Following last night’s late-night Queens Community Board 7 conditional endorsement of the city’s redevelopment plan for Willets Point, the landowner and business group opposing the redevelopment there is hailing the vote as a victory.
The margin of support, the group noted, was closer than it was just a week ago when a community board committee voted on the plan (20-15, compared with 22-3 a week ago), also noting that the conditions placed on the endorsement are rather restrictive.
Willets Point Business Owners Declare Victory at Community Board Vote
Conditions Placed on EDC Plan Demonstrate Distrust of City
(New York, NY) July 1, 2008 -The Willets Point business owners fighting to protect their private property from an unprecedented and potentially illegal land grab by the Bloomberg Administration declared victory in the latest skirmish with the City, noting that opposition from members of Community Board 7 increased dramatically at Monday’s vote while those board members who approved the plan imposed such severe conditions that the vote was tantamount to a rejection of the Economic Development Corporation plan.
Community Board 7 voted to approve the plan by a narrow 20-15 vote – a dramatic increase in the opposition from the 22-3 vote the plan received at a recent board committee vote. In addition, the board imposed a series of conditions for its approval that EDC officials have completely ignored as they continue their effort to steamroll the local private property owners.
"The City asked for a blank check from the Community Board and they got shot down," said Dan Feinstein, a spokesman for the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association. "Only an administration that doesn’t care what local private property owners and residents think – and has never cared what working people think about their plan – could call this a victory. We congratulate the Community Board for finding a way to stay in this fight because we all know if they had voted no that City Hall would ignore them anyway. By imposing severe conditions, the Community Board found a way to say no with a smile."
The Community Board made clear with the conditions they imposed last night that they do not support the land grab and pie-in-the-sky plan offered by an administration that has yet to deliver on promises it made for major development projects anywhere in the city. Those conditions include:
- More affordable housing – the board wants 30 percent of the project devoted to real affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers, while the City has offered 20 percent for low and middle-income families;
- A substantial mitigation fund – the city has offered the community board $5 million to mitigate the impacts of this project, while the board has asked for 10 percent of the project cost (which translates to about $300 million);
- Real Community Board oversight of the project – the board wants an ongoing and active oversight role in the project if it moves forward, while the city has promised meaningless, toothless quarterly meetings with an unknown developer who will have no obligation to heed the community’s advice or concerns;
- Limited use of eminent domain to steal private property – the board sanctioned the use of eminent domain but express clear concern about the massive illegal land grab the city now plans to seize land that is 100 percent owned by private citizens (with the exception of the streets).
At the board meetings on Monday, the board read a letter from Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber that gave lip service to these demands and ignored the substance of the Community Board’s request.
"The arrogance from the administration and its paid advocates continues even in the face of these legitimate demands from the Community Board, which is rightly concerned about the city failing to live up to its promises,” said Feinstein "We will not relent in our efforts to fight for our rights and our private property. This fight is a long way from over. In fact, its just getting started."