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August 12, 2008
Commissioner Amanda M. Burden
NYC Department of City Planning
22 Reade Street
New York, New York 10007-1216
Dear Commissioner Burden:
We write to share with you our absolute opposition to the current Willets Point Development Plan.
The project that comes before the Department of City Planning on August 13th is far from the best our city can offer for a long-term plan that will affect hundreds of thousands of residents for decades to come. Unfortunately, this is a product of a flawed process that has continuously ignored the requests of the community in pursuit of a top-down planning process that sets a dangerous precedent for large-scale development projects citywide.
Since the first community meetings of the Flushing redevelopment process, when community residents expressed a desire to include the Iron Triangle in any long-term development plans, the details of this plan have been determined not by residents, but by the Economic Development Corporation.
This state of affairs is not for a lack of community feedback. On the contrary, the community has been outspoken in its attempts to work with the EDC to resolve what it considers to be gaping holes in the plan. First and foremost, despite a two year, two-tiered RFP process to determine a developer, the community has yet to be informed of who will be responsible for the project’s implementation. Additionally, the community has unified around an agenda calling for a plan that takes eminent domain off the table in all acquisition negotiations, a guarantee that fifty percent of new housing created will be affordable, a comprehensive relocation and compensation plan for current small business owners and employees and a community benefits agreements that includes a congestion mitigation plan.
Despite these community outcrys for a proactive, rather than reactionary, role in the planning process, the EDC has refused to provide details in regards to community concerns. This lack of communication has resulted in deep opposition within the community. Residents, community leaders, affordable housing advocates, and current business owners and employees have unified around their similar demand for quite simply – more information.
This trajectory is documented in the plan’s first step in the ULURP process. The vote in the representative community board (CB 7) was held after five hours of intense debate and passed by a slim margin – but only after Deputy Mayor Lieber wrote that he would address the Board’s concerns, which mirror those mentioned above. However, to date these assurances have yet to turn into answers. Rather, the ULURP calendar goes forward and the community’s requests continue to fall on deaf ears.
As members of the City Council, we are deeply disappointed that the process thus far has, in effect, negated previous efforts to create a standard for community engagement in city development projects. Simply put, we will not allow the Willets Point model to become a precedent for future development projects in the city.
We recognize that the Administration has made a significant improvement to this project by committing that any new jobs created at the site will be quality jobs. However, as of today there are no commitments that either existing workers or residents of the surrounding neighborhoods are slated to receive any priority or set-asides for the permanent jobs created as a result of redevelopment.
Before this project proceeds to a doomed fate in the City Council, we strongly urge the Administration to come to the table and work with us to address and resolve the issues of the Willet Point community. We strongly believe that inclusive planning procedures and economic development can be mutually beneficial to the city as a whole and the surrounding communities, rather than exclusive. We look forward to working with you to make this ideal a reality.
Hiram Monserrate Tony Avella
Council Member District 21 Council Member District 19
Thomas White James Sanders, Jr
Council Member District 28 Council Member District 31
Maria del Carmen Arroyo Annabel Palma
Council Member District 17 Council Member District 18
Letitia James Sara M. Gonzalez
Council Member District 35 Council Member District 38
Darlene Mealy Mathieu Eugene
Council Member District 41 Council Member District 40
Vincent J. Gentile Diana Reyna
Council Member District 43 Council Member District 34
Albert Vann Charles Barron
Council Member District 36 Council Member District 42
James Gennaro David Weprin
Council Member District 24 Council Member District
Rosie Mendez Miguel Martinez
Council Member District 2 Council Member District 10
Gale Brewer Eric N. Gioia
Council Member District 6 Council Member District 26
Robert Jackson Melissa Mark-Viverito
Council Member District 7 Council Member District 8
Joseph Addabbo Bill deBlasio
Council Member District 32 Council Member District 39
Larry Seabrook Erik Martin-Dilan
Council Member District 12 Council Member District 37
Kendall Stewart Helen Foster
Council Member District 45 Council Member District 16
Inez Dickens David Yassky
Council Member District 9 Council Member District 33
Leroy G. Comrie
Council Member District 27