Sunday, March 15, 2009

Willets Point United Challenges City’s Environmental Review


(March 11, 2009) Twenty-two members of Willets Point United Against Eminent Domain Abuse filed an Article 78 petition yesterday with the NY State Supreme Court against Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York City Council, the City Planning Commission and Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber challenging the environmental review that was completed by the City of New York.

The main points of the filing are as follows:

  • Petitioners are challenging the Deputy Mayor’s Office appointing itself as the lead agency on the project. Under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) this office does not “have jurisdiction to fund, approve or directly undertake an action,” and therefore cannot be a lead agency.
  • The Deputy Mayor’s Office failed to identify and report many of the environmental impacts it was required to under a SEQRA review, including impacts on traffic and highways, emergency response, the city’s water supply and the likelihood of plan approval by federal and state highway authorities.
  • The plan takes private property without a public purpose. The current plan is simply a theoretical possibility and the Kelo decision stated that condemners must have a concrete plan in place and a “carefully formulated economic plan” in order to seize property.

Michael Gerrard, attorney for WP United, stated the following in the petition:

“Here, the Deputy Mayor’s Office has only its starry-eyed vision. The Deputy Mayor’s Office sets forth this vision in the first page of the FGEIS [Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement] executive summary: ‘The proposed Plan’s main goal is to transform a largely underutilized site with substandard conditions and substantial environmental degradation into a lively, mixed-use, sustainable community and regional destination.’ This might be a lofty aspiration, but aspirations alone cannot provide grounds for condemning -- and ruining -- the 61 acres of vital businesses in Willets Point.”

WP United President Jerry Antonacci said, “We are confident that the courts will dismiss the findings of the environmental review submitted by the Deputy Mayor’s office and that the City Council’s November 2008 vote authorizing the redevelopment will be rendered null and void.”

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