Statement Calling for the Cancellation of the NYC Economic Development Corporation’s Willets Point RFP
The Pratt Center for Community Development is honored to be here with such a wide range of colleagues—diverse groups who care about manufacturing jobs, affordable housing, community planning, and open and transparent government—to call for the cancellation of the NYC Economic Development Corporation's Request for Proposals for Willets Point.
EDC's RFP essentially says,
“Dear Developer Friends: We don’t own this property — it is owned by a range of private owners and occupied by a wide range of uses. And even though we are the City, and planning elsewhere to meet the needs of New York, we don't really have any ideas for what we would do with this if we did own it. But if we nonetheless decided to take it from its current owners and give it to you, what would you like to do with?”
Simply put, this is the wrong way to plan for the future of this, or any, community.
There are important values that need to be considered here, and they are not always easy to fit together. We need space for manufacturing, warehouses, construction and deconstruction businesses that provide jobs, especially for immigrant New Yorkers. We need new affordable housing for low-income and working families, especially for new immigrants, as Queens is expected to add several hundred thousand people in the decades to come. We need to build communities where people want to live, work, and recreate. And we need places for the sometimes noxious uses that a city generates.
Unfortunately, none of those critical needs are valued, or even considered, by EDC's Request for Proposals. The RFP simply invites developers to propose the uses that they think would generate the most profit. It does not consult or consider the community. It does not consult or consider the public interest.
We cannot afford to first take, and then give away, Willets Point with this "through the looking glass" model of top-down planning by an overreaching city agency, with the apparent goal of helping a developer maximize profit through high-end uses, with no meaningful community input, no planning for the public good, and no requirements for affordability or community benefits of any type. While the Pratt Center believes that eminent domain can be an appropriate planning tool that should be preserved—we have supported it in the past as part of community-led development—this is the type of action that makes people question whether it can be used judiciously.
We therefore call on EDC and the Bloomberg Administration to withdraw the Willets Point RFP. In its place, the City should initiate a genuine community planning process for the area that builds upon a comprehensive look at infrastructure, planning, manufacturing, and affordable housing needs. If Willets Point is going to be redeveloped through public action, it must be informed by the voices and vision of the community, and by the true public needs of the people of New York City.