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.”