The proposed Willets Point economic development project is essentially government picking the winners and losers. Many of the developers continue to act like pigs, by feasting on taxpayer dollars. The borough of Queens and New York City prospered for centuries prior to the creation of various city and state development corporations over the past decades. In too many cases, projects have been heavily subsidized by taxpayers, commonly known as corporate welfare. Between direct government funding, low interest loans and long term tax exemptions — the bill to taxpayers may be greater than the benefits. Also there is a relationship between Pay for Play campaign contributions from developers to elected officials looking for favorable legislation, permits and subsidies.
Don’t forget the conflict of interest for senior staff from city or state regulatory and permitting agencies. Too many leave at the end of any mayoral or governor’s administration to become employees or consultants to the same developers they previously oversaw. Remember former Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff who went to work on some of the very same projects he previously represented at City Hall? Too many mega developers try to purchase the support of local community groups by making so-called voluntary donations. They also make promises for capital improvements, which after the major project is completed, don’t always appear.
If projects like Willets Point are so worthwhile, why can’t major developers use their own funds? Can’t they obtain loans from banks, like medium and small businesses, rather than pick the pockets of taxpayers to pay a significant portion of the bill? Can our water, sewage, power and transportation infrastructures handle the additional stress on the environment from such projects?
Existing small business people at Willets Point created their companies, over time by their own hard work and sweat with no assistance from government. During that same time period, they created hundreds of jobs. Both the owners and employees are our neighbors. They pay taxes like the rest of us. The only difference is that for decades they have been denied basic essential municipal services that we take for granted.
Real business people who believe in capitalism build companies on their own. How sad that some don’t want to do it the old fashion way by sweat and hard work. They continue to look for shortcuts in the form of huge subsidies at taxpayers’ expense, including favorable tax code changes, long term low or no interest loans, physical infrastructure improvements, such as roads, sewers and street lighting, along with eminent domain favors from elected officials.
With a looming multibillion dollar municipal budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year and $66 billion dollar long term debt, there are surely other priorities that City Hall could spend hard earned tax dollars on than the so-called Willets Point development project.