Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Faith in New York Says No to Willets West

A growing opposition to Willets Point has emerged from the faith community in Queens. In Sunday’s NY Daily News, Msgr. Thomas Healy, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in Corona and Patrick Young, pastor of First Baptist Church of East Elmhurst, editorialize against the Bloomberg boondoggle. Speaking of the top down, failing to trickle down, development policies of the current mayor, the religious leaders point out:
“Economic development over the past decade in New York City has overwhelmingly benefited those at the top, while leaving the rest of us behind. Today, it has become much more difficult for working people in our congregations and communities to find dignified work, pay for housing, send their children to college and save for retirement. That is not good for families, congregations, or our city.”
As the men of faith go on to point out, this is particularly true of the bait and switch at Willets Point-but first they go on to lay out a statement of principle for development fairness:
“We believe every development in NYC that receives public subsidies should meet an “equity test” — a set of common-sense standards we should expect of developers and city leaders before a single shovel is placed in the ground. To get the go-ahead, a project must provide living-wage jobs, real affordable housing and enhanced open space, and it must be the product of sufficient community input.”
So how does this righteous goal compare to the reality of Willets Point? Not very well:
“While New York could greatly benefit from this brand of equitable development, the proposal to build a massive, 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall inside Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is a poster child for everything that is wrong with development in our city. We strongly oppose the proposal, which would be the largest mall in NYC, for three reasons:

* The Mayor and Economic Development Corp. broke their 2008 promise to build 2,000 units of affordable housing at Willets Point. The project developers have inserted a dangerous clause into their contract, whereby affordable housing will be abandoned if Van Wyck off-ramps are not built.

* The City and developers have not considered the negative impact of the city’s largest mall upon surrounding communities and businesses, including increased car traffic, overcrowded subway trains and poverty-wage jobs.

* The proposal represents another example of public land being exploited for private benefit, without meeting community needs. The Joint Venture, which represents some of the country’s wealthiest corporations, are already enjoying more than $99.9 million in taxpayer subsidies, and being given public parkland worth nearly $1 billion, while not being required to meet real community needs for jobs, housing or open space.”

The current development plan for the Iron Triangle fails at every turn-and it is frankly incredible that the city council is even given this lame duck proposal any serious consideration; especially after EDC has pulled the rug out from under all of the negotiated deals contained in the original 2008 approvals.
And the idea of a massive mall-nowhere seen in the original plan-is particularly galling to the men of faith and those congregations that they represent:
“The development represents a huge opportunity to construct affordable housing, enhance open space and create living-wage jobs — and yet the Economic Development Corp., Mayor Bloomberg and the developers are deciding instead to build a mall. While we believe our city could greatly benefit from responsible development at Willets Point, the current proposal takes us further down the road toward inequality.”
So, what’s the antonym of responsible? Yes, irresponsible it is. This is irresponsible development by an administration that has made these kinds of projects mundane-always a gold mine for developers and a shaft for the community and its small businesses. We’ll give the pastors the final word (Hint it has a resounding No in it):
“Faith and community leaders from across the city strongly urge the City Council to vote “no” this Wednesday if the current proposal isn’t significantly improved, so that our communities and city leaders have more time to create a better development proposal for Willets Point that would deliver real community benefits to the people of New York City.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

Willets West Mall on Parkland

Memo to Council Members Ferreras, Comrie and Weprin:

Crain's is reporting your last-ditch maneuvers to make the city "guarantee payment of $70 million to erect ramps" to and from the Van Wyck Expressway, without which NO housing may be built at Willets Point.

Apparently, you are DISREGARDING a primary objection of the community to the entire proposed project: the 1.4 million square foot shopping mall that would be built on 30+ acres of Queens parkland. Opposition to that mall on public parkland includes the Queens Civic Congress, which consists of 100+ civic associations throughout Queens; the Roosevelt Avenue Community Alliance, which recognizes that a mall at that location will destroy and displace numerous family-run businesses in Corona and Jackson Heights; and Queens Community Board 3, which voted 30-1 to DENY this application in part because CB3 opposes the mall on parkland; among many other groups that are opposed because of the MALL.

Regardless of whether or not the City provides $70 million for highway ramps, the community DOES NOT WANT THE PROJECT, because of the mall on parkland. Therefore, if you respect the will of the people, you will vote "NO".

But even if you succeed in obtaining an ironclad guarantee from the City of $70 million for highway ramps – and we don't believe an ironclad guarantee is possible now – that alone still does NOTHING to guarantee the housing and affordable housing, which a large sector of project opponents wants to see built. That's because regardless of the
availability of $70 million, the project contract between Sterling/Related and NYCEDC still allows Sterling/Related to pay a cost-of-doing-business penalty of $35 million (in 2025), and build NO housing. Moreover, simply setting aside $70 million for highway ramps does not alter the text of the contract which states: "For the avoidance of doubt, in no event shall EDC or the City be required to construct the Ramps as part of the Development." [Contract Section 3.3.]

As long as those two clear contract provisions remain in effect, there still is NO CLEAR PATH to construct any housing or affordable housing at Willets Point. Thus, if you insist on ignoring the community's outrage over a mall being constructed on 30+ acres of Queens parkland, and want to push for housing, then you must not only obtain $70 million that is necessary for the Van Wyck ramps, but you must also REQUIRE that the project contract be revised so that the City guarantees to construct the Van Wyck ramps, and so that NO option exists for Sterling/Related to buy their way out of constructing the housing by paying a penalty. The construction of the ramps and the housing must
be guaranteed.

We repeat – Obtaining $70 million for highway ramps does not address the overriding problem with this project: the construction of a huge mall on parkland; AND, it alone does not and cannot guarantee that any housing will ever be constructed, because the project contract still contains escape clauses. It is the project contract that will
determine, years from now, what the parties are actually obligated to do.

The pending ULURP application of Sterling/Related has been rushed to coincide with the end of Mayor Bloomberg's final term, and the integrity of the Willets Point project originally approved by the City Council in 2008 – which involved NO mall on parkland – has been sacrificed. None of that is necessary. Denying this ULURP application of Sterling/Related will allow the next City administration to take a fresh look at this project, and to ensure that its goals – including
prioritized affordable housing – are respected, not evaded by a developer.


The membership of Willets Point United Inc.

Living Wage and Dishonesty at Willets Point: A Challenge to de Blasio

We have underscored the hypocritical dishonesty of EDC about the question of a living wage at the Willets Point development before, but now that a vote is imminent it is appropriate to return to this field of schemes that the city is trying to foist on Queens. Here’s what we pointed out almost two years ago:
“In the battle over whether the city should adopt a living wage for retail workers when a development project is heavily subsidized the issue of Willets Point has wormed its way into the discussion. 
City Hall News lays out the reasons:
"In June 2008, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Stuart Appelbaum, stood on the steps of City Hall to praise the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Along with several other powerful union bosses, Appelbaum touted the EDC plan to jumpstart a long-stalled, $3 billion project at Willets Point in Queens, because he said it would lead to the creation of so-called “living wage” retail jobs for his workers – paying a minimum of $10 an hour.
“It won’t just mean thousands of jobs,” Appelbaum said. “It will mean thousands of construction and permanent jobs that pay prevailing wages and living wages.”
Juan Gonzales in the NY Daily News also weighs in on the correlation:
"And in 2008, when the mayor wanted the City Council to approve a proposed $3 billion Willets Point development project, his deputy mayor then, Robert Lieber, made such a deal with several labor unions.Under that deal, the city would require that all construction, maintenance and security jobs at Willets Point pay “prevailing” wages — far higher than $10 an hour. 
As for retail jobs, Lieber promised to “view favorably” Willets Point proposals that “maximize” the number of “living wage jobs.” He even specified $10 an hour for a living wage. Because of those promises, the unions backed the plan and the City Council approved WilletsPoint."
Only one problem: EDC has-like it has done with so many other things -- reneged on the deal. In doing so EDC and the rest of the gang down at city hall demonstrate that they will say almost anything just to advance their crooked scheme to abscond with the Willets Point property. The key prevaricator in all of this is former Deputy Mayor Lieber -- a stone chump if there ever was one.

As City Hall reports:

"Appelbaum’s contentions that his members could expect living wage jobs at Willets Point were based upon by a letter penned in April 2008 by Robert Lieber, then the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, to the then-head of the city’s umbrella labor organization, Gary LaBarbera.
“NYCEDC will view favorably development plans that maximize the number of jobs that meet the City’s living wage and health benefits standards,” Lieber wrote. “The proposal must explain how the proposed tenanting plan maximizes the number of jobs that meet these criteria.”

That was then, and this is now-just as WPU has already reported"
Yet this May – when the EDC put out a 125-page request for Willets Point proposals to developers – there was not a single mention of living wage jobs. It did state that developers had to hire construction contractors who would pay prevailing wage and that some building workers would get prevailing wage salaries—but retail workers were left out completely. Earlier this week, far from offering tacit support for a living wage, the EDC released a list of 36 projects around the city, including Willets Point, that it said could be jeopardized by the living wage bill."

In response EDC has started to spin like a top: 
"EDC spokesman David Lombino declined to directly address why living wage language from the 2008 letter never made it into the requests for proposal. “When seeking proposals for development, the city always considers the creation of well-paying jobs in addition to other factors like the feasibility of the project, proposed uses, job density, and cost to taxpayers,” Lombino said."

And so it goes-just like with the purported revenues at Hudson Yards. The city never lives up to its promises, but now we have a new team coming into office and Bill de Blasio has made living wage and affordable housing his signature issues for dealing with income inequality. The WSJ reports today:
A proposal by Bill de Blasio to guarantee higher wages at city-subsidized projects could set up a battle with business and real-estate interests if he is elected. Real-estate and business leaders and labor experts alike said they were surprised to learn that Mr. de Blasio, the Democratic nominee and front-runner, would demand a so-called living wage of $11.75 an hour in cash and benefits to all workers on most city-subsidized projects—including, most controversially, to retail workers.” (emphasis added) 
Yes, the same workers that Stuart Appelbaum is supposed to represent have been thrown under the speeding bus. That brings us to de Blasio-and his promises on this issue:
A campaign spokesman said the plan is part of an economic-development vision "that is less about trickle-down, subsidizing a fast-food restaurant, providing subsidies to low-road, low-wage employers."
"We're not saying that's all the Bloomberg administration did, but to the extent that the mega-development projects had a high focus on retail, often low-wage retail, we'll look to invest development dollars and target development dollars into creating good jobs," said the spokesman, Jonathan Rosen, calling it a "very high priority."
Okay, then. This thrusts the Willets Point deal right into center stage, because as we have seen, the promises have not been kept-and the trickle down here is more a trickle up, up to the coffers of the Mets and Related. But we shouldn’t be surprised at the comments from Bloomberg lackey Seth Pinsky:
The Bloomberg model has proven to be a successful one. If someone is campaigning on the concept of trying something different, I think that person has a high bar they need to achieve in terms of explaining how that something different will work better," Mr. Pinsky said.
Mr. de Blasio's plan would address a critique of the Bloomberg administration: that too many of the jobs created have been low-paid.”
Success, we guess, is really in the eyes of the beholder-and as far as little Seth is concerned his world view, and current paycheck, comes right from Big Real Estate. Yet Pinsky is experiencing some cognitive dissonance-even while lacking any sense of irony:
"Mr. Pinsky said the next mayor will need to tackle inequality—a growing issue nationwide. Of Mr. de Blasio he said: "He's hit upon an issue that is absolutely critical to the future of the city. The income gap could be an existential issue to the future of the city."
The Bloomberg model has aggrandized the Relateds and Vornados of the world at the expense of neighborhoods and small business. In the process, the average New Yorker has been short changed and all of this has been promoted through the generous use of tax subsidies.

Willets Point could be de Blasio’s Rubicon-a river if crossed that will mean his rhetoric is not matched by his real commitment to equality and fairness. How do you come back from this unethical corporate welfare scheme? We’re all waiting to see what Bill will do.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

City-owned properties omitted from developers' Brownfield cleanup application

Please see following letter from Willets Point United to entire City Council, which will vote on the Willets Point plan this Wednesday. As the letter notes, a legitimate reason why some of the properties that are within "Phase One" are NOT included in the Brownfield Cleanup Program application, is that they are not owned by the City. It is important to note, however, that even discounting those properties, there are still numerous properties that the City DOES own, that Sterling/Related have excluded from their BCP application and thus from the program. Why don't Sterling/Related want a BCP Certificate of Completion pertaining to those properties? Do they not want NYSDEC looking so closely over their shoulders to scrutinize the remediation (if any) that they perform on those particular properties? How is the pubic interest served by deliberately excluding properties from the BCP -- when remediation is a top selling point of the whole project?

Letter Brownfield Application by unitedtriangle

Saturday, October 5, 2013


In an editorial (“Wasteland”) that would have been an accurate description of the intellectual vacuity of its own editorial page, Crain’s unsurprisingly signs on in support of the Willets Point boondoggle:
As a crucial City Council vote on the massive Willets Point, Queens, redevelopment draws nigh, the opposition has become increasingly desperate, holding rallies and amping up its rhetoric. To hear them tell it, the project is a blatant bait-and-switch that enriches wealthy developers with city subsidies and turns treasured parkland into a parking lot and a mall. If that sounds too bad to be true, it is.”
We say unsurprising because Crain’s would support building a brothel in your backyard as long as it was being built by a connected real estate firm that the so-called paper is in business to shill for. And don’t expect honesty from these toadies: 
“Fortunately, save for a few misguided activists, Queens residents and community leaders see through the propaganda, and there is every reason to believe the council will approve the first phase of the plan as early as this week.”
A few misguided activists? Well, as we said, don’t expect intellectual honesty from an organ of Big Real Estate. We suppose that using eminent domain to take away people’s property and build a mall is what passes for good government in this house organ-and the idea that CB#’s 30-1 vote against the boondoggle is the work of a few misguided cranks when you’re in the business of promoting the 1%.

Here’s how the property owners are characterized:
“Willets Point, an industrial area near Flushing, is a stain on the city that many a politician has attempted to clean up. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the first to get a plan going to accomplish that, yet he has had to overcome resistance from a few defiant industrial shops that prefer the status quo.”
Isn’t it amazing that there are property owners who prefer the status quo of keeping their property rather than having it turned over to the Mets and Related-for a $1 fee that Crain’s neglects to discuss?
But nothing underscores the ass-kissing inanity of Crain’s than its praise for the brain dead councilmember from Corona:
Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras is still negotiating for the best package of community goodies she can get from the developers, the Related Cos. and Sterling Equities, but to her credit, she seems driven to get a deal done rather than sabotage a much-needed project that has eluded the city for decades.”
Crain’s goes on to damn the Willets Point business owners with faint praise:
“It is a testament to the pluckiness of these folks that they have carved out profitable operations there, but they must accept that a first-class city cannot tolerate the conditions that characterize the area's infamous Iron Triangle: dirt streets with cavernous potholes, no sewer system and unfathomable contamination.”
There an old saying that there was a German who, while passing a Jewish ghetto set up by the Nazis, turned to his companion and said, “Boy, don’t these Jews smell.” To which his companion replied, “That’s not the Jews that smell, its Nazism.”

The neglect of the Iron Triangle and the deprivation of basic city services is what has characterized city policy for 60 years. That does not mean that you add injury to insult to injury by taking the property away from the victims of this neglect-and then turn it over to friends of the mayor without any real charge.

And what about the promise to relocate the businesses? Thousands of workers and minority entrepreneurs sent packing to the four winds. Can you say anti-immigrant income inequality better than this?

Crain’s goes on the bloviate about the great new neighborhood that it supposes will be created:
“The proposed mixed-use, $3 billion project, which requires at least two phases and will be carried out over several administrations, promises not only to clean up and modernize the polluted site, but also to deliver a new neighborhood in northeast Queens. It's as ambitious as it is complicated, given the high cost of the remediation and of ultimately making 35% of the housing units affordable to satisfy the community.”
The fact is that the remediation-contrary to original assertions from the Deputy Mayor at the time-will be paid for by the tax payers, But Crain’s needs to throw off its wet suit and dive completely into the deception tank with the following howler:
Various changes to the plan, portrayed by opponents as evidence of a devious plot, were in fact necessary adjustments to make the project economically viable. For example, the mall and parking lot—slated not for green parkland but for what is already a parking lot—will generate revenue to fund decontamination of the land. The residential component was pushed back because housing wouldn't sell in a wasteland.”

No mention of the fact that the developers can buy their way out of the deal, or the fact that there was no mention of any mall in the original approval. We can say without equivocation that there will never be housing at Willets Point if this current development is allowed to stand in the next administration. It is, and will always remain, a mall and a parking lot to aggrandize the bottom line of the billionaires that Crain’s ass kisses for every single day.

Malling Crain's

In this week’s Queens Tribune, Len Maniace, First Vice President, Jackson Heights Beautification Group, deconstructs the Willets West development-just another one of those disgruntled and isolated gadflies who happens, unlike the editorialists at Crain’s, to truly understand what the city is trying to do over at the Iron Triangle:
A s we approach a City Council vote expected for October, give the developers of a massive shopping mall project called Willets Point West credit for this: together they possess a fabulous imagination. They predict their project will lead to a revitalization reminiscent of 42nd Street. The mall proposed for the Citi Field parking lot will transform Willets Point into a destination, a magnet for shoppers who then will provide spillover benefits when they dine at the restaurants of Corona and Jackson Heights.
But how likely is that vision? Not very on either point. That’s because the scheme presented by the developers is an anti-city plan that would result in more cars, congestion, air pollution, and wasted energy.
Maniace understands just how grotesque a contradiction this development is to the Bloomberg sustainability vision:
While Brooklyn, other parts of New York City, and indeed cities around the world look to sustainable, smart, transit-oriented growth, Queens is being served up a leftover dish of 1960s auto-dependent development. If a 1.4 million square foot shopping and entertainment center is going to be successful, it’s going to need a lot of people coming and going. That’s truckers transporting goods to be sold, sales people selling them and shoppers buying them – lots of shoppers.
How do the builders plan to move all these people – along with residents of the already approved 5,500 housing unit, also by Sterling Equities and Related Companies?”
As Clark Gable might have said, “Frankly, they don’t give a damn.” Certainly it will not be by mass transit: 
“The nearby No. 7 train that stops at Citi Field is already overcrowded. At a City Hall public hearing earlier this month, the developers didn’t spend much time on transit improvements. Even minor improvements such as additional exits from the elevated station didn’t seem likely. “The Willets Point station is not a priority for the MTA,” one official told members of the City Council.”
And where will all of these shoppers come? We must by now be running out of those shoppers that EDC always claims are going to be diverted from leaving town to shop: “The developers should know better. Malls suck business out of nearby commercial areas, such as downtown Flushing. And it’s highly unlikely that mall shoppers would bypass the food court, cross over the Grand Central Parkway and search out restaurants in Corona and Jackson Heights. This is nothing like patrons at Lincoln Center strolling across Broadway to dine at Upper West Side eateries.”

In other words-much like everything that this administration has done over the past twelve years-this is a neighborhood small business disaster. A disaster that will bring Queens traffic to a gigantic stop: 
“Instead, the developers are counting on road improvements, including new and hugely expensive highway ramps. That means more cars, congestion, air pollution, and wasted energy, not just in the immediate area, but also along nearby highways, which are also overcrowded.”
But Mr. Maniace is wrong here since there are no plans to build these ramps-and there may never be any. So the congestion he foresees is without any ramp mitigation and will be an unholy mess for local roads and highways.

If, as Crain’s alleges, this mall is a genuine linchpin for the future housing and other amenities, how is this future being monetized and assured? Why hasn’t the city forced the developers to put, let’s say, $200 million in escrow-a sum they will forfeit if the ramps and housing don’t get built. Why are all of the risks being borne by the tax payers? Haven’t we seen what has transpired already over at Hudson Yards?

In short, this development does little more than reward the Wilpons for engaging in an illegal lobbying scheme-a multi-billion dollar reward that should have been obviated by an indictment.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Village Voice on Hudson Yards: Great Minds…

Graham Rayman, a very good reporter, follows up on our Hudson Yards post this morning (Or maybe we were following him):
The Bloomberg administration is preparing to hand another $328 million in tax breaks to its favored developer, The Related Companies, for ... get this ... a fancy shopping mall and a high-end office skyscraper in the Hudson Yards project on the west side of Manhattan.”
Needless to say, there are critics of this giveaway:
“James Parrott, deputy director and chief economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute sharply criticized the giveaway, "It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility for the NYC IDA to provide massive taxpayer subsidies to a Manhattan luxury mall," he tells the Voice.”
Yah think? And the Voice sees the same bait and switch that we had alluded to in our post this morning:
To some, it feels a little like a bait and switch. Back in 2006, then IDA chairman declared that the tax breaks would be more than repaid by the new growth. The revenue was then supposed to be used to finance the extension of the 7 subway line into the area. The city would have had to make up the difference with its own funds.”
Isn’t it amazing how so many of these deals don’t turn out the way they were alleged:
"It's bad enough that the City is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks into Hudson Yards office buildings after taxpayers foot the bill for extending the #7 train to this project's doorstep," Parrott adds.
John Fisher, who runs Tenant Net, a bulletin board on development and housing issues, says, "It smacks of cronyism. It's typical of how Bloomberg treats his friends. And if you are taking away tax revenues, you won't have the money to pay for the subway extension, and then that money has to be covered by the city budget."
So a real gauntlet is being thrown down to the new mayor-Fresh Direct, Hudson Yards, and Willets Point, all redolent with the same stink of cronyism for those close to the mayor. When asked to comment on the Hudson Yards deal, the de Blasio campaign said the following:
A spokesman for democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio would not comment directly on the proposal, but said, "If elected, a de Blasio administration will of course review all projects with any eye to maximizing affordable housing, creating good jobs and protecting taxpayer's interests."

We’ll see if BdB can walk this walk because we have too often allowed cronyism to pass uncritically because of the mayor’s great wealth. Favoritism, however, is still favoritism, even if there isn’t the tawdry quid pro quo that normally accompanies this kind of political shenanigans. 

Hudson Yards Bait and Switch: Taxpayers socked

The IBO has come up with a new report on the massive Hudson Yards development and has discovered-what a shock!-that the projections and estimates offered when the deal was originally struck have changed; and Related (yes, them again) is asking for a large tax abatement for the 1.1 million square foot retail mall they are building:
“When the Industrial Development Agency, which is administered by the quasi-public Economic Development Corporation, announced its plan for making tax incentives available to spur construction at Hudson Yards, the discussion focused on making the construction of new office space more affordable. Residential and retail components of the Hudson Yards plan were ancillary.”
“Providing a property tax abatement for the mall means the city will need to pump more money than previously expected into Hudson Yards to meet the development’s debt service obligations. It also undercuts a shift in city policy away from showering retail projects with tax breaks.

Now, however, we see a new focus:
When the Industrial Development Agency, which is administered by the quasi-public Economic Development Corporation, announced its plan for making tax incentives available to spur construction at Hudson Yards, the discussion focused on making the construction of new office space more affordable. Residential and retail components of the Hudson Yards plan were ancillary."
Let’s not forget that the Bloomberg administration changed its tax abatement policies to downplay subsidizing retail development:
“The Bloomberg Administration sought to lessen the use of property tax breaks for retail projects with the revamping of the city’s Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program in 2008. But the Industrial Development Agency has substantial leeway to provide tax breaks to the mall if the agency sees fit.
Under the tax exemption policy for Hudson Yards approved by the IDA’s Board of Directorrs, the mall can qualify for tax abatements if it’s of sufficient size (at least 1 million square feet) or furthering the commercial purposes of the office tower.” (Emphasis added)
Does this sound familiar? It does to those of us at Willets Point who are forced to listen to EDC claim that they need to build an even bigger mall in order to fund the other-more publicly desirable-aspects of the original Iron Triangle development. But, as always, the tax payers are (and will be) on the hook for more than was assured to us by the gonifs at EDC:
“A tax break for the mall means there will be somewhat less money flowing to the Hudson Yards Infrastructure Corporation from new development within the 26-acre Hudson Yards site. The infrastructure corporation, created by the city, issued $3 billion in bonds to pay for the extension of the 7 subway line and to make other improvements aimed at spurring development in the Hudson Yards area.

Under the financing plan for Hudson Yards, all of the money that would typically flow to the city from property tax on the new developments at the site is instead directed to the infrastructure corporation to help pay debt service on the bonds. Because debt service would begin to come due before there was sufficient new revenue to pay the bondholders, the city was temporarily on the hook to make the payments. As the project proceeded and development picked up, city officials expected that Hudson Yards would increasingly generate the funds needed to make the annual debt payments on the borrowed money.”
So, what has happened instead?
“It hasn’t worked as planned. The pace of new development has been slower than expected, forcing the city to spend more of its own funds. A report by IBO’s Sean Campion found that from 2006 through 2012, Hudson Yards produced only $170 million in tax and fee revenues from development—$113 million less than anticipated by project planners. In the early years, interest earnings from investing the bond proceeds offset some of the shortfall but those have now dried up. Over the seven-year period, the city has provided the infrastructure corporation with $374 million in funding for debt service and other needs. 
Giving up tax revenue that would have come from the shopping mall means the city’s tab will continue to grow.” (Emphasis added)
This is what happens when crony capitalism drives the policy train - and Hudson Yards is the mirror to the Willets Point future if the current crazy give away is approved next week by the city council. This is just another reason why the new mayor should come in and revisit any deal that the lame duck city council approves for a lame duck mayor.

And while he is at it, he might want to take a second look at all of the failed promises at Yankee Stadium and the Gateway Mall (The former Bronx Terminal market). The legacy of cronyism and corporate welfare is a disgrace that has gone unnoticed by most of the main stream media in this city.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Willets Point on the Brink: Vote NO on A Billionaire Land Grab in Queens, NY

Quotation of the clergyman at the end: "Julissa -- We are your people.
This will destroy our neighborhoods; change our lives. Council members,
listen to us: Vote "NO" on October 9."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Haber’s Sound Advice: Ignore Julissa Ferreras

In this week’s Times Ledger Ben Haber issues some sound advice to the city council: Ignore Julissa Ferreras because the violation of law involved in the current city proposal to build a mall on CitiField’s parking lot is too egregious to allow one council member’s lack of intelligence to prevail:
“For too long there has been an unwritten law that in connection with legislation pending before the New York City Council, the Council member whose district encompasses the area on which there may be an impact has the say on whether the legislation should be enacted or rejected. Not only does this not comport with legitimate democratic processes, but it ignores the fact that a single Council member does not speak for all the residents of a district and ignores the fact there may be an impact upon an entire borough as well as the city.”
The question of whom Ferreras actually speaks for is an open one, but we can discount any notion that she speaks for the public interest. Her apparent support of a mall on parkland is a case in point:
“To allow this deception is to sanction the taking of a huge section of Flushing Meadows Corona Park land on which the current lot sits and to sanction a significant land use change without the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. All Council members, guardians of the public’s interests, must protect the integrity of ULURP and land use change for the entire city. To ignore that duty is to lay the groundwork for further intrusions in the future in other Council districts.”
Haber goes on to underscore why Ferreras is wrong about Willets West:
“While I am uncertain as to where Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) stands on the issue, from what I have heard her say, she supports the mall. If she does, I urge all Council members to make an independent judgment and not accord Ferreras any greater weight. Not only should they give great weight to the attempt to bypass a mall ULURP and land use change requirements, they should consider the effect a shopping mall will have on the hundreds of small merchants and existing malls throughout Queens and the city and the traffic congestion it will cause on the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue.”
Her lack of sensibility on this issue is highlighted by her support of a BID in the contiguous commercial areas around the proposed mall-a proposal that has drawn the fire of local merchants:
“Some business owners are saying no to the expansion that would bring a business improvement district (BID) to the Jackson Heights and Corona area for fear of losing what makes the community diverse.
The 82nd Street Partnership, a non-profit group promoting the current local BID covering four blocks and over 160 businesses, announced in March it would be extending all the way through 114th Street as part of Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’ New Deal for Roosevelt Avenue to form the Jackson Heights-Corona BID.”
The crackpot idea that promoting a BID will mitigate the impact of a 1.4 million square foot mall as a neighbor gives a god indication of the lucidity of the council member’s thinking process. In fact, the BID-by raising the rents of store owners-will only exacerbate a bad situation and make it that much worse:
“The commercial rents are extremely high,” said Ruben Pena, a liquor store owner and community activist. “The community is going to get hurt. They are fighting to make ends meet.” The BID expansion is a component of Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ “New Deal” for Roosevelt Ave., which focused on cleaning up the corridor, which cuts through several Queens neighborhoods. Ferreras cites safety issues, poor lighting and cleanliness as the top complaints among residents.  
“The current problems on Roosevelt Ave. hurt everyone,” Ferreras said in a statement. “This is why I believe a business improvement district is a solution to this problem.” 
Ferreras is, unfortunately, going nowhere for the next four years. But that doesn’t prevent more intelligent members of the council from interceding in an intervention to promote good government. Haber is right, and he deserves the final word:

“If great weight is to be given to a particular area, the Council should take note that Ferreras’ district contains Community Board 3, which, after conducting a ULURP on the amendment to allow a parking lot at Willets Point, rejected the application with a vote of 30-1 with 1 abstention. That rejection made clear the board was not going to allow a phony amendment to the 2008 plan as a cover-up for a 1.4-million-square-foot shopping mall.

It is CB 3 that speaks for the community and not Ferreras. I believe all of the above are good reasons why allowing a single Council member to decide if a bill should or should not be enacted has no place in our Council.”

Julissa Ferreras, Honor, and the Dereliction of Responsibility

We are winding down towards the final City Council determination of the fate of the city’s bastardized Willets Point development, and the whereabouts of the local accidental council member, Julissa Ferreras are unknown. Ferreras has flown the coop-at least as far as the property owners from the area are concerned-and has refused to meet with the representatives of Willets Point United. Even her staff has stonewalled the meeting. Not only that, but it seems that Ferreras has encouraged other council members to do the same because WPU has found it hard to get meetings with her colleagues.

Frankly, we’re not really surprised since we have known that Julissa is simply over her head, and the less frequently she meets with principled opponents of the project, the less likely the world will be apprised of her inadequacies. Here is someone who owes her job to the since departed Hiram Monserrate and at the first sign of trouble for her former boss, simply threw him under the bus, Character she doesn’t have. But what about those Hispanic businesses that she is “championing?”

Ferreras makes a great deal about these immigrant workers and entrepreneurs-posturing mightily at the recent land use hearing about their plight, and excoriating city officials for their failure to do what they said they would for the relocation of the businesses and their employees. But no one really takes the scarecrow seriously and we wouldn’t be surprised if they break down in guffaws when they repair back to their offices. Ferreras isn’t someone that they have any regard for, and her threats are little more than meaningless woof tickets.
That is why the community came out so strongly on Sunday to give Ferreras an ultimatum on the Willets Point bait and switch giveaway. El Diario has the story:

“Community leaders and residents of Corona, Queens, marched yesterday to protest the planned construction of a large shopping center in Willets Point, who say it would not consider the needs of this largely Latino community. The demonstrators claimed not to protest because they are opposed to urban development, but by the lack of assurance that the promoters keep the promises they had made initially to improve conditions in the area.”

The protest was about the removal of the affordable housing component of the development plan-and the negative impact of yet another mall:

“One of the biggest complaints is that it ensures that it will build over 2,000 units of affordable housing, as stated initially, and also that the City has not taken into account the possible negative impact this construction will have for the small businesses in the area. "Right now I'm not doing business, and if they build the mall would be my death," said Luis Gonzalez, who runs a bodega on Avenue 41, a few blocks from Willets Point. "They said that if they build it would create jobs, but I do not trust anything."

Other residents complain that there are enough malls in the area and that another would not create the kind of jobs that are needed.”

What the residents realize-and what the original city council approval recognized-was that minimum wage retail is not real economic development-and that was why the council included an “historic” living wage provision in the original approval. That provision is now truly historic because it has been relegated to the dustbin of history-eliminated as another aspect of the city’s bait and switch. Listen to the wisdom of the residents-some of whom would make a better elected official than the current cero a la izquiereda:

“I know from my own experience that the mall jobs are not good for families," said Maria Alvarez, who works as a clerk at JC Penney in Queens Mall shopping center and took part in the march as a member of Make the Road."Most workers only earn minimum wage and have to have two or three jobs to live.”

Ferreras knows all of this but has no backbone-or the wherewithal to actually lead a real opposition that would extract significant concessions. Hiram Monserrate did any number of things that deserve our scorn-and putting Julissa Ferreras in as his replacement ranks right up there at the top of his many failings.