Trying to stretch the limit of what is ethical and legal will only serve to hurt the city when it comes to major economic projects.
Under the agreement, EDC admits that is used the Flushing-Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation and Coney Island Development Corporation to lobby the City Council on behalf of projects at Willets Point and Coney Island.
At Willets Point, the corporation was formed in direct consultation with the mayor's office, and then stayed in contact with EDC throughout its lobbying efforts. At Coney Island, the corporation actually operated out of EDC's Manhattan offices and was made up of agency staff.
Both portrayed themselves as grass-roots movements pushing for positive development in their respective communities, but instead were actually working at the behest and with the input of the city on huge, far-reaching projects the Bloomberg administration wanted to realize.
As part of the agreement, EDC will divide into two departments, one that lobbies but with much more transparency, and another that carries out the process of pushing local development. No specific individuals will be held accountable.
Some, like Comptroller John Liu, have called for even more reform.
This is really no different than when a major developer with a big project funnels money into a local community organization, which then throws its support behind the project, ostensibly so the developer can say he has the support of the local community.
In the case of Willets Point, one of the major players in the Flushing-Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation is former borough president Claire Shulman, who made the rounds in Queens, including a stop at this paper, pushing the redevelopment of Willets Point.
She presented herself and her group as independent, and that the Willets Point plan being proposed by the city was the best thing for Queens. While she may truly believe that, in the interest of full disclosure she should have noted that her group was created in conjunction with the EDC and worked closely with them, so of course supported the project.
The subterfuge is bad enough, but in the long run it could actually stifle development. In the case of Willets Point, there is already talk of a lawsuit on behalf of business owners there, who have already been fighting the city over its plans to redevelop the area.
This just gives them more ammunition to take before a judge, which regardless of the outcome, will hold up any grand visions the city has for the area.