We’re past the two-hour mark at today’s major City Council hearing on the city’s Willets Point redevelopment plan, and there’s been a noticeable lack of the yelling, grandstanding and vituperation often seen when contentious issues come before the Council. In place of the typical attacks on the administration have been docile back and forths over numbers, dollars and specifics about environmental issues.
Following testimony from city officials, local Councilman Hiram Monserrate—who has generally been critical of the plan and whose vote is influential in the Council—engaged in a relatively tame interrogation of Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber, questioning him on the finances of the project, among other issues.
In his remarks addressed to Mr. Lieber, Mr. Monserrate focused on an affordable housing deal, saying of the project that while he had some reservations, “If there is a real social benefit that comes out of a large public investment, that I believe is a good thing; and one of the clearest and most important needs of our communities … is affordable housing.”
The issue of below-market-rate housing is one of two major unresolved issues of concern to the Council. Both the Bloomberg administration and affordable housing advocates, however, have acknowledged that the two sides are not all that far apart based on preliminary talks. The city has committed to at least 20 percent below-market-rate housing in the complex.
The administration’s testimony has ended, and now elected officials and the public are up to testify. U.S. Representative Joe Crowley just testified in favor of the plan; and Representative Nydia Velazquez just testified against it, saying “send it back to the minor leagues.”