Over the past year, Councilman Hiram Monserrate has been milking the Willets Point redevelopment controversy for all it is worth. He has positioned himself as the working people's voice, leading the fight in the City Council to oppose the plan.
Last week he went too far.
Under the cover of free speech, Monserrate brought a noisy and disrespectful mob to disrupt a Manhattan press conference, staged prior to a City Planning Commission hearing on the project. It was held by former Borough President Claire Shulman, state Sen. Toby Stavisky and state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn, three respected women in Queens politics.
Monserrate's rally was organized by ACORN, a group slightly left of Chairman Mao. ACORN showed up with professionally printed T-shirts and posters demanding “Justice for Willets Point.”
As Mayersohn and Stavisky attempted to speak, Monserrate and ACORN shouted them down.
Shame on them. Mayersohn is one of the most courageous people in state government. She has long been a crusader for women's and workers' rights. The councilman has every right to disagree, but he was wrong to treat these women with such disrespect.
And it remains unclear whether Monserrate is opposed to the redevelopment or just posturing to win concessions and impress constituents.
Shulman told the councilman: “You have stifled this press conference. That's not democracy. How many times have you told me on the side, Hiram, that at the end of the day this project would survive?”
Is that true, Hiram? Are you speaking out of both sides of your mouth?
We find it hard to believe that the councilman would rather leave Willets Point in the decrepit condition it is in than support a redevelopment that would create hundreds of new jobs. These jobs might not mean much to the socialists at ACORN, but they would mean a great deal to the people in Monserrate's district.
Monserrate also claims he is opposed to the use of eminent domain to force existing businesses out of Willets Point. We, too, are not fond of eminent domain, but there are times when the greater good justifies its use. If this project goes forward, the city will benefit, including those who put Monserrate in office.