Saturday, September 7, 2013

A mall to spur housing?

The Times Ledger - (and doesn’t Joe Anuta do a good reporting job on Willets Point?) - has a good story on Tuesday’s City Council hearing; and the report exposes the inanity of the developer’s rationale for the development. Here’s the description of the reason why the mall is precursor to all of the things originally promised for Willets Point:
The partnership contends this sequencing is essential to ensure the entire vision can be realized. They have repeatedly said the only way to develop Willets Point according to the 2008 plan was to create an economic engine to drive the project, namely the 1.4 million square foot retail and entertainment complex proposed for the west of Citi Field.
“We believe strongly that the project makes economic sense,” said Jesse Masyr, land-use counsel to the partnership.”
Now we have always admired Masyr’s ability to spin a yarn, but let’s deconstruct this particularly tall tale. In order to afford to build housing, there is a need to build the largest mall in NYC so as to create a destination that makes the housing affordable-and not affordable in the way the term is now understood:
Basically, the joint venture needs to have the mall and a proposed retail strip along 126th Street up and running to not only offset other costs of the project, but to create a destination to make the housing component more attractive.”
Crazy, no? Everyone wants to live in the neighborhood immediately contiguous to the city’s largest retail center? Even if you believe the traffic reports from consultants who have demonstrated a very thin regard for professional accuracy, this rationale is tough to accept. Can you imagine trying to and from work with tens of thousands of daily and weekly car and truck trips clogging the streets and access roads to you home?
WPU’s Jerry Antonacci has more credibility when he points out the likely scenario here:
But opponents have long contended that the city and developers only want the mall and do not want to build the housing, which includes 875 affordable units. The partnership would be required to pay a $35 million penalty for not building the housing, contracts show, but the city is also not contractually obligated to build the ramps. If the ramps never get built, then the joint venture is off the hook.
By obtaining this current permit, they will have made the parking lot legal, which would not have been permissible under the special zoning written in 2008. According to Iron Triangle property owners, this is all part of the plan.
“Mark my words: No housing is ever going to be built,” said Jerry Antonacci, a member of opposition group Willets Point United, who spoke in an informational video about the project and testified at City Hall Tuesday.”
All of which makes this the Wimpy deal we have described it as-with the developer’s gladly paying Tuesday (for housing years from now), for a mall (the Wimpy hamburger) they get today. And those two thousand units of affordable housing, what happened to them?

“But opponents have long contended that the city and developers only want the mall and do not want to build the housing, which includes 875 affordable units.” So not only do the developers get the land for free-in spite of the fact that the city promised the city council in 2008 that it would be reimbursed by the developer eventually selected-but they also get to put off the linchpin of the original approval to years from now when many of us will n longer be around.

The fact remains-and should be indisputable-an administration that has already lied to get this plan approved in 2008, and won’t be around in the middle of the next decade to be held accountable, should not be believed about any of the assertions it has made concerning the eventual end game at Willets Point.