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Disapproval vote has more weight in Willets Pt. plan

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An open letter to Borough President Helen Marshall:

Please consider this letter as a supplement to my remarks before you on June 6 concerning the Willets Point application. I am placing on the record what I believe is a misconception about what is relevant in your decision process. You appear to believe the 22-18 Community Board 7 vote is relevant, but not the negative CB 3 vote of 30-1 with one abstention.

I believe you are incorrect both under the law and on common sense principals, which one hopes always is relevant to decisions.

A 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall at Citi-Field would have a greater impact upon the 250,000 residents of CB 3 than those in CB 7, which stretches as far away as Whitestone. Pursuant to its right under the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure rules, CB 3 called for a hearing on the matter and at which time the CB 3 chairperson gave a full presentation of the applicant’s case.

After a full discussion, CB 3 rejected the application. ULURP Section 2-3, which permits involvement of other community boards, makes it clear the relevancy of the CB 3 vote. If we add the votes of CBs 3 and 7, there are 48 votes against the application and 23 in favor. Under the rules, CB 3’s vote must be considered on an equal footing with that of CB 7 and, given its closer proximity, given greater consideration.

As borough president, your constituents are not those in just one small area, but all of Queens. When a land use change is being sought, relevant to that change is any fallout it may cause. Fallout may be purely local. If the corner grocer wants to enlarge a parking area for his or her customers, that would be an example of a minor fallout limited to a small area.

A 1.4 million-square-foot shopping mall, which the applicant testified would attract a boroughwide area, is an example of a boroughwide fallout that has great relevancy. I am sure you understand the CB 7 vote is not the last word on the subject. If it is, what would be the point of a subsequent public hearing? And I am sure you would agree if you believed a community board approval on a particular matter was for a variety of reasons wrong you would not be obligated to accept it.

It follows both under the law and common sense principles that you must give weight to a 48-vote disapproval as compared to a 23-vote affirmative.

I also make reference to your misplaced concern about cleaning up Willets Point. The 2008 approved Willets Point plan is alive and can be accomplished without a huge shopping mall at Citi-Field. The mall has nothing to do with the original approved Willets Point plan, and injection of the mall is simply the result of political shenanigans that must be rejected.

Furthermore, you should not allow making a mockery of the ULURP process by permitting the applicant to pursue a so-called minor change to the 2008 plan when in fact it is a cover-up for the shopping mall, the latter without a ULURP. You are aware Citi Field is on Flushing Meadows Corona Park land. A change from a parking area to a huge shopping mall is an enormous land use change that dictates a ULURP process.

Here again the applicant pretends that is not required because all it seeks is a minor change to the 2008 plan, ignoring the plain fact it results in a mall. It is your obligation to insist upon a ULURP for the mall including litigating it, if necessary.

The application before you consists of falsehoods and political backroom deals and has no merit, contributes nothing new to the 2008 Willets Point plan and is an outrageous taxpayer rip-off.

You are about to end your public service. You have an opportunity to leave a legacy, one that demonstrates your commitment to the people of Queens and not a coalition of big business and backroom shady politics.

Do not be a party to that, reject the application and leave a worthwhile legacy.

Benjamin Haber

Flushing

Updated 5:37 pm, July 9, 2018
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