The Battle over Willets Point

not-for-sale-sign.gifThe New York City Planning Commission got an earful and an eyeful from at last night’s meeting. In the past, there had been small opposition demonstrations, but Willets Point business owners, joined by New Yorkers from Chinatown, a neighborhood up for rezoning last night, created some tangible opposition to the city’s plans to seize properties from their rightful owners.

Property owners were not alone in opposing the CPC’s plans for the neglected area that lies in the shadow of Shea Stadium. Thirty-two of the 51 members of the New York City Council sent a letter the CPC telling them they wouldn’t vote for the plan unless major changes were made. As the New York Times article (linked above) makes clear, the city’s ready to use eminent domain. The councilmembers’ letter says that the plan being considered by the CPC has completely ignored any input from the community and warns that it will be “doomed” when it reaches the City Council.

Meanwhile, one city councilman is proposing a measure to define economic blight and to ensure compensation for businesses in New York City that get displaced by eminent domain. Hiram Monserrate’s proposed bill would also require a financial analysis of the project before eminent domain could be used. While these probably aren’t the best ideas for reform, any steps, however small, in the state of New York, are an improvement over the current situation.

On the sidelines, stand the property owners of the Atlantic Yards project and Columbia’s expansion. NoLandGrab has a roundup of their reactions.