On Monday the City Planning Commission kicked off the land use review process for a sweeping proposal by the Queens Development Group — a joint venture between Sterling Equities and the Related Cos. — to redevelop Willets Point.
By Geoffrey Croft
One of the centerpieces of the first phase of development, Willets West, proposes to erect a 1.4 million-square-foot mall in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, on the site of the current Citi Field parking lot. The majority of the land for the $3 billion Willets Point project would be taken from parkland adjacent to Citi Field.
The City and Bloomberg-preferred developer the Related Companies in partnership with Sterling Equities, the real estate firm controlled by the owner of the Mets - are attempting this without seeking State Alienation legislation as is required under state law to use parkland for non-park purposes.
The city is desperately trying to rely on a 1961 bill that never replaced parkland used for Shea Stadium. Critics of the plan argue that if the 40-plus acres being proposed for mall use are no longer needed for parking then it should revert back to its original recreational use.
Our elected officials should be pushing for that instead of giving away our public spaces to the - only - bidder.
The City and the developers are also attempting to bypass City Council approval.
The City Council has the option of "calling up" the application if Council review is not mandated.
In 2008 the Council approved the Willets Point redevelopment application but the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park acerage was not part of the plan.
The project faces a number of legal hurtles, including the status of the parkland and the Federal Highway Admimistration's proposed ramp project.
The enormous mall project is one of three commercial projects currently beign proposed for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.
The majority of the land for the 1.4 million-square-foot $3 billion Willets Point mall project would be taken from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park adjacent to Citi Field. The parkland is currently used for parking. The developers first choice was to build an enormous casino project documents recently released show.
The city kicked off its formal review process of the mega development at Willets Point on Monday.
The City Planning Commission certified changes to the zoning for the commercial and retail project near Citi Field, initiating the public debate among stakeholders in the upcoming months, according to the New York Daily News.
The Queens Development Group, a joint venture between the Related Cos. and Sterling Equities, will present its plan in the coming weeks to develop 23-acres of the Iron Triangle to Community Board 7, the Queens Borough President’s office and the City Council.
“You now have two very substantial development companies that are putting up their reputation and dollars to reverse 100 years of pollution,” said Jesse Masyr, an attorney for the group.
“The vision has viability for the first time in 50 years.”
The land will have to be remediated and cleaned of its toxins before construction can begin, officials said. The environmental impact study, which analyzes the consequences of construction including transportation, air quality and noise, weighed in at over 2,000 pages.
“It’s an exquisitely complicated project,” Masyr said.
“It’s probably the single largest environmental review ever done by a private party in the City of New York.”
One of the centerpieces of the first phase of development, Willets West, will erect a 1.4 million-square-foot mall on the current Citi Field parking lot.
New York Mets owners, from left, Jeff Wilpon, Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon are also executives of Sterling Equities, part of the joint venture to redevelop Willet Point. The Group's original proposel was to build an enormous casino in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on the site of the current Citi Field parking lot in partnership with The Related Companies. (Photo: KATHY KMONICEK/AP)
The joint venture will be responsible for 5 million square feet of new development — a mix of retail, entertainment and housing. Mayor Bloomberg previously said the $3 billion project will create 12,000 union construction jobs, 7,100 permanent jobs and generate $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years. Community Board 7 will get 60 days to mull the project and form its advisory opinion.
“There’s still questions about using the parking lot for a mall,” said District Manager Marilyn Bitterman, who said she will defer to her committee chair people. “The board will hash it out.”
Next, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall gets to stake out her stance on the project. The City Council will be the final leg of the land use review process, and has the final say on whether to greenlight the sweeping project. But the ambitious proposal is not without its critics.
Michael Rikon, the attorney who represented the business coalition Willets Point United in its fight against the city in its eminent domain claim, said there are still entrepreneurs opposed to the redevelopment. There are eight business owners in phase one that have yet to cut deals with the city on their properties, and many of the larger holdouts remain in the later phases of development, Rikon said.
“They’re going to continue to fight the project,” Rikon said.
“The opposition is still united.”
The city aborted its eminent domain plans in favor of the Queens Development Group proposal. City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz blasted the timetable for affordable housing.
“The affordable housing was pushed back to 2025, which I have found unacceptable,” said Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
The lawmaker also worried that the shopping corridors on Roosevelt Ave. would be hampered by the new retail hub. Officials with the city Economic Development Corp. said Monday’s decision was a landmark step toward revamping the Iron Triangle.
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The majority of the land for the proposed 1.4 million-square-foot $3 billion Willets Point mall project would come from this parkland currently being used for Citi-Field parking. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)
Land use review for Willets Point development kicks off City Planning Commission gives initial certification to zoning changes, beginning 7-month public review for $3 billion project
New York Daily News - March 18, 2013 - By Irving DeJohn
Casino Sought For Flushing Meadows Park - Willet's Point Documents Reveal
A Walk In The Park - February 5, 2013
City Limits - July 30, 2012 - By Patrick Arden