Further environmental testing at Willets Point has been ordered by a court ruling, but is not expected to hold up development at the site, a member of the project’s team said.
The August 14 decision by the Manhattan Supreme Court said development of what is commonly called the Iron Triangle would not move forward until the city conducts a better environmental review of the area.
“The city will not proceed with development in Willets Point,” the ruling reads. “The appropriate environmental review will be prepared and any additional approvals that are necessary will be sought for future development in Willets Point.”
This ruling was not driven by the June announcement of concrete plans for what will become a major retail area and destination spot; rather, it refers back to a case between the city and Willets Point United, an advocacy group against development of the area.
“The city had filed a stipulation of discontinuance prior to our being designated,” said Jessie Masyr, a land use lawyer for the joint venture of Related Companies and Sterling Equities. “We’re doing a do-over, in essence, of the environmental review…we just saw it come out.”
The filing dates back four months before the decision was released, Masyr said.
The city currently has 95 percent of the land in the Iron Triangle, and only about four or five shops are holding out, Masyr said during a Courier editorial board meeting.
Cleanup for the Willets Point area is expected to be completed by 2015, according to a plan provided by the joint venture. This cleanup effort includes leveling the scores of auto body shops, inserting new soil and creating an infrastructure such as drain sewers, developers said. Development of the project is not expected to be held up by the court decision.
One shop owner said the city should have done additional testing years ago, as the area is poorly cared for and has scores of potholes.
“They should have done it 30 years ago,” said Michael Nieto, owner of Gringo’s Auto Parts Express. “This area’s been so neglected by the city, and it just seems like sometimes to their convenience is when they want to buckle down and follow the rules.”
Nieto, who rents his property, said he’s allowed to stay until 2015, when the cleanup is expected to be completed. The city had neglected the area, he said, and was now trying to blame the tenants and owners for the crumbling infrastructure.
“Now they want to do soil,” he said. “I think it’s just a joke. They’re [the city] only doing it to try and gain some advantage to say that we’ve never taken care of the property here.”