City Council Grills EDC President Lieber on Willets Point Redevelopment Plan. Council Members Oppose Eminent Domain


Council Members Oppose Use of Eminent Domain

(New York, NY) November 30, 2007 – At a City Council oversight hearing
at City Hall yesterday on the city's proposed redevelopment plan for
Willets Point, members of the City Council's Economic Development and
Land Use Committees, grilled NYC Economic Development Corporation's
(EDC) President Robert Leiber, on the city's plans to use eminent
domain to condemn and seize over 40 acres of private properties in
Willets Point, Queens. The city would then sell the land to a
developer for a sizeable profit.

When questioned, EDC's President Robert Lieber was unable to provide
detailed facts and figures including the development project costs,
tax subsidies for developers, affordable housing, and living wage jobs
for the estimated proposed $3 billion project. Council Members
expressed concern that a depressed housing market, a likely recession
and rising constructions costs make this project unrealistic.

The city plans to certify the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure
(ULURP) in February 2008, which starts an estimated seven month long
public approvals process. In this short timeframe, details for the
proposed project would need to be ironed out before the Council gives
their final approval. Councilwoman Helen Sears pointed out that the
city's schedule to proceed with the plan was extremely ambitious and
wanted answers to the viability of the project before the clock starts
ticking on the land use process. Councilwoman Katz, Chair of the Land
Use Committee, noted her fear that filing of the ULURP before details
of the project are known will usurp the Council's input and
jurisdiction in the land use process.

During yesterday's hearing Queens Councilman Eric Gioia stated that he
was troubled by the concept of eminent domain and noted it was a
slippery slope as to when it necessary and reasonable for the
government to use eminent domain. Members appeared unanimous in their
opinion that the city's threat to use eminent domain is the wrong way
to resolve the issues in Willets Point. "Eminent domain is nothing
more than legalized theft," said Dan Feinstein, President of Feinstein
Ironworks, a Willets Point business. "As the landowners, we find it
unacceptable to start negotiations with a gun to our head."

Queens Councilman John Liu noted eminent domain seems to be used as a
first resort when dealing with the little guy in NYC but not with
deep-pocket landowners. "Taking private property and giving it to
another private entity makes a mockery of our Constitutional rights"
said Anthony Fodera, owner of Willets Point business Fodera Foods.
"American soldiers are fighting all over the world to preserve and
expand the democratic principals that our country was founded upon,
and here I am, fighting for my fundamental property rights here in
America, it's a hypocrisy and a disgrace".

Queens Councilman Tony Avella predicted that eminent domain abuse will
be a big issue in the 2009 election. It was evident after the hearing
that the Council will likely oppose the use of eminent domain at
Willets Point.

A compelling video profiling the Willets Point Industry and Realty
Association (WPIRA), which represents the 10 largest land/business
owners in the area, was entered as testimony. The video documented the
business/landowner's livelihoods; which would be placed in serious
jeopardy if eminent domain were to be instituted by the city. To view
the video, click here: