For too long there has been an unwritten law that in connection with legislation pending before the New York City Council, the Council member whose district encompasses the area on which there may be an impact has the say on whether the legislation should be enacted or rejected. Not only does this not comport with legitimate democratic processes, but it ignores the fact that a single Council member does not speak for all the residents of a district and ignores the fact there may be an impact upon an entire borough as well as the city.
A case in point is the legislation now before the Council in which Sterling Equities and Related Cos., multibillionaire real estate developers seeking to amend the Willets Point plan approved by the Council in 2008, want to construct in Willets Point a parking lot. A cover-up to allow the New York Mets to remove its Citi Field parking lot to Willets Point and on the vacated lots construct a 1.4-million-square-foot shopping mall.
To allow this deception is to sanction the taking of a huge section of Flushing Meadows Corona Park land on which the current lot sits and to sanction a significant land use change without the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. All Council members, guardians of the public’s interests, must protect the integrity of ULURP and land use change for the entire city. To ignore that duty is to lay the groundwork for further intrusions in the future in other Council districts.
While I am uncertain as to where Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) stands on the issue, from what I have heard her say, she supports the mall. If she does, I urge all Council members to make an independent judgment and not accord Ferreras any greater weight. Not only should they give great weight to the attempt to bypass a mall ULURP and land use change requirements, they should consider the effect a shopping mall will have on the hundreds of small merchants and existing malls throughout Queens and the city and the traffic congestion it will cause on the Grand Central Parkway, the Van Wyck Expressway, Northern Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue.
If great weight is to be given to a particular area, the Council should take note that Ferreras’ district contains Community Board 3, which, after conducting a ULURP on the amendment to allow a parking lot at Willets Point, rejected the application with a vote of 30-1 with 1 abstention. That rejection made clear the board was not going to allow a phony amendment to the 2008 plan as a cover-up for a 1.4-million-square-foot shopping mall.
It is CB 3 that speaks for the community and not Ferreras. I believe all of the above are good reasons why allowing a single Council member to decide if a bill should or should not be enacted has no place in our Council. The Council need have no fear: A rejection will doom the original 2008 Willets Point plan.
In fact, other developers will line up for the job without a mall and without affordable housing on the back burner until 2025 and the job will get done.