Tag Archives: redevelopment

Sen. Tony Avella, park advocates sue to stop Citi Field mega mall


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy NYCEDC

State Senator Tony Avella and a long list of Queens park advocates are suing the city to stop a mega mall from coming to Citi Field.

The 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center is part of a major $3 billion project by Sterling Equities and Related Companies to redevelop Willets Point.

The ambitious and controversial plan, approved Oct. 9 by the City Council, also includes the cleanup of 23 acres of contaminated land and the eventual construction of housing units with commercial and retail space.

The group filed the suit Feb. 10 in New York County Supreme Court, saying the project cannot proceed without state Legislature approval under a doctrine that protects state parkland.

The suit also seeks annulments of city approvals.

“It’s a serious principle here,” Avella said. “If the city is allowed to get away with this, what’s to stop them next time? If we keep giving it away, someday we’ll wake up and there will be no parks.”

 

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Willets Point business owners expect to reopen


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Nearly one dozen Willets Point business owners who had their auto shops abruptly shut down by the city two weeks ago said they expect to reopen in a few days.

“We all have families,” said Wais Mohibi, owner of Discount Muffler in the Iron Triangle. “Don’t just come in without warning, without anything, and just shut us down.”

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) issued partial vacate orders two weeks ago to five businesses at 38-01 126th Street for “illegal, unsafe construction,” according to a department spokesperson.

About five other shops at 37-11 126th Street were also shut down. Vacate orders had been in effect at those locations since 2009, the DOB said.

The businesses were hit with violations for working without permits and for having improper lightweight steel, called C-joist, installed at their sites, according to the department.

The DOB said C-joist construction without proper shoring affects the structural stability of buildings and can cause collapse. Such conditions led to the death of one Brooklyn construction workers last year, the department said.

Most of the business owners dealing with vacate orders are working out deals with the city to sell their property. However, they said they did not expect to be forced out of their jobs so quickly. They added that the vacates left them with nothing.

“All our equipment is inside. We can’t do anything,” Mohibi said. “That’s not fair at all. We’re basically going to be in the street.”

Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee, said business owners expect their stores will temporarily reopen by Monday, June 3.

He said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras’s office has been in touch with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), which will handle repairs to the stores.

According to an HPD spokesperson, the repairs will be funded by the city and will begin in the next few days. The spokesperson added that there is no timeline yet for the project’s completion.

Ferreras said those owners should be able to return next week at the very latest.

“The city has to treat us as human beings,” Neira said. “I know they want this land. They can have this land, but not in this way.”

According to the DOB, business owners have to submit new design drawings, obtain permits and install proper shoring before their shops can reopen.

The establishments are located at the heart a $3 billion city project to transform the area into a major commercial hub.

“This is obviously harassment by the city of New York because this area is slated for redevelopment,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “It’s death by a thousand cuts.”

 

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LaGuardia Airport to get $3.6 billion makeover


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

LGA

LaGuardia Airport’s $3.6 billion facelift is getting ready for its closeup.

The terminal, built in 1964 and designed to hold eight million passengers, is set to undergo a series of developments over the next six to 10 years. According to Thomas Bosco, LaGuardia Airport’s general manager, 11 million people travel through the airport each year, and estimates that by 2030, the number will reach 17.5 million passengers.

“[The terminal] is over 50 years old. It’s beyond its useful life,” said Bosco. “It’s virtually obsolete in every functional area.”

The main developments will occur mostly on the aeronautic side, pushing the terminal considerably closer to the Grand Central Parkway to accommodate larger capacity aircraft. Currently, the 35 gate terminal houses DC-9 planes which require towing by ground vehicles to go from the runway to the gate.

LaGuardia Airport accommodates about 1,150 planes daily – roughly a thousand fewer crafts than land at JFK Airport every 24 hours. While Bosco said the expansion will not increase turnaround due to federal regulation caps at 75 flights per hour, upgrading to larger aircraft will accommodate the airport’s growth in the number of passengers. The larger planes are quieter, burn cleaner fuel and emit fewer emissions and decrease the average number of delayed flights – providing what Bosco believes is a more ecologically friendly environment.

“You’re not stopping, you’re not using ground support vehicles and you’re not blocking other planes as they’re trying to leave,” he said.

According to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, an external contractor will be hired to conduct an environmental assessment, ensuring the expansion will not harm local ecosystems or cause mass amounts of pollution. The agency will examine factors such as noise, hazardous materials, wetlands and water and air quality. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not be consulted as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the lead agency handling the development.

The LaGuardia Airport development is also slated to create much-needed permanent jobs. According to Bosco, for every one million passengers, the FAA’s Regional Air Service Demand study cited an increase in 4,100 jobs and $4 billion in annual economic activity. The airport executive estimates there will also be a boom in the number temporary construction jobs, somewhere in the thousands.

Bosco said construction on the main terminal will begin in the fall of 2014 and last for the next six to 10 years. Regardless of the development, Bosco said flights will not be moved to other city airports and the transit hub is expected to remain fully operational.

“The challenge here is to do open heart surgery on the marathon runner while she’s running a marathon,” said Bosco. “We’ve got to build an entire new terminal of 35 gates while we’re operating the existing terminal with 35 gates, and that’s the challenge – but we think we’re up to the task.”

According to a spokesperson from the Port Authority, the project’s multibillion-dollar cost will be carried by a combination of Port Authority sale of Bonds, a $4.50 passenger facility charge tagged on to every airline ticket, and a possible partnership with a private company, yet to be determined.

Op-Ed: An Ambitious Plan for Willets Point


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By Borough President Helen Marshall

It’s time to move from discussion to development at Willets Point project.

While Queens was strongly impacted by the global recession, it has been able to weather the downturn by capitalizing on its unique strengths — a multi-faceted economy of small to international businesses and a resilient workforce and a diverse community that supports one another.

Our progress on rezoning has unleashed the potential to build a better future for Queens, creating a new wave of interest in our borough’s commercial hubs including downtown Flushing, downtown Jamaica and Long Island City.

Despite our best efforts, Willets Point has remained a blighted and neglected area, in desperate need of a total overhaul with new infrastructure and remediation. For too long, its revitalization has been the subject of empty and futile discussion – and failed development efforts.

This June, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious proposal that aimed at facilitating a complete transformation of Willets Point into a thriving and dynamic mixed-use neighborhood and destination for visitors. While the historic realization of this community-driven vision was approved by the New York City Council in 2008, the promise of its fruition has not been realistic. Until now.

The Willets Point Development Plan is at a critical nexus – the stage of the review process that will put into action a comprehensive construction plan that facilitates development pursuant to the originally envisioned Special Willets Point Zoning District and Urban Renewal Plan along with additional development beyond the Special Willets Point District.

The project will not only link Willets Point to basic infrastructure, but also establish a major new mixed-income neighborhood with commercial destination facilities creating jobs and recapturing billions in spending that is now lost to the suburbs.

The first phase of the project will include the acquisition of 23 acres of land to the east of Citi Field by the Queens Development Group. They will initially build retail and a hotel on this land, as well parking for Citi Field and recreational uses in the baseball off-season. West of Citi Field — on the current Citi Field parking lot — they will build an entertainment and retail attraction resulting in more comprehensive and continuous transit-oriented development linking Flushing to Corona.

Ultimately, the new plan will develop into a thriving residential community of 2,500 units, 35 percent of which will be designated affordable housing, as well as additional hotels, offices, commercial space, a school and open space, with the eventual plan to develop over 5 million-square-feet in a unified neighborhood, transforming a contaminated wasteland into a model community for the future, with up to 5,850 units of housing, a convention center and a central eight-acre park.

The expanded vision will infuse $3 billion of private investment into the local economy and create 7,100 permanent jobs, 12,000 direct construction jobs with MWBE and local hiring of 25 percent. During construction, the project will generate over $310 million in new tax revenue, and once operational, will account for over $150 million in new annual tax revenue.

Yes, the goals of this new plan are ambitious, but so are the people of Queens. Perhaps something less would suffice in meeting some of the community’s desire for clean-up and business development. But after years of deliberation and delay, we now have a plan for Willets Point that can truly transform the area into an economic epicenter for Queens. Not just remove an eye-sore, but create something that has positive impacts for the community and throughout the entire borough. We need to move beyond past roadblocks to create a true center of New York City’s and Queens’ future – standing for economic growth and a better life for ourselves and our neighbors.