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Willets Point Project: Judge Madden speaks out on ‘Bait and Switch’ tactic

Willets Point Project

Judge Madden’s interim ruling on Willets Point is already old news.  However, given our interest in NYC’s land grab projects, aka “redevelopment projects”, we wanted to at least touch on the topic and direct our readers to several great articles previously published on this matter.

First of all, we’re not shy about our stance on NYC land grab projects, which typically involve  “taking from small, middle-class owned businesses and giving to the wealthy folks with city hall connections”, a process that Gideon Kanner describes and rightfully labels  “reverse Robin Hood” in his recent article on Willets Point.  The Willets Point Project is no exception to this rule.  The NYC EDC is planning on redeveloping the 61 acre site which is the last underdeveloped area nestled between Citi Field and downtown Flushing.

The Bait and Switch tactic used in this project relates to the construction, or lack thereof, of new ramps on the neighboring Van Wick Expressway as outlined in the environmental impact statement (EIS).  In order to deal with heightened traffic resulting from the development of Willets Point, the project proposal considered the ramps an essential part of the project.  The EIS assumed the ramps would be built, and the City stated during oral arguments that if the ramps are not approved then they would not proceed with the plan as conceived.  Furthermore, the City stated during the original Article 78 proceeding that it would not go forward with its exercise of eminent domain power until approval for the ramps had been obtained.

Lo-and-behold, the City abandoned its proposal to build the highway ramps after it was revealed that the City’s ramp study submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, contained assumptions directly contradicting the assumptions of the EIS submitted to the City Council for the redevelopment.  Rick Hills of PrawfBlogs highlights the oddities of this contradiction by noting that consulting firm AKRF is responsible for compiling both reports.  The City has now decided to carry out the project in stages (although the EIS analyzes the project as a single project), and to exercise its eminent domain power to proceed with a portion of the project, without approval of the ramps.

Thankfully, Judge Madden recognized the severity of this contradiction in her opinion and stated “I conclude that the integrity of the decision-making process has been impacted and sufficient reasons exist for me to consider vacating my prior judgment.”  She further states “I conclude that I have the inherent power to entertain petitioners’ concerns regarding the City’s new staged approach to the development of Willets Point and to consider the adequacy of technical Memorandum, and that it is in the interests of Justice to do so”.  The order calls for further proceedings and to await the ruling of the Appellate Division in the right-to-take eminent domain proceeding, whose outcome may resolve the issues addressed in this case.


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