Willets Point mega mall gets final City Council green light

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City Council approval will pave the way for a mega mall near Citi Field as part of a major Willets Point redevelopment project.Photo rendering courtesy of NYCEDC
City Council approval will pave the way for a mega mall near Citi Field as part of a major Willets Point redevelopment project.

The City Council approved a major $3 billion Willets Point project Wednesday, clearing the way for a mega mall near Citi Field.

Developers Sterling Equities and Related Companies needed the council’s permission to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to build a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

It was the last hurdle the joint venture needed to jump over after Community Board 7, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and the City Planning Commission gave the project the green light this summer.

The ambitious project includes the cleanup of 23 acres of contaminated land east of Citi Field and eventual construction of housing units with commercial and retail space.

It was long stalled as Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area, waited for better relocation plans for soon-to-be-displaced Willets Point business owners.

Auto shop owners who make up the Iron Triangle said they can only survive if they are moved as a whole and can continue as a one-stop shop for motorists.

The pooled $12.5 million offered in total relocation aid payouts were not enough for the approximate 100 auto shops in the first phase of the redevelopment site, advocates said.

The city agreed to spend $15.5 million on moving expenses and relocation of Willets Point business owners as part of a deal struck with the City Council, Ferreras said.

About $17 million more will be given to the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance for upkeep and maintenance of the park and construction of a green rooftop farm on top of the entertainment center.

“This deal would be a win for our constituents, a win for Willets Point and a win for New York City,” Ferreras said. “This vote has always been about improving the lives of our constituents.”

Construction of 2,500 housing units — 35 percent of which will be affordable — will also be moved up from its original set 2025 date, officials said.

“It is important to note that never before has a council district seen this much affordable housing,” Ferreras said.

“For years, this area has gone without many of the resources the rest of the city has regularly received,” she continued. “Our district deserves to have the same treatment as any other area in New York City.”

About $66 million in the city budget will be set aside to put up new ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway, Ferreras said. Developers also agreed to shell out $7 million for traffic improvement and mitigations.

Written commitments by the joint venture also include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund and hiring locally.

Critics of the plan still say the area needs affordable housing before a colossal shopping center.

Hundreds marched to oppose the project late last month, and at least eight auto shop owners held a hunger strike in August.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Councilmember Mark Weprin, chair of the Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee. “We’ve heard from everyone who wanted to testify right until the end. Not everyone got everything they wanted … [but] the process works. It is great when the community voices can be heard and the members can sit and advocate on behalf of their constituents.”

Officials said the project would provide 7,100 permanent jobs and generate more than $310 million in tax revenue.

“Today’s approvals mean that the historic vision for a redeveloped Willets Point is finally going to become a reality,” the joint venture said in a statement. “Thanks to today’s actions, we are going to transform a contaminated site into a new community with thousands of new jobs, affordable housing, retail and open space.”

 

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