dollars of tax payers’ money and turned it over to a group of real estate moguls to lobby for a development that would benefit their own private interests-and at the end of the day, Sterling Equities emerged as the big winner when it was designated to build a mall in the CitiField parking lot and receive 23 acres of Willets Point property to build a new parking facility. This was all for the cost of $1.

In the process, all of the public benefits that were originally negotiated were trashed and bashed-leading the NY Business Journal to observe; “…there is also a growing sense among local residents, and not just business owners, that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s actions aren’t just an attempt to reinvigorate the area, but a sweetheart deal for the Mets and their development partner, Related Cos.”

Which is exactly what this deal is-an example of what Newsday’s Dan Janison has called patricianage, the dispensing of public spoils to the rich by an administration that believes that the wealthy deserve our support for they are so supportive of the overall public good.

Except when they aren’t-and in the case of Willets Point that means that there will be no affordable housing as promised and those retail workers at the new mall can forget about a living wage that was also promised. After all, this is Related that is involved, and that company will gorge itself to death with public subsidies before it gives a crumb to any minimum wage store clerk.

It’s worth repeating the comment made to the NY Times by a local church leader about the odious nature of this deal:
Msgr. Thomas Healy, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, a thriving church near the stadium, complained that the 1,900 units of affordable housing that were once the centerpiece of the proposed redevelopment are now an afterthought. Many of his Mexican, Ecuadorean and Dominican parishioners are living, he said, in overcrowded and substandard apartments. 
“Bloomberg promised that the big thing in the project would be housing,” Monsignor Healy said. “Now it’s a grandiose mall, and in 20 years, maybe, we’ll get some housing. He doesn’t care about the poor.” 
But this is what EDC does in the name of the public interest. It is why Pinsky is leaving to go back into the real estate industry in a revolving door scenario that has been ever present since the agency was formed to end run political oversight. It is also why the current development proposal needs to be defeated: it is a sweetheart deal for the Mets and a slap in the face to the public.

If you need to better understand what this is all about please take a listen to Jerry Reed’s lament: “She Got the Goldmine, I Got the Shaft.”