Willets Point redevelopment finally moves ahead

Queens Borough Board approves first phase of project with minor conditions

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards in front of Willets Point. (Office of Queens Borough President, WikiMedia / Jim.henderson)
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards in front of Willets Point. (Office of Queens Borough President, WikiMedia / Jim.henderson)

Plans for Willets Point are actually moving forward.

After years of uncertainty, the first phase of the massive redevelopment was approved by the Queens Borough Board on Monday, the Queens Post reported.

The approval was granted with only minor conditions, a sign that the City Council could do the same at the end of the process.

The initial phase of the proposed redevelopment includes construction of 1,100 affordable apartments, public open space and an elementary school on six acres of land.

The Queens Borough Board, which includes the borough president, City Council members and community board chairs, voted for the project’s long-term lease with nine votes in favor and one abstention, the publication reported. The site will be leased to Queens Development Group LLC, a joint venture between Related Companies and Sterling Equities, the real estate firm owned by the Wilpon family.

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Last year, the Wilpons sold the New York Mets — whose stadium, Citi Field, is adjacent to the Willets Point site — to billionaire investor Steve Cohen for around $2.4 billion.

The borough board’s conditions for approval include regular reporting by the city’s Economic Development Corporation about remediation of the polluted school site as well as bi-monthly meetings to address community concerns, the publication reported.

The board also requested that half of the affordable units be designated for residents of Community Board 7 — a policy known as community preference, which has been challenged in an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Anti-Discrimination Center.

Community preference is already standard policy for the city’s affordable housing lotteries, although studies have shown it reinforces segregation. It helps to win local approval because community leaders want people in the neighborhood to derive some benefit from the development they endure.

If the first phase of Willets Point gets the necessary approvals, infrastructure construction could begin next year, according to the publication. Construction of the affordable housing and school would follow in 2024.

[Queens Post] — Cordilia James

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