Tag Archives: Related Companies

City drops its appeal of court’s decision against Willets West development


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC Economic Development Corporation

Updated Friday, Aug. 21, 9:43 a.m.

Plans for the redevelopment of Willets Point took another hit Wednesday, this time from the City of New York.

The de Blasio administration announced it would not participate in an appeal of a State Appellate Court’s decision blocking the construction of Willets West, a million-square-foot mall on the Citi Field parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood. The court declared that the parking lot is city parkland, and that the parties involved did not reach an agreement to replace parkland lost in connection with the project, violating a state mandate.

The withdrawal came after failed negotiations between the city and the project’s main developers — Queens Development Group (QDG), which includes Related Companies and Sterling Equities — over plans to speed up the creation of affordable housing within the larger redevelopment plans for Willets Point. That demand, according to a source familiar with the negotiations, was not viewed by the developers as being economically feasible.

It also marks a stark reversal for the city, which previously supported the mall’s creation under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The city has thus far spent more than $400 million in purchasing land in Willets Point to make way for the neighborhood’s transformation from an industrial hub to a commercial and residential community.

The source, however, claimed the city’s decision was not a matter of philosophical differences between administrations, noting that the city apparently attempted to leverage the impending appeal into the expedited creation of affordable housing at Willets Point.

“They threw out the baby with the bathwater,” the source said, adding that the city was calling upon the developers to “take a leap of faith” and make a commitment to affordable housing at Willets Point without offering secure economic means to get the job done.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, in an official statement, acknowledged that the city desires “significant improvements that would mean that the public would also see a healthy mix of affordable and market-rate housing, delivered on a real time frame.”

“Nearly half a billion dollars is an enormous public investment to make when the only guarantee is a shopping mall. The deal as it stood did not require any affordable housing actually be built,” Glen said. “We know a lot has gone into this project, and we hope that this team will continue to work towards that goal with us.”

Nevertheless, Queens Development Group is pressing on with its efforts to overturn the Appellate Court’s decision on Willets West and the redevelopment of the area as a whole, according to spokesman Phil Singer.

“We are committed to the redevelopment of Willets Point and are confident that our appeal of the Appellate Court’s ruling will be successful,” Singer said in a statement. “The QDG plan, which was overwhelmingly approved by the City Council, provides an additional $3 billion private investment which will finally clean up the long-contaminated land at Willets and provide the facilities and infrastructure for a brand-new neighborhood.”

Regarding the city’s push for affordable housing, Singer indicated the QDG supports the de Blasio administration’s efforts and is “committed to significantly accelerating the housing portion of this plan.”

“But those efforts need to be backed by a financially viable model,” he cautioned.

Opponents of the Willets West plan hailed the city’s withdrawal from the appeal effort.

“I am pleased to hear that the city administration has decided not to appeal the Appellate Division’s unanimous and well-reasoned decision,” said state Senator Tony Avella in a statement. He charged that the developers, by continuing the appeal, “have refused to see the fundamental flaws in the Bloomberg plan in all its variations.”

Shea Stadium, as pictured in 2007.  (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Shea Stadium, as pictured in 2007. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The Willets Point saga has gone on for nearly a decade. Back in 2007, the city put forth a multibillion-dollar vision of turning industrial Willets Point into a neighborhood featuring more than 5,000 new apartments, many of which were to be reserved as affordable housing. Businesses in the area, however, banded together in an effort to thwart the city’s acquisition plans; many of them eventually settled and agreed to relocate to the Bronx.

Before putting a shovel in the ground, the city is also required to remediate decades of pollution left by industry there and develop basic infrastructure such as sewer and water lines. Completion of the redevelopment is currently projected for 2026.

Meanwhile, in 2012, the city and Sterling Equities — which owns the New York Mets and Citi Field — announced plans for Willets West, including a large mall, a movie theater complex and a 200-room hotel. Opponents of Willets West filed suit, pointing out that the former Shea Stadium site where the mall is to be built is part of Flushing Meadows Corona Park — a claim that the Queens Supreme Court dismissed in 2014 but the State Appellate Court accepted this year.

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Pair of Astoria residential buildings sells for $72M


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy StreetEasy

The heated real estate market in Astoria has caused an increase in development and rental rates, which have jumped faster than the city’s average over the past dozen years.

Demand is high throughout the neighborhood, and buyers just can’t stay away from two recently constructed residential buildings.

The pair, Astoria at Hallet’s Cove at 11-15 Broadway and the Montenegro of Astoria at 30-50 21st St., has been sold for a combined $72.3 million, giving the buildings three owners in three years, according to a published report.

Real Estate firm E&M Associates recently bought the buildings from Related Companies, which purchased them from Criterion Group in 2013 for $60 million, according to The Real Deal. Criterion Group developed the residential towers three years ago.

Despite being blocks apart, the towers have been sold as a package twice. Astoria at Hallet’s Cove, an eight-story building, has 79 apartments within 76,100 square feet, while the Montenegro is an eight-story tower with 65 apartments in 59,240 square feet.


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Rooftop beekeeping, skyline views: Peek inside Hunters Point South affordable units


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

When the lottery opened last year for apartments in the Hunters Point South Living developments, a two-building complex with 925 affordable housing apartments on the waterfront of Long Island City, it was a madhouse.

More than 93,000 people applied to get an apartment in the buildings, which promised astonishingly low rents in the 32-story Hunters Point South Crossing and 37-story Hunters Point South Commons.

It was a fight to get a unit, but some lucky chosen residents were first to move into the smaller building on May 15, and when more come this summer they’ll find luxury amenities and views of the Manhattan skyline at rates hard to beat throughout the city.

The buildings also feature a variety of common spaces, including a 2,300-square-foot rooftop farm on the 13th floor terrace of the 37-floor building, which has a beehive with 13,000 honeybees.

The rooftop farm contains a 13-bed garden that grows a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, beans and herbs, such as tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, basil, blueberries, red peppers and strawberries, which residents will be able to eat.

Related Companies partnered with experts at GrowNYC to start the garden and instruct residents for three years. Residents can expect garden harvest days, beekeeping instruction, cooking demonstrations and planting workshops throughout the year from the experts.

“The honeybees, the garden and the partnership with GrowNYC as a whole are the essence of our vision for Hunters Point South,” said Frank Monterisi, senior vice president of Related Companies, which is co-developing the project with Phipps Houses and Monadnock Development. “We wanted to create a welcoming, friendly living environment that will not only improve residents’ quality of life, but their health and have a positive environmental impact as well.”

Other amenities in the complex include a waterfront park across the street, fitness club, Internet café, party rooms, a children’s playroom and rooftop decks with barbecuing pits.

There are a mix of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in the Hunter’s Point South complex. Each unit comes with a dishwasher, and two- and three-bedrooms have washers and dryers.

Rental rates in the building are based on area median income, and there are many units available to people earning less than $30,000 a year.

Monthly rents start at $494 for a studio to $743 for a three-bedroom for low-income earners that make about $19,000 to approximately $49,000 annually. Rents for middle- and moderate-income units range from $1,561 to $4,346 per month for household incomes of $55,200 to $224,020 annually.

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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.

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Willets Point auto shop owners settle suit with city, moving to Bronx: report


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

File photo

After years of fighting, a group of Willets Point auto shop owners has reportedly settled its lawsuit with the city and developers planning to transform the land adjacent to Citi Field known as the “Iron Triangle.”

Crain’s New York reported on Thursday the landowners — operating as the Sunrise Cooperative — agreed to accept a combined $5.8 million from the city, Sterling Equities and Related Companies, then divvy up the funds to relocate from Willets Point to the Bronx, where an auto business co-operative will be created.

“Sunrise is happy that they got to an agreement,” attorney Harvey Epstein of the Urban Justice Center, who represented the cooperative, said in the Crain’s report. “We look forward to building a large auto co-op, and to everyone in New York starting to use it.”

The Bloomberg administration first initiated action to redevelop the Iron Triangle into a new community featuring housing, retail markets, a hotel and even a convention center. Related Companies and Sterling Equities — the latter of which owns the New York Mets and developed Citi Field — formed the Queens Development Group, which the city selected in June 2012 to redevelop Willets Point.

At the time, Queens Development Group and the city were expected to pour over $3 billion into remediating contamination and then developing the neighborhood. The city touted it would create 12,000 construction jobs and another 7,100 permanent jobs once development is complete.

While the city viewed Willets Point as a chance to update a blighted area, property owners charged the blight was the city’s own doing, as it neglected to provide the zone with essential services.

The Sunrise Cooperative launched litigation when the city, after negotiations to purchase the land failed, attempted to acquire it through eminent domain. In the settlement, the city agreed to pay $4.8 million, while Sterling Equities and Related Companies will contribute $960,000.

Along with redeveloping the Iron Triangle, the Queens Development Group also plans to construct a large shopping center just to the west of Citi Field, on the parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood.

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Less than a week remaining to apply for Hunter’s Point South


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Related Companies 

Soon thousands of people will learn if they missed out on one of the city’s top housing opportunities.

But for those who haven’t signed up yet, there is less than one week remaining to apply for the lottery for affordable housing at the Hunter’s Point South buildings.

The 60-day period for accepting applications will end on Monday, Dec. 15, for the two new buildings on the Long Island City waterfront — 32-story Hunter’s Point South Crossing and 37-story Hunter’s Point South Commons.

Just two weeks after the lottery application process kicked off in October about 25,000 hopeful residents had signed up to obtain the 925 units, according to published reports.

Those still looking to apply should do so through the city’s Housing Connect website or by submitting a paper application. After the application process closes, the lottery will begin and selected applicants will be notified early next year.

The buildings will reserve 50 percent of the apartments for people living within Community Board 2, 7 percent for those with mobility or hearing disabilities or those who are visually impaired, and 5 percent for city employees.

There are 186 units, or about 20 percent, for low-income individuals and families, and 738 apartments are available for moderate- and middle-income tenants.

Studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will be available for all income levels. Low-income rental prices start from $494 for a studio and max out at $959 per month for a three-bedroom, while eligible incomes range from about $19,000 to approximately $49,000 annually. Rents for middle and moderate-income units range from $1,561 to $4,346 per month for household incomes of $55,200 to $224,020 annually.

The buildings feature many amenities, including an urban farm, outdoor terraces, fitness facilities, tech centers, bike storage, party rooms, laundry rooms and a parking garage. Both buildings will have 24-hour lobby attendants.

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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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Approved Willets Point plan to go through rigorous review


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Redevelopment of Willets Point will now go through a rigorous review process after its study was approved by the Department of City Planning (DCP).

The plan, approved by DCP on Monday, March 18, will first go to Community Board 7, which includes Willets Point, for an advisory vote. Borough President Helen Marshall will then get the plan for her own recommendation, followed by the City Council and DCP.

Between development at Willets Point and the addition of the shopping mall dubbed “Willets West,” the mixed use area will include housing, retail, hotels and an entertainment center.

Jesse Masyr, the project’s lawyer, said he’s confident the various levels of voters will jump on board with the plan, citing the environmental clean up that’s first on the project’s steps.

“It is a very, very significant effort and accomplishment,” he said, adding it would “reverse 50 years of unsuccessful attempts” to stop pollution in the area.

If the City Council ultimately rezones the area, the joint venture, between Related Companies and Sterling Equities, would begin by cleaning up the 23 acres commonly called the Iron Triangle. New York City has dedicated $100 million to removing spoiled soil and creating an infrastructure at Willets; the rest of the project is privately financed.

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has pushed for the project since updated plans were announced last June — much to the chagrin of some Willets Point business owners.

“This marks a critical step towards beginning the long-needed cleanup of toxic land in Willets Point that for years has damaged the waterfront and been a blight on the community,” a NYCEDC spokesperson said.

Opponents, however, are not confident in a fair process.

Michael Rikon, the lawyer for Willets Point United, said the city would probably approve the rezoning, and the seven-month approval process was merely a formality at this point.

This didn’t stop Rikon, however, from saying there were reasons why the project should be fought — including building Willets West on what is mapped as parkland.

“The whole thing and the whole process is a shame,” he said. “There could be 15 great reasons why there should be a condemnation on the plan.”

 

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Walmart, developers deny plans of a Willets Point store


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Rumors of Walmart setting up shop in Willets Point were quickly put to an end, after reports that the megastore was in talks with the developers about anchoring a store at Willets West.

The Queens Development Group, a joint venture between Related Companies and Sterling Equities, said in a statement that there has been no communication with Walmart.

“We have not had any talks with Walmart about a location at Willets Point and we have absolutely no intention of discussing this site with them,” the group said. “There have been and will be no negotiations, they are simply not a part of our plan to build an enclosed retail and entertainment destination at Willets Point, that will bring much needed jobs and economic activity to the area and lead to the development of a new neighborhood.”

A Walmart spokesperson said that while there is a public demand for the big box store in the five boroughs, the store did not have anything in the works within the city limits.

“While most New Yorkers want us in the city and we remain interested in ways to better serve local customers, we don’t have any announced projects in New York,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) added that talks or plans for a Willets Point Walmart were completely untrue.

“The developer has had no discussions with WalMart and these reports are absolutely without merit,” the spokesperson said.

In early 2011, there was a major backlash from the city council and small business owners when the store tried to move into the city. The store has been criticized in the past for reputed labor issues.

The idea of Walmart coming to Queens is not protested by all, however, as Councilmember Dan Halloran said he wouldn’t be against the chain coming to the borough and bringing with it thousands of jobs.

“If Walmart violates a single labor practice law, I’d be the first one to call them out on it and make sure they are fully dealt with by the labor department and other agencies,” Halloran said. “But I certainly don’t want to tell them to not bring their jobs here.”