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Learning from Willets Point, Part 1: an open market for "coveted" land deemed "blighted" (and what about that MTA deal?)

On Thursday night, Bob McNamara, an attorney for the libertarian Institute for Justice, suggested that, in New York, loose blight standards foster the state's use of eminent domain: "The proper word for what these properties are is not blighted. The proper word is coveted."

So it seems is the case in Willets Point, where the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) today announced that it has received 29 responses to its Request for Qualifications for developers or teams of developers interested in redeveloping the 62-acre Willets Point District. Next up: a Request for Proposals (RFP) some time next year.

And if 29 companies want to redevelop Willets Point, how could it be that there was no market for the Vanderbilt Yard, as Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials insist in a pending lawsuit over the agency's decision to renegotiate the deal with Forest City Ratner?

As Eric McClure of No Land Grab suggests:
Maybe it's just us, but something is not quite adding up. And it certainly would seem to add some traction to the lawsuit claiming that the MTA failed to properly carry out its fiduciary duty in its agreement to sell the Vanderbilt Yard to Forest City.
In fact, as McClure notes, the robust open market response to Willets Point, in a lousy economy, puts in perspective the recruitment of only one developer beyond Forest City Ratner, in the hot real estate economy of 2005, to bid for the Vanderbilt Yard. Hint: it was a done deal.

Who responded and what's fishy?

As Crain's noted in an article headlined Developers line up for Willets Point project, the identity of the developers was not revealed.

However, as Willets Point United, a group of businesses protesting the project, pointed out, one apparent candidate, TDC Development, has failed to break ground on a four-year project to redevelop downtown Flushing’s Municipal Lot 1.

And TDC, plus eight other companies, comprise the membership of Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation (FWPCLDC), which, while prohibited from attempting to influence legislation, has lobbied in favor of the proposed Willets Point redevelopment. This should disqualify all of them from participating in the RFP process, says Willets Point United.