The city hasn’t heard much out of former mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer since he lost his bid against Mayor Bloomberg in 2005. Now, the former Bronx Borough President has joined the camp of landowners and critics who oppose the Bloomberg administration’s plans for Willets Point, the 61-acre industrial site by Shea Stadium.
According to a release from the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association, Mr. Ferrer will join local Councilman Hiram Monserrate at the event, where the main Willets Point property owners’ group will call for the ouster of the chairman of Queens Community Board 7. The board voted last week to endorse the city’s plan, with some conditions.
Update 5:15 p.m.
Mr. Ferrer is apparently not just showing up out of the kindness of his heart. As Crain’s reported on its "Insider" column last week, the group opposing the development has retained Mercury Public Affairs, where Mr. Ferrer is a partner.
Ferrer Joins Monserrate to call on Queens Borough Board to
"Stop the Clock" on Willets Point
WPIRA calls for Ouster of Community Board 7 Chairman
(New York, NY) July 8, 2008 – Former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer will join Councilman Hiram Monserrate and other Queens elected officials to support Willets Point business owners fighting to protect their private property from an unprecedented and potentially illegal land grab by the Bloomberg Administration.
Business owners from the Willets Point Industry and Realty Association (WPIRA) and hundreds of their supporters and workers will protest on Thursday, July 10 prior to a public hearing at the Queens Borough President’s office where the City’s Willets Point redevelopment plan will be reviewed for recommendation. WPIRA will be joined by ACORN, which opposes the administration’s take-over plan because it lacks significant affordable housing, as well as members of several unions who oppose the plan because it will destroy local jobs.
"When any government says it has a plan to take a massive amount of private property through eminent domain and then turn it over to private developers who they have not even identified, without first engaging in any meaningful negotiations with the land owners, you have to stop and ask some hard questions," Ferrer said. "While Community Board 7 voted by an extremely narrow margin for a development plan, board members correctly raised serious questions about the project. It’s time to stop the clock on this project so all these questions can get answered, including just how much of this land will the city attempt to take by eminent domain and just how much truly affordable housing will be included."
Councilman Monserrate said, "It is irresponsible for the Borough Board to approve this project in its current form. We need answers to hard questions before we write a blank check for this project. I have made it clear that this project falls short on affordable housing, and I am not satisfied by the vague promises to address that issue we have received to date. We will not allow this community and its concerns to get steamrolled into approving this project in its current form."
At last week’s Community Board 7 vote, members raised serious questions about the use of eminent domain to take private property, as well as questions about the board’s ability to have any meaningful oversight of the project and the fact the administration has all but ignored the board’s demand for a significant traffic mitigation fund.
Dan Feinstein, President of Feinstein Iron Works, said, "If not for the strong-arm tactics of Board Chairman Gene Kelty and Willets Point Committee Chairman Chuck Apelian, it’s clear the majority of board members would have voted against this illegal land grab. Kelty and Apelian clearly went over the line and trashed the interests of the very people they are supposed to represent. This is a board that represents the interests of Queens residents, but instead Kelty and Apelian did the bidding of an Administration bent on handing over our property to a favored developer. They should be ashamed of themselves; but even more, Borough President Helen Marshall should remove them from office. Even with these strong-armed tactics, which are obvious to any who view a video of the meeting, the board raised so many contingencies that this vote was clearly a rejection of the Bloomberg plan. Borough President Marshall now has an opportunity to stand up for the taxpayers of Queens by rejecting this illegal plan, and finally stand with the thousands of working men and women of Willets Point."
Councilman Monserrate’s stance reflects his ongoing concern with the administration’s efforts to win approval for a project without a formal plan or identification of a developer. In April, Councilman Monserrate, with 28 of his City Council colleagues sent Deputy Mayor Robert C. Lieber a letter denouncing the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s certification of the Willets Point redevelopment plan, calling it "deeply flawed" and stating "that without significant modifications we will strongly oppose it, leaving no chance of it moving forward."
The letter, signed by 29 of the City Council’s 51 members, states: "We adamantly oppose moving forward with the current redevelopment plan for Willets Point. The plan is deeply flawed and the opportunity for Public consideration has been dangerously absent. We disagree with your decision to pursue ULURP certification for this project. As elected officials, we urge you to reconsider this plan and to engage in a more accessible and transparent process."
Willets Point employs an estimated 3,000 highly skilled workers in ironworking, construction, solid waste management, sewer parts, auto repair and service, and the manufacture of bakery and food ingredients that includes the largest distributor of Indian foods in the US. Yet the city continues to misrepresent the area as a haven for crime comprised mostly of junkyards and chop shops. The area’s workforce is mostly blue-collar and for almost 80 years has provided a valuable opportunity for local residents to start up their own businesses and live the American dream. Willets Point businesses provide billions of dollars of economic activity and millions of dollars of tax revenue to the City of New York.
The members of WPIRA believe that the area would be revitalized if the City spent a fraction of the capital required for redevelopment and invested in infrastructure for the area. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) conducted a study of the area in 1991 that suggested exactly that.
"If the City provided the infrastructure and services that we are entitled to and in fact, are paying for, the area would be revitalized," Dan Feinstein said. "The estimated cost of redeveloping the area is upwards of three billion dollars. That estimate is expected to skyrocket given the credit crisis and increasing construction costs. Vital services and program in New York City are struggling with recent budget cuts and the Mayor wants to hand a blank check of New York City’s hard earned taxpayers dollars to a private developer? That is outrageous, unacceptable and we’re not going to stand for it."