Tag Archives: Queens Development Group

Plans for Willets Point mega mall blocked by appellate court


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

An appellate court blocked developers of proposed mega mall Willets West last week from using designated parkland without legislative approval, creating a major bump in the road to the project’s construction.

The Supreme Court had previously ruled on Aug. 21, 2014, in favor of the developers, Queens Development Group, who were co-defendants with the city in the suit. That decision was made on the grounds that the development was legal under a 1961 law written to allow for the construction of Shea Stadium on parkland, and effectively dismissed a suit aiming to block the development brought by state Senator Tony Avella and park advocates.

The four appellate judges overturned the Supreme Court on July 2 and unanimously agreed that the project cannot be legally built on the site because it is part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and Queens Development Group did not undergo a process called alienation, which allows a municipality to transfer parkland to a nonpublic entity. In this process the municipality must receive prior authorization from the state in the form of legislation enacted by the New York State Legislature and approved by the governor.

Justice Angela Mazzarelli wrote that the law allowing for the construction of Shea Stadium on parkland did not exempt any future projects from having to undergo the proper approval process.

“No reasonable reading of Administrative Code section 18-118 allows for the conclusion that the legislature in 1961 contemplated, much less gave permission for, a shopping mall, unrelated to the anticipated stadium, to be constructed in the park,” said Mazzarelli.

Avella and the leader of civic group Willets Point United, Gerald Antonacci, were glad to have claimed a victory after such a long fight.

“Since 2007, we have battled the city at all times over its plans for Willets Point, which expanded in 2012 against the community’s wishes to include the gigantic proposed ‘Willets West’ mall on public parkland,” said Antonacci. “Today the Appellate Division agrees with what we’ve said all along: The city and developers failed to follow lawful procedure and now as a result their whole project cannot proceed.”

“The fact of the matter is, this land was intended to be parkland, not the development of a shopping mall,” said Avella. “In a city where public land is in short supply, simply handing parkland over is a betrayal of trust.”

Willets West was proposed as the first phase of a major two-part rehabilitation plan for Willets Point which would have seen a retail mall and movie theater constructed on 30.7 acres of parking lot adjacent to Citi Field. These first steps toward redevelopment were to begin in 2015, and would have also included major infrastructure updates, including the remediation of 23 acres of Willets Point, the installation of sewage systems, roads and ramps to access local highways, parking spaces, and the development of a 200-room hotel.

The second phase of the Willets Point development was expected to commence in 2026, and involved the construction of mixed-income housing, a public school and additional acres of open space.

In an emailed statement, Queens Development Group said they would appeal the decision.

“This decision, which overturns a well-reasoned decision of the New York Supreme Court, blocks a plan that has been embraced by a wide variety of stakeholders from the City Council to civic groups to labor organizations and others,” said a spokesperson for Queens Development Group. “We believe the Appellate Division Court misinterpreted the statute, improperly narrowing the broad authority it conveyed which would result in an unacceptable status quo, instead of enabling a widely supported investment that will reverse 100 years of pollution and create thousands of much-needed good paying jobs.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Willets Point property, not part of city’s mega development plans, hits the market


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Ana Jimenez/ PropertyShark

And then there was one.

The only property in Willets Point that was not owned by the city and will not be handed over to developers for the neighborhood’s massive revitalization plan has been listed for sale.

The property at 34-09 126th St., across from Citi Field between 34th and 35th avenues, comprises a one-story warehouse on a 20,000-square-foot lot.

An asking price was not disclosed, but offers are being accepted, according to Swain Weiner, president of Greiner-Maltz Investment Properties, which is marketing the site. The property has been popular with investors, because it has a maximum of 130,000 buildable square feet and it will be surrounded by housing and entertainment of the new Willets Point neighborhood when development plans are completed.

“It’s the odd piece out. That’s the beauty of it,” Weiner said. “Just imagine when everything is built.”

The remaining property for sale is in a special zoning district and a variety of projects could be built there, including a hotel or residential structure, Weiner said.

In March, the Sunrise Cooperative, a group of auto shop owners that rented space in Willets Point for their businesses, agreed to move to the Bronx in exchange for $5.8 million.

The Bloomberg administration tapped the Queens Development Group, a joint venture between real estate firms Related Companies and Sterling Equities, for the Willets Point mega project following a request for proposals in 2011.

In the first phase of the plan, a shopping center with 200 stores and other attractions will be built to the west of the baseball stadium, where there is currently a parking lot. Then the area to the east, where all the auto shops are located on contaminated land known as the Iron Triangle, will be remediated.

After the cleanup, developers will build a residential community of 2,500 housing units, 35 percent of which will be affordable, and community facilities, a public school, more retail, a hotel and parking space. The city said that it would create 12,000 construction jobs and another 7,100 permanent jobs once development is complete.

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Borough Board approves $1 sale of Willets Point


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

The project to build a shopping center next to Citi Field is on the move.

The Queens Borough Board voted on November 18 to allow the city’s Economic Development Council to sell the 23 acres of land for $1 to the Queens Development Group. The land is needed for the Willets Point project and would be cleaned up to make way for a 1.4 million-square-foot complex which will consist of a mall and housing units with commercial and retail space.

“After carefully reviewing the Willets Point proposal and taking my district’s needs into account, I am confident that this development will be a win for my constituents, a win for Willets Point, and a win for the great City of New York,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area and voted yes to the proposal.

All seven councilmembers on the board who were present during the meeting and Borough President Helen Marshall voted yes to the proposal. The only no vote came from Community Board 7’s Chair Eugene Kelty.

“The votes in favor of this proposal give us the unique opportunity to remove the blighted history of Willets Point and ensure it is a place for families to enjoy living and shopping for years to come,” said Ferreras.

The City Council approved the $3 million Willets Point project in October.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES