Tag Archives: LDC

AG: Development Corporations lobbied illegally for projects


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three city development corporations have admitted to illegally lobbying the City Council to win approval of their favored projects, including a much-contested plan to revamp Willets Point, the state attorney general said.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (FWCLDC) — headed by former borough president Claire Shulman — and the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) settled charges of attempting to influence legislation in connection with development projects in Willets Point in 2008 and Coney Island in 2009, according to a three-year investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The projects require City Council approvals pursuant to the state’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). But local development corporations (LDCs) are barred by statute from influencing legislation.

“These local development corporations flouted the law by lobbying elected officials, both directly and through third parties,” Schneiderman said.

According to probe findings, the three agencies attempted to create the appearance of independent grassroots support for the projects by concealing their participation in community organizing efforts. This included ghostwriting letters and op-eds and preparing testimony for unaffiliated community members, Schneiderman said.

The EDC — the city’s economic development arm — also played a behind-the-scenes role in the lobbying activities of the other LDCs, he said.

The nonprofit organizations will now have to reform their practices to comply with the law and end lobbying for development projects. They will also have to comply with mandatory training, and the EDC will have to publicaly disclose any funding provided to other LDCs.

The EDC intends to restructure, according to spokesperson Jennifer Friedberg, and cease to be considered an LDC. Doing so, she said, would allow the company to legally influence legislation and “operate freely in areas that are necessary and appropriate for it to achieve its economic development mission.”

The agency, which formerly claimed to not have known a “clear definition” of influencing legislation, will not be subjected to fines or penalties as part of the settlement.

Robert Bishop, a lawyer representing FWCLDC, said the group also plans to comply with the new agreement.

“The LDC is a great organization that does great things, and we will continue to do great things,” he said.

Shulman declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the mild rebuke from the state is drawing heat from the city comptroller, who said the restructuring alone is insufficient and pushed for organization officials to be held accountable.

“While these revelations of illegal lobbying are alarming, we cannot say that they come as a surprise,” said Comptroller John Liu. “For some time, this mayor has been using the EDC to create ‘astroturf’ groups to support his agenda, reward allies and dole out welfare to wealthy corporations.”

Willets Point United members said the investigation confirms their original suspicions that the entire land use review process was based on fraudulent and illegal behavior. They urged the city to end all recent and future actions regarding the area’s development.

“Our properties were put at risk by an illegal scheme, and we were forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect our constitutionally protected rights against a municipality and its front group engaged in activities that were rife with fraud,” the group said in a statement.

LDC set to revitalize Flushing area


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Mike DiBartolomeo

The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (LDC) held a cocktail reception on Tuesday, May 8 in the Delta Sky360 Club at Citi Field.

Distinguished guest Michael Stoler, President of NY Real Estate TV and Managing Director of Madison Realty Capital, talked about the increasing importance of Queens to the state’s real estate market.

Guests watched a presentation on the work currently underway at the Flushing waterfront, 60 acres undergoing a serious transformation.

According to LDC spokesperson Nicholas Roberts, the project will revitalize and combine two distinct neighborhoods – Flushing and Downtown Flushing. He alleged that the group hopes to move activity westward, creating a greater amount of open space and loosening up some area congestion.

The LDC works with community stakeholders to encourage development throughout the downtown area, providing and advocating for services such as mass transit, affordable housing, and increased access to parks.

Roberts claimed it works to improve the overall environmental condition.

“[The LDC has a] vested interest in seeing Downtown Flushing and the surrounding area grow,” said Roberts.

The LDC is funded by the New York State Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Grant. It received this funding about a year-and-a-half ago and it is expected to run through May of 2013.

Flushing’s future includes cleaning up Brownfields


| amanning@queenscourier.com

The Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation (FWCLDC) introduced the community to its new initiative – the Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) Program.

The program is a community-driven economic project that will revitalize so-called ‘brownfields’ – any property which would have complications with redevelopment or reuse because of the potential presence of contamination.

The program would promote greater connectivity and a more seamless transition for downtown Flushing and the BOA area, which is about 60 acres from the Flushing River to Prince Street and Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue.

Prior to an open house for the community on Tuesday, October 18 at Flushing Town Hall, the LDC had been “meeting individually with different property owners, community groups, and organizations like Asian Americans for Equality,” said Project Manager Nicholas Roberts, adding that they have had “very favorable responses from the different community groups approached.”

The “educational, informational, and conversational” neighborhood meeting, as it was described by Joseph Farber, chair of the LDC, had a turn out of about 20 people. President and CEO of FWPCLDC, Claire Shulman, introduced a group of “very sophisticated and intelligent” consultants on the project, including Assemblymember Grace Meng and Kim Matthews of Matthews and Nielsen Architecture.

The open house was the first of three that will be held over the next year to get feedback from residents, many of whom had no idea what the BOA Program was.

The community forum featured a short but detailed presentation and boards set up to explain topics like challenges and opportunities, zoning, land use and parking. There were experts on economics, buildings, connections, and recreation in attendance.

There was also a system for leaving thoughts and ideas – Post-it notes were assigned a color for business owners, residents, area employees, and the general public. Guests were then encouraged to write down their reactions and post on the appropriate board.

Ruth Betson, a resident of Flushing since 1965, came to gain more insight on the project, which she says is “for the best; change is good.” She continued saying, “I like Flushing, that’s why I’m here.”

By 2013, the FWPCLDC hopes to see its goals of ensuring that “the BOA area becomes more integrated with downtown Flushing and this stretch of the Flushing River becomes a vibrant, accessible public resource,” said Roberts, adding that providing affordable housing is high on their list of priorities.

For more information on the initiative, visit www.queensalive.org. To submit comments, email FlushingBOA@queensalive.org.