Community Board 7’s Land Use Committee told developers of Willets Point they need to return with more answers on the proposed project before the board makes a decision.
Committee members particularly want more information about parking, traffic flow and transplanting the plethora of small business owners within the Iron Triangle.
Chuck Apelian, first vice chair and committee head, told development and city representatives things had to be done about existing infrastructure around the area, especially roads and sewers.
The joint venture, between Sterling Equities and Related, needs to go through a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for a special permit to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a shopping center, dubbed “Willets West.”
Without the permit, the project could essentially not go through.
Since the massive shopping center next to Citi Field was added to the project, board members found a number of changes from the 2008 plan. To build Willets West, the Parks Department would amend its lease with Queens Ballpark Company, which would be mediated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
NYCEDC promised it would work to help retrain workers and relocate businesses on the 23 acres on now mostly city-owned land.
CB 7 chair Eugene Kelty had an issue with how NYCEDC was moving workers and the small businesses out of the area. Kelty said he needed more answers on the relocation, or he would vote against the plan.
“The money they make there, fixing those cars, feeds their families,” he told representatives.
Kelty said EDC told CB 7 five years ago that tenants would be relocated before the properties they rented were sold to the city.
But Thomas McKnight, an executive vice president for NYCEDC, now said the city cannot legally relocate renters without first buying the property from owners.
David Quart, senior vice president of development for NYCEDC, said the agency is working to help move tenant and partnering with The Cornerstone Group, a non-profit workplace training program, to re-educate workers.
CB 7 must give a recommendation on the permit application, followed by Borough President Helen Marshall. From there it goes to the Department of City Planning and then voted on by the City Council.
Should the joint venture make it through the ULURP, the developers can only go so far in development until new exit ramps are built for the Van Wyck Expressway.
The city has promised to foot the bill for the ramps, which would go up between 2021 and 2024 with an estimated $50 million cost at today’s rates. If the city does not hold up its end of the bargain, under any circumstance, affordable housing and other components of the plan will not go through, said Jesse Masyr, one of the lawyers representing the joint venture.
“If you’re asking what remedies we as a developer have if the city doesn’t build the ramps, the answer is none,” he said.
“We have confidence that the city will build the ramps. It’s part of the overall risk the joint venture is taking.”
CB 7’s Land Use Committee will meet with representatives next on Thursday, April 25.