Controversial immigration program linked to Hudson Yards funding in Manhattan

HUDSON YARDS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Some of Hudson Yards in Manhattan is funded by a visa program meant to help boost economically-challenged areas, and the New York City public advocate is raising questions about it.

Jumaane Williams said "economically-challenged" does not describe the $25 billion Hudson Yards redevelopment.

"This project, more and more, is beginning to show how far this country is being torn apart between the haves and the have nots," Williams said.

A little over $1 billion for the project came from the controversial immigration program known as EB-5, which benefits rich immigrants -- mostly from China -- who can pay up to $1 million to get a visa.

Money from foreign millionaires is supposed to go to economically-distressed neighborhoods, like Harlem, not the west of Manhattan.

State officials got around that problem by creating a gerrymandered map of a targeted employment area from 31st Street and 10th Avenue running all the way up to include NYCHA public housing in Harlem.

"I don't see how this does anything but make it abundantly clear on a map that we just want to use one portion of the city to benefit another," Williams said. "So this shouldn't be allowed."

The public advocate says that finagling and wheeling and dealing for the project may sound shady, but it's perfectly legal.

A spokesperson from developers at the related company said the EB-5 program "was no cost to the American taxpayer" and argued that it helped "create thousands of jobs all over the city," including Harlem.

"So quite literally, this project was built on the backs of people who need the most help," Williams said. "I mean, this is astonishing."

The public advocate admits there's nothing that can be done now about how Hudson Yards was built.

However, Williams says in the future, if the state and federal government are going to have a program like this, it should actually benefit the poor and not the already rich.

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