Willets Point critic may miss Council vote

By Adam Pincus | August 22, 2008 02:58PM

City Council Member Hiram Monserrate has led the charge against the Bloomberg administration’s $3 billion plan to redevelop the gritty section of Queens known as Willets Point. But in the end he may not get a chance to vote on the proposal.

Monserrate might no longer be a council member by the time the Council votes on the controversial plan, most likely in mid-November. That’s because the two-term Democrat, whose district includes Willets Point, is running unopposed to fill a vacant state Senate seat in northern Queens.

The senate district does not include the industrial area. Election Day is November 4.

Monserrate said it’s unclear if he would be sworn in shortly after the election to fill the vacancy or in January when the new crop of Albany lawmakers take office. The timing depends on an unrelated Brooklyn election case scheduled to be heard on August 26 by the state’s Highest Court, the Court of Appeals.

That case will determine whether the winner of a November election can be immediately sworn in to fill a vacant seat, or whether the victor must wait until January.

Monserrate said he will continue to be critical of the Willets Point plan, regardless of what post he holds.

“I think whether I am a senator or council member I will still take a very active role in what is happening in Willets Point,” he said.

In a letter sent last week to the City Planning Commission that was signed by 32 council members, Monserrate demanded changes to the Economic Development Corporation’s plan, including more affordable housing and the removal of the threat of eminent domain.

The city reached a deal to buy out a fifth Willets Point landowner this week when Crown Container Corporation, a waste hauling company that owns 23,000 square feet and rents another 15,000 feet of land in the so-called Iron Triangle, signed a contract August 20 to move to Maspeth, pending the Council’s approval of the plan.

Crown would move to a 56,000-square-foot parcel owned by the city, company president Gerald Antonacci said.

“They offered me a good deal and they are relocating me,” he said.

Antonacci would not disclose the sales price.

The city’s plan would create 5,500 apartments, a hotel, a convention center, and a school, as well as retail and office space. The local community board approved the proposal, but Monserrate and council members John Liu and Tony Avella have opposed it.