Tag Archives: Willets Point

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy. High of 95. Winds from the NNE at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the SSE in the afternoon. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy in the evening, then clear. Low of 81 with a heat index of 88F. Winds from the South at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the WSW after midnight.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Golden Dragon Acrobats

After an exciting extended run last summer, the Golden Dragon Acrobats return to Queens Theatre more thrilling and daring than ever before! Witness daring feats of balance, spine tingling contortionists and towers of jugglers as the talented acrobats straight from China leave you wanting more! If you missed them last year now is you chance to catch the show that everyone was talking about. Runs July 17-28. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Local business owners, city clash over plans for Willets Point

Just before the start of Major League Baseball’s All-Star game on Tuesday night business owners near Citi Field  protested the city’s plan to shut them down. Read more: CBS New York

Ex-NY Sen. Huntley’s friend gets busted for alleged $85K charity fraud

The president of a Queens, N.Y., nonprofit with ties to former state Sen. Shirley Huntley was charged Tuesday with stealing more than $85,000 in taxpayer money. Read more: New York Daily News 

Obama: Ray Kelly ‘well-qualified’ for DHS post

President Barack Obama says New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would be “well-qualified” to run the Department of Homeland Security. Read more: Fox New York 

Rivera perfect, AL beats NL 3-0 in All-Star game

Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect eighth inning in his final All-Star appearance, Jose Bautista, J.J. Hardy and Jason Kipnis drove in runs to back a night of pulsating pitching, and the American League beat the National League 3-0 Tuesday night to stop a three-year losing streak. Read more: AP

GOP strategist files objection to Eliot Spitzer’s comptroller petition signatures

Eliot Spitzer is facing a challenge to his bid to get on the ballot in the city comptroller’s race, after a Republican strategist contested the ex-governor’s petition signatures. Read more: CBS New York/AP

 

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 84. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible. Thursday Night: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. Low of 72. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the North after midnight. Chance of rain 50%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: New York Philharmonic Concerts in the Park

The New York Philharmonic and Music Director Alan Gilbert leads a free concert featuring Principal Cello Carter Brey in Cunningham Park at 8 p.m. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

NYC officials, foes testify on Willets Point plans

A $1 billion shopping mall planned for the parking lot of the New York Mets’ stadium would spearhead a major transformation of a blighted neighborhood, developers testified Wednesday. Read more: NBC New York

Prices for co-ops, condos and houses in Queens soared 11% over last year, Douglas Elliman says

Queens real estate is on the up and up. Sales are up, and prices are, too. Read more. New York Daily News 

FAA new rules: Co-pilots must have more flight time to be certified

The FAA has announced new rules will soon require co-pilots to have more flight time before they can be commercial pilots. Read more: NBC New York

Average New York City rent tops $3,000 per month

The fact that renting an apartment in New York City is expensive is as obvious to most people as the fact that the sky is blue. Read more: CBS New York 

$100K Reward for info in Swiss-NY airline money theft

The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of $1.2 million that disappeared at JFK Airport and to the arrest of those responsible. Read more: Fox New York

Boston bombing suspect pleads not guilty

His arm in a cast and his face swollen, a blase-looking Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombing in a seven-minute proceeding that marked his first public appearance since his capture in mid-April. Read more: AP

Bill to preserve city parkland


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A bill introduced in the State Senate would make it more difficult for private companies to get a hold of city parkland.

“Parkland is sacred and should be preserved for generations to come, not given away to private developers, especially without just and equal parkland compensation,” said State Senator Tony Avella, who penned the legislation.

The law would allow for a review process of proposals to change parkland use. It would also require replacement green space to be three times the size of the parcel being alienated and within one mile of that parcel.

Three separate proposals around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park are at the root of bill’s target. Developers want to expand the US Tennis Association (USTA) stadium, transform Willets Point and build a Major League Soccer stadium there.

“[These projects] threaten to take crucial parkland from Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and together constitute perhaps the biggest land grab for parkland not only in Queens, but also in the entire city,” Avella said.

The USTA wants to lease 0.68 acres of city property to expand the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. That would allow them to shift the grandstand stadium and the southern tennis courts.

In exchange, the association agreed to give the city back 1.56 acres it currently leases, though project opponents say a parcel of that land is already publicly accessible.

The state legislature gave its end-of-session approval last month, passing a bill required when municipal parkland is sold or leased to a private entity.

But Avella said the mandated bill is just a legal precedent based on previous court decisions. He added that it only recommends — and does not require — that parkland be replaced.

Park advocates who support the bill say open space is a nonrenewable resource meant for the public and loopholes need to be closed.

“We would like to see park alienation made even more difficult,” said Frederick Kress, founder of Queens Coalition for Parks and Green Spaces. “It needs to be really toughened up.”

Alfredo Centola, founder of Save Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, a group opposed to private development in the park, said the law is “a good idea because it’s going to actually make it extremely difficult for the land to be stolen.”

The Senate’s Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee will have to decide whether to move the legislation forward to the full Senate after the summer recess is over.

“Unfortunately, once lost, municipal parkland is difficult, if not impossible, to recover,” Avella said.

 

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Borough President Marshall OKs Willets West


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File rendering

Borough President Helen Marshall approved a special permit that would pave the way for a mega mall near Citi Field.

Marshall gave developers Sterling Equities and Related Companies the thumbs up on July 2 to move parking for Citi Field to Willets Point. The joint venture ultimately needed the permit to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

Community Board 7 gave its green light in May, but both the board and borough president had conditions for their endorsements.

They said the joint venture must keep surrounding communities and leaders informed of the project’s progress and traffic problems that arise.

The city and the facility’s developer must also fulfill written commitments they made, which include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point

Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund and hiring locally.

Marshall said the $3 billion project would provide 7,100 permanent jobs and generate more than $310 million in tax revenue.

Among the speakers at Marshall’s June 6 public hearing, 20 people opposed the project and two others were in favor of it.

Community Board 3 voted 31-1 against the application on May 13.

The project awaits the Department of City Planning, which held a public hearing July 10 but did not make a recommendation as of press time.

The City Council is expected to meet August 21 to give the final vote.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain, then thunderstorms and rain showers in the afternoon. High of 88. Winds from the SSW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60%. Wednesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers, then a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 75. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 60% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Beatlemania: Maspeth Federal Summer Concerts 2013

The tribute band Beatlemania Now captures the excitement, mood and music of the Fab Four. Free, rain or shine. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Three Queens Borough President candidates slam $3 billion Willets Point proposal

Two City Councilmen — who happen to both be running for Queens borough president — are trying to block the plate against a proposed mega-mall next to CitiField. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens leaders shoot down home raising plan that could cost residents tens of thousands of dollars

Queens leaders shot down a city plan that could cost homeowners — still reeling from Superstorm Sandy — tens of thousands of additional dollars. Read more: New York Daily News

Documents on former Mayor Koch released by FBI

Documents released for the first time Tuesday from the FBI file on former New York City Mayor Edward Koch detail one of the more obscure chapters of his storied political career: an unsolved plot to paint the then-congressman as a racist by circulating a forged letter, warning the city would become a “ghost town” if voters elected a black mayor. Read more: AP

Quinn: Spitzer, Weiner haven’t earned second chance

Democratic mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn took some shots at the comeback efforts of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer. Read more: CBS New York

Surviving suspect in Boston bombing due in court

Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing will watch as the young man who could face the death penalty for the attack appears in court for the first time since he was found bleeding and hiding in a boat in a suburb days after the April 15 explosion. Read more: AP

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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Queens’s Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Mostly cloudy. Fog early. High of 82. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Tuesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Low of 70. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Swingin’ with the All Stars: Louis Armstrong & Baseball 

Swingin’ with the All Stars: Louis Armstrong & Baseball, a new exhibit at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, explores his favorite sport, which he followed passionately. A longtime Brooklyn Dodgers fan, Louis switched to the New York Mets in the late 60s. The exhibit includes photos and artifacts exploring his relationship with the game. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police pursue persons of interest in shooting death of girl, 14, on bus

Police have several leads and are pursuing a few persons of interest in the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl on a Queens bus Saturday, law enforcement sources tell NBC 4 New York. Read more: NBC New York 

Rockaway beaches readying to open Saturday after $140 million effort to repair Sandy’s destruction

The Rockaway Beach shoreline is turning shades of blue and chartreuse in preparation for Saturday’s unofficial kick-off of the summer season. Read more: New York Daily News

Willets Point business owners: We are being evicted by NYC for no reason

A lot of workers are about to lose their jobs. They got kicked out of their auto body shops by the landlord. Read more: CBS New York

City slams lawsuit alleging racial discrimination in stop-and-frisk during closing arguments

Witnesses who alleged racial bias in the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk didn’t prove their case, lawyers for the city said Monday in closing arguments in a nine-week trial over the controversial tactic. Read more: New York Daily News 

Crews dig through night after deadly Okla. twister

Spotlights bore down on massive piles of shredded cinder block, insulation and metal as crews worked through the night lifting bricks and parts of collapsed walls where a monstrous tornado barreled through the Oklahoma City suburbs, demolishing an elementary school and reducing homes to piles of splintered wood.  Read more: AP

NY crackdown on repeat drunken drivers keeps thousands off state roads: officials

New York officials say their crackdown on repeat drunken drivers through new rules imposed last September has resulted in 3,164 potentially dangerous motorists being kept off the state’s roadways. Read more: NBC New York

Board permits Willets Point mall in key vote


| mchan@queenscourier.com

willets4

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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Community Board wants more answers on Willets Point project


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Community Board 7’s Land Use Committee told developers of Willets Point they need to return with more answers on the proposed project before the board makes a decision.

Committee members particularly want more information about parking, traffic flow and transplanting the plethora of small business owners within the Iron Triangle.

Chuck Apelian, first vice chair and committee head, told development and city representatives things had to be done about existing infrastructure around the area, especially roads and sewers.

The joint venture, between Sterling Equities and Related, needs to go through a Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for a special permit to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a shopping center, dubbed “Willets West.”

Without the permit, the project could essentially not go through.

Since the massive shopping center next to Citi Field was added to the project, board members found a number of changes from the 2008 plan. To build Willets West, the Parks Department would amend its lease with Queens Ballpark Company, which would be mediated by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

NYCEDC promised it would work to help retrain workers and relocate businesses on the 23 acres on now mostly city-owned land.

CB 7 chair Eugene Kelty had an issue with how NYCEDC was moving workers and the small businesses out of the area. Kelty said he needed more answers on the relocation, or he would vote against the plan.

“The money they make there, fixing those cars, feeds their families,” he told representatives.

Kelty said EDC told CB 7 five years ago that tenants would be relocated before the properties they rented were sold to the city.

But Thomas McKnight, an executive vice president for NYCEDC, now said the city cannot legally relocate renters without first buying the property from owners.

David Quart, senior vice president of development for NYCEDC, said the agency is working to help move tenant and partnering with The Cornerstone Group, a non-profit workplace training program, to re-educate workers.

CB 7 must give a recommendation on the permit application, followed by Borough President Helen Marshall. From there it goes to the Department of City Planning and then voted on by the City Council.

Should the joint venture make it through the ULURP, the developers can only go so far in development until new exit ramps are built for the Van Wyck Expressway.

The city has promised to foot the bill for the ramps, which would go up between 2021 and 2024 with an estimated $50 million cost at today’s rates. If the city does not hold up its end of the bargain, under any circumstance, affordable housing and other components of the plan will not go through, said Jesse Masyr, one of the lawyers representing the joint venture.

“If you’re asking what remedies we as a developer have if the city doesn’t build the ramps, the answer is none,” he said.

“We have confidence that the city will build the ramps. It’s part of the overall risk the joint venture is taking.”

CB 7’s Land Use Committee will meet with representatives next on Thursday, April 25.

 

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Candidates focus on development at Borough President forum


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

DSC_0012

Questions regarding development at Willets Point, directed mainly at three of the six candidates, became a significant part of a recent forum for borough president.

Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie, State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, former Councilmember and Assemblymember Melinda Katz and former Deputy BP Barry Grodenchik took the stage at the Friday, April 12 meeting, co-hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and St. John’s University.

Specific questions were directed at each candidate, with Comrie, Vallone and Peralta each addressing how, if elected, he would reshape the area known as the Iron Triangle.

Peralta harkened on making Queens a destination location – a policy of incumbent Helen Marshall. With the planned “Tech Campus” coming to Roosevelt Island, Peralta suggested pushing for a tech sector near Willets Point. But affordable housing and better infrastructure are the first step, he said.

Comrie, who chairs the Council’s Land Use Committee, said he’s open to re-exploring a convention center at Willets Point. He also mentioned a potential center at Aqueduct, where Governor Andrew Cuomo had originally proposed one.

“We really need a convention center for the borough,” Comrie said, adding better transportation options would need to be explored for south Queens if convention center talks resurged.

Vallone said Queens residents, in a recent poll, would like to see full-gaming in the borough at Resorts World Casino New York City.

The councilmember, however, is also open to a convention center or further retail shops at the site. But, he said, it would have to be the community’s call on what goes there.

There is about 4.5 million-square-feet of Willets Point the city plans on developing over the next few decades, once the projects on either side of Citi Field are completed.

The borough president’s role in Queens, better transportation and small business growth were also hot topics at the business-focused forum.

Traditionally, a Beep has been branded a “cheerleader” for Queens, but most felt it was more than that.

Grodenchik said he viewed the role as a leader and if elected, he wanted more to be “the quarterback of Queens.”

Katz, who chaired the Land Use Committee before Comrie, touted her record of working across the city and what it takes to be borough president.

“You should be able to create an economic vision for the borough of Queens,” she said. “I think it’s important to span that throughout the borough.”

State Senator Tony Avella said the borough president needed to also serve as a public advocate for the diverse neighborhoods, and the “mom and pop” small businesses who often get hit with city fines.

 

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Op-Ed: Enough delays – let’s clean up Willets Point


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY MARCIA BYSTRYN

At a recent meeting of the Queens Housing Coalition, a major developer outlined a commitment to privately finance the cleanup of a massive 23-acre brownfield at Willets Point. Amazingly, there were some who questioned the existence of contamination and the need for remediation.

The hard truth is that Willets Point has been a toxic dumping ground for nearly 100 years. In addition to a lack of sewers, there is widespread petroleum contamination, with additional potential contamination from paints, cleaning solvents, and automotive fluids.

Some of the problems persist today, as existing businesses operate with almost no regulation. Imagine people spray-painting cars without taking air quality precautions or changing oil with no regard for safe disposal procedures!

Further exacerbating these environmental hazards is a high water table that spreads pollution throughout the Willets Point site. This means that as contaminants continue to fester in the soil and groundwater, nearby Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay become dirtier and more dangerous by the day.

Brownfields are a serious impediment to redeveloping a property, making them the target of a number of federal and state programs. But their potential to endanger public health and contaminate groundwater, surface water and soils is a far greater concern. Without action, Willets Point will in all likelihood remain an unusable, contaminated public health hazard.

The time has come to transform Willets Point from a toxic wasteland into an environmentally conscious, 21st century community.

In an area that is clamoring for open space and recreational opportunities, the cleanup and redevelopment of Willets Point means that the waterfront on Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay will finally become safe and accessible to the community.

This is also a great opportunity to redesign Willets Point in a smarter and more holistic manner. Willets Point is close to the No. 7 train, so people can leave their cars at home more often. And it’s near major highways, meaning that people can get in and out of the neighborhood quickly without further straining traffic in downtown Flushing. The development will also create approximately 12,000 construction jobs and 7,100 permanent jobs, as well as lead to a $3 billion private investment.

This is clearly a redevelopment project where the economic and environmental benefits work hand-in-hand to improve the health, well-being and vibrancy of the neighborhood, and for the entire borough of Queens.

Marcia Bystryn is president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, a statewide environmental organization.

 

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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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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Overcast with rain, then a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 46. Winds from the ENE at 5 to 20 mph shifting to the NW in the afternoon. Chance of rain 90%. Tuesday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 30. Breezy. Winds from the WNW at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Game Night at Z Hotel

The Z Hotel in LIC is the ultimate game night with the opportunity to eat, drink and mingle with friends while partaking in a little competitive fun. Details include game night cocktails, light bites from the new tapas menu at buy one, get the second half off, backgammon, chess, Monopoly, competitive Karaoke with prizes, the option to book accommodations for the evening at a special rate and free transportation. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

11 LIRR trains canceled due to derailment

The Long Island Rail Road has canceled 11 trains for the morning commute after a freight train derailed Monday night west of Jamaica. Read more: CBS New York

Icy roads of death: One dead, 7 hurt in city crashes

At least one person was killed and seven injured last night after the city’s highways and roads were hit by a blast of snow and ice, officials said. Read more: New York Post

Land use review for Willets Point development kicks off

The city kicked off its formal review process of the mega development at Willets Point on Monday. Read more: New York Daily News

Mayor Bloomberg knows who he wants as his successor, and it’s … a secret

With the mayoral election eight months away, Mayor Bloomberg says he’s already decided who he’s voting for — but he’s not telling. Read more: New York Daily News

Pope Francis celebrated at installation Mass

Pope Francis urged princes, presidents, sheiks and thousands of ordinary people gathered for his installation Mass on Tuesday to protect the environment, the weakest and the poorest, mapping out a clear focus of his priorities as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Read more: ABC New York/AP

Decades after terrorizing New York City, the ‘Son Of Sam’ seeks to make amends

More than three and half decades after the “Son of Sam” horrified New York City, he has spoken in an interview with author Scott Bonn. Read more: CBS New York

 

State senator wants to landmark Flushing Meadows-Corona Park


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Landmark the park.

That’s what State Senator Tony Avella wants for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park to block development in the area.

These include an entertainment center at Willets Point — an area that is technically parkland — along with expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and a proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium.

The projects are either inside or on the edge of the park, but only the proposed soccer arena would require replacement parkland to be installed somewhere relatively close to Flushing Meadows. Normal park users, however, will not get the same access to this new park, Avella said, and Flushing Meadows would become overcrowded.

“Normally when you have some alienation, [and] you have some land coming in, you have to replace parkland of equal acreage some place everyone can agree upon. You may actually replace the amount of acreage, but the number of people who use it would be significantly less.”

Landmarking includes a review of the park for its historical and cultural value. The independent commission will look at these and decide whether or not it goes to a full vote.

“We put together what I think are very significant reasons why it should be done,” said Avella. “The historic aspect of the park in terms of two Worlds Fairs, housing the United Nations for a period of time and the fact that it is the borough park.

All three projects require a vote from the City Council, and then approval from the state because green space will be lost. Avella said should the bill go to the state level — in order to approve any removed parkland — he would push his colleagues in the chamber to vote down the expansions.

Risa Heller, spokesperson for MLS, said the league wanted to help refurbish the park and have a long working relationship with the parks department.

“MLS is deeply committed the long term health and vibrancy of FMCP which is why we will make a significant investment in the park in addition to replacing community fields,” she said. “We plan to be a long term partner for the park and plan to do everything we can to ensure it meets the needs of the surrounding communities.”

Spokespersons for USTA and the Willets project were reached for comment, but were not able to respond by press time.

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Unions back Queens soccer stadium


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Major League Soccer

Kicking in their support for hundreds of potential jobs, several construction unions have backed the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The Hotel Trades Council; the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; and 32BJ SEIU all backed the project for its potential to give union workers jobs and provide nearly 1,000 full and part-time jobs after construction is completed. “

A Major League Soccer stadium in Queens will be good for the working men and women of New York City; it will create good jobs and enhance the park,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ. “We are committed to continuing to work with MLS and the community to make sure this is done in a way to benefit the area as a whole.”

The stadium building is expected to create more than 2,000 union construction according to MLS officials. Unions have already delivered messages of support to projects such as the development at neighboring Willets Point, which is expected to create an upwards of 12,000 union construction jobs.

“The economy in Queens is still hurting,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The recession is still taking a toll on middle and lower income families, and it would be a shame for Queens to be shut out of such a tremendous opportunity for good jobs. That’s why we will fight to make sure this project is successful and benefits Queens’ working families.”

MLS spokesperson Risa Heller said the league was thrilled to garner union backing on the project. The League is committed to creating jobs, she said, both directly at the stadium and spurring economic growth around the park.

“We are thrilled to have the support of unions who represent hundreds of thousands of working men and women,” she said. “They understand, as we do, what an important economic engine this stadium will be. We look forward to working with them to make it a reality.” The stadium, and its economic promises, have been met with criticism from opponents to the project, however.

NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft, who’s opposed to the project, said the union backing was part of a “checklist” of gaining support for an unfair project. While he understood there’s a need for jobs in the city, Croft said jobs should be made for bettering the park, and not building in it.

“It’s really sad,” Croft said. “They’re following the standard playbook for supposed support for these projects.”

 

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