Eminent Domain dead, but Willets Point will still proceed

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New York City rescinded its bid to acquire and develop Willets Point through Eminent Domain and may not be able to obtain it for a while, according to an opposing lawyer.
“They cannot condemn this property,” said Michael Rikon, the lawyer who represented Willets Point property owners against the city. “That would require starting from square one.”

Last week, lawyers for the city called Rikon to inform him of their withdrawal of the bid to acquire the neighborhood nearby Citi Field using Eminent Domain. Rikon was shocked but saw the move coming.

“My reaction was surprised, but I understood because there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to win,” Rikon said. “The city saw that as well.”

However, city representatives said they will continue to pursue a revitalization of the neighborhood.

“We’re very close to having a deal in place that will transform Willets Point into New York City’s next great neighborhood and continue the historic progress we’ve already made there,” said Julie Wood, a representative from the mayor’s office. “Last week’s action ensures that our plan will comply with the site’s myriad technical and legal requirements.”

Before Rikon learned of the city’s decision, he was getting ready to argue that the city didn’t treat the business owners fairly at the public hearings.

“They targeted 150 Hispanic businesses with over 650 employees and they didn’t hire a translator,” he said. “That was so disrespectful.”

Rikon added that the property owners were not properly informed of public hearings. He said they should have been told about them personally within 10 days.
He also denied that the city could have actually transformed the entire 60-acre land for public use because he said there would be too much work for the city to do on a $3 billion.

Rikon admitted that the city could still buyout tenants and property owners.

According to the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the plan to improve Willets Point included a full makeover “with retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel and convention center, mixed-income housing and public open spaces.”