Government Briefs

The proposed Willets Point project
Willets Point project clears major hurdle

The Federal Highway Administration ruled last month that proposed ramps for the Van Wyck Expressway would not significantly impact traffic and businesses in Willets Point, clearing the path for a massive redevelopment project in the Queens neighborhood, Crain’s reported. The decision came despite opposition from neighborhood groups, who were concerned the ramps would create “intolerable” traffic. The city now expects to move forward on the project’s 20-acre first phase, which will include some 680,000 square feet of retail space and 400 units of mixed-income housing. Before construction begins, however, a developer must be selected from several firms vying for the job, including the Related Companies and Silverstein Properties.

New York Aquarium
New York Aquarium renovation gets teeth

New Yorkers will soon have a chance to have a “360-degree shark experience” as part of a $150 million renovation of the New York Aquarium, according to the Daily News. Set to break ground this fall, the project will include a 55,000-square-foot, three-story addition with space for a 500,000-gallon shark tank, as well as an outdoor café and roof deck with a view of Coney Island’s iconic boardwalk. “We’re breaking down the wall that now encloses the aquarium and opening us not only to the boardwalk, but to the beach and the ocean,” aquarium director Jon Forrest Dohlin told the Daily News. The aquarium, which is managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, hopes to raise $30 million over the next 10 years to cover the cost of the project, and hopes the city will foot the remainder of the bill. The “Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibit will be the centerpiece of the renovation, with schools of native fish and 35 local sharks.

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Fed to allow banks to rent out foreclosed homes

Citing “extraordinary market conditions,” the Federal Reserve last month approved new policies making it easier for banks to rent out foreclosed homes rather than trying to sell them, the Wall Street Journal reported. In a six-page report, the Fed stated that lenders can now lease out properties “without having to demonstrate continuous active marketing of the property, provided that suitable policies and procedures are followed.” The Fed’s report encouraged lenders to dispose of foreclosed properties as quickly as possible, and said the rental option should help facilitate that. With home prices falling and rents rising, the change in policy makes sense, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said earlier this year.

Arthur Kill Correctional Facility
For sale: Staten Island prison

The 69-acre Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island closed last year as part of cost-cutting measures by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and now it’s for sale to the highest bidder. The facility is one of many items available for sale at, a new website launched last month to earn extra revenue for the state by selling unneeded property. “This is the first step in a public and competitive process through which the state will engage private businesses to get the most productive use out of the facility,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesperson for Empire State Development, the state’s chief economic development agency. The former prison consists of 45 buildings totaling 345,000 square feet. Brooklyn’s Marcy Avenue Armory is also available for sale on the site, along with more than 450 state-owned cars and trucks, a bulldozer and a communications tower.

Compiled by Russell Steinberg