March 25, 2007

Kelo-New London Update: When Will the National Press Cover the Project’s Lack of Progress?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:48 pm

The New London Development Corp. (NLDC) is the government agency charged with redeveloping that Connecticut city’s Fort Trumbull neighborhood. Its actions in the mid-1990s gave rise to the now-infamous Kelo vs. New London eminent domain case, which resulted a 5-4 US Supreme Court decision that overturned two centuries of interpretation of the Fifth Amendment’s definition of “public use.” That decision enabled the NLDC to complete the process of evicting the neighborhood’s former homeowners.

Having spent over $75 million so far, with, as far as I can tell, not a single new brick in a single new structure to show for its efforts, the NLDC has just told the state of Connecticut it needs more money (New London Day articles require registration after a short while, and a paid subscription after a week; HT New London Calling).

A second New London Day article notes that “The state’s investment in the Fort Trumbull area in the past decade totals roughly $125 million, including the Fort Trumbull redevelopment effort and funding that brought Pfizer to the city.”

Going back to the first article — The state is, on balance, not pleased:

The president of the New London Development Corp. has said in recent days that the organization will require about $13 million from the state over the next few years for the Fort Trumbull project, over and above the nearly $75 million already invested since the late 1990s.

But questions about the NLDC’s strategy — as well as the fact that state officials and legislators were apparently not notified of the agency’s intention to request more money — have led to a polite but cool reception in Hartford.

The funds, NLDC President Michael Joplin said in an interview last week, would be used largely for infrastructure improvements and other work around the 90-acre redevelopment site at Fort Trumbull.

But the agency’s ability to attract those funds from the state is still in doubt.

“The state is continuing to work hard, along with the NLDC and the city of New London, to prepare the remainder of the site,” said Ronald Angelo, deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, which has directed the state’s involvement in the project. “There is a significant amount of opportunity on the site right now, and there should be a lot of effort made to begin to bring businesses and entities to these parcels.”

….. A state official who spoke on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of negotiations surrounding the project, was more blunt: “Don’t start asking for more. Show some results in the fruits of all our labors over the years. Then ask for more if you need it.”

….. (Joplin) said the $13 million the agency will request would be used for remaining infrastructure improvements and environmental remediation, as well as work on the now vacant Miner & Alexander lumber yard on Howard Street.

But those ambitions are troubling to others involved in the project, who believe the NLDC should focus on marketing and developing the parcels that have already been cleared and prepared in hopes of attracting private investment — the ultimate goal, they said, of the state’s involvement in the project.

“You’ve got magnificent parcels ready to go,” one individual involved in the project said, an argument that echoes that of some of the NLDC’s fiercest opponents, who had urged the agency to forgo seizure of the final private properties at Fort Trumbull and begin developing the vacant majority of the peninsula.

I have a sinking feeling that the area — the one where the homes (pictures are here; scroll down) of Susette Kelo, the Cristofaros, and others used to be until they were ultimately taken by the NLDC — is simply not as desirable as the NLDC claims it is, and that the now-empty lots where well cared for homes once stood before they were seized will still be vacant 5 years, and even 10 years, from now.

The national press, during over a year of on-and-off coverage of the New London situation, never bothered to tell readers that one property in the area was allowed to remain — namely the high-powered, politically-connected Italian Dramatic Club (go to the map here to see how outrageous this exception really was; the Club is literally next door the Cristofaro property that was ultimately taken and leveled).

How many years will it be until the Formerly Mainstream Media takes note of the fact that the properties that were taken in New London as the result of a horrid Supreme Court decision nearly two years ago are still undeveloped? Will they ever notice?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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