Tag Archives: CB 7

Willets Point developers discuss affordable housing, ramps at meeting with community board


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Ramps and affordable housing were at the heart of the first quarterly meeting between a local community board and developers of a major Willets Point redevelopment project.

Related Companies and Sterling Equities briefed Community Board 7 on October 17. The meeting was the first of four this year required under a last-minute pledge they made to sway the board towards approval. The joint venture must put $100,000 into a traffic fund for each one missed.

CB 7 Vice Chair Chuck Apelian said the city officially allocated $66 million in its capital budget for the design and construction of traffic ramps that will lead into the transformed Willets Point mixed-use development.

The ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway were necessary to fulfill the affordable housing portion of the major $3 billion redevelopment project.

“The key is that we didn’t have in our hearings any confirmation that there would be money to build these ramps,” Apelian said.

There was also some insight into housing site plans, including affordable units for seniors, Apelian said.

The joint venture is eyeing one location in Flushing near Main Street by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station and plans to build about 235 units in Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, according to CB 7.

Developers promised the City Council in October they would move up construction of the total 2,500 housing units — 35 percent of which will be affordable — from its original set 2025 date.

They are also discussing plans to expand LIRR service to Willets Point, according to Apelian.

The city currently owns 95 percent of 23 acres in the project’s first phase, according to New York City Economic Development Corp. There is no timetable as to when the remaining properties will be acquired, Apelian said.

“They still don’t own it all and until that time, they can’t transfer the property to the developers, so nothing will move forward,” he said. “It’s going to be an all or nothing proposition.”

 

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Board permits Willets Point mall in key vote


| mchan@queenscourier.com

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Plans for a behemoth mall at Willets Point received a key nod from Community Board (CB) 7 after the city and the facility’s developer laid out a list of new commitments.

CB 7 granted a special permit to Sterling Equities and Related with a 22-18 advisory vote. The joint venture wants to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center at Willets West.

The board’s land use committee, including CB 7 Chair Gene Kelty, voted down the permit in a meeting last week.

But a pair of letters detailing a list of new promises by the developer and city swayed them at the last minute.

“I changed my vote tonight because I had papers in front of me that I felt comfortable with,” Kelty said.

“The other time, there was nothing. I was looking at a blank slate in front of me.”

In April, the committee told developers they needed more information about parking, traffic flow and transplanting the plethora of small business owners within the Iron Triangle.

The Queens Development Group and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel returned with pages of new promises, including a pledge to provide ongoing environmental remediation of all 23 acres of Willets Point land the city is acquiring from the current occupants.

The pair of letters also detailed commitments to conduct and fund traffic mitigation measures, build a 1,000-seat K-8 public school and give $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund.

Developers also agreed to put $100,000 into the fund for every quarterly meeting with CB 7 that they miss.

“There was just a lot more that was brought into language in both these letters,” said Chuck Apelian, CB 7’s first vice chair and head of the land use committee. “That’s why I’m supporting this, and I think we’ve come a long way.”

The recommendation now goes to Borough President Helen Marshall, the Department of City Planning and then the City Council.

Ethan Goodman, a lawyer representing the developer, said there would not be another chance to clean up the long-neglected property.

“A vote against this plan is a vote against cleaning Willets Point,” he said. “We’re talking about 100 years of contamination. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The Queens Development Group said in a statement the approval brings them “one step closer” to transforming the area into “a vibrant new neighborhood.”

However, dozens of local residents, including current Willets Point landowners, pleaded with the board to vote against the permit.

“We have jobs over there,” said Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee. “I don’t know why you’d want to approve the project and kill all those businesses. We are workers over there.”

Joseph Ardizzone, the only person who lives in Willets Point, said democracy died with the board’s green light.

“Anyone that votes yes to taking my property denies me the right to be an American citizen,” Ardizzone said. “God bless America? I don’t think so anymore.”

Residents protested the delay of affordable housing during Community Board 7’s vote on Monday. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

 

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