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.