Tag Archives: Willets Point

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

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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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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Partly cloudy. High of 43. Breezy. Winds from the West at 15 to 20 mph. Tuesday night: Clear. Low of 30. Winds from the WNW at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Jewish Love Songs: from the Shtetl to Second Avenue

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‘Green’ at the center of debate on Willets project


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

Willets Point might be making headway to become a destination for shopping and entertainment in the borough, but many either living or working near there are pointing out that the project could have negative effects on the surrounding area.

The Jackson Heights Green Alliance (JHGA) held an emergency meeting on Monday, October 1 to speak out against the parkland that would be lost be several projects planned around and within Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. This includes the development of Willets Point and the parking lot to the left of Citi Field, Willets West; renovation and expansion of the U.S. Tennis Center; and talks of a possible Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium where what is currently Industry Pond sits.

Donovan Finn, a professor of urban planning at Stony Brook University and JHGA board member, said the actual green space in the park was already significantly less than what is actually billed for the borough’s largest park. Factoring in facility buildings, water, walkways and other items, there are only 333 acres of actual green space, Finn said.

“I think it’s reasonable that when all is said and done in 20 years, in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which the Parks Department claims is 1,200-and-some acres, usable green space [will be] 250 acres,” Finn said. “No one would be proposing these projects in Prospect Park and Central Park. They never have and they never will.”

Talks about a possible soccer stadium at Flushing Meadows were met with disapproval from residents in attendance. Finn said a stadium, which if constructed would hold around 25,000 spectators, would be the wrong solution to clean up the area around, and including, Industry Pond.

“I would argue it’s a heavily utilized part of the park,” he said. “They’re not taking over the whole park, I admit that, but this is not the kind of use that we need.”

Many of these concerns, among others, were brought before the city at a September 27 court-mandated scoping hearing for the Willets Point project. Residents, advocates and workers voiced concerns over traffic effects, the legalities of the project and the displacement of thousands of jobs, blaming these problems on several agencies.

The hearing was designed to create a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement(SEIS) to study a number of factors that might have changed since the General Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) that was filed in 2008, because parameters of the project have changed. The study will look at items ranging from potential transit issues, effects to businesses within half a mile and possible hazardous materials, according to officials.

Because the Citi Field parking lot — most of which will become Willets West — is technically parkland, some civic representatives alleged the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) had bypassed rules for parkland alienation.

Cristyne Nicholas, a spokesperson for the Joint Venture at Willets Point, noted that the development to the north of the park was separate from any expansion at the Tennis Center, or talks for a stadium within the park. And while the parking lot is technically parkland, Nicholas said the end result would great more green space within Willets, with the construction of recreational and open space areas.

“The Willets Point redevelopment will first and foremost clean 23 acres of contaminated land,” she said. “The Willets Point project will not in any way reduce the availability of open space within Flushing Meadows Corona Park. In fact, the project will increase open space for the community by building off-season recreational uses and five acres of additional open space on the Willets Point land.”

Christina Wilkinson, representing Communities of Maspeth and Elmurst Together, said there were several state parks polices needed to be addressed before Willets West could carry on.

“The developers of this project are not entitled to circumvent the parkland alienation process and the involvement of the State Parks Department in this matter,” she said. “The city never originally proposed that parkland would be involved in the Willets Point development, and the developers doing so at this late date does not provide any excuse to avoid the alienation process.”

Benjamin Branham, the NYCEDC’s vice president for external affairs, said the hearing would help guide the project moving forward and fully understand what needs to be done to get the Willets project off the ground.

“[The] public hearing for the proposed Willets Point redevelopment plan marked an important first step in the approvals process for this transformative project that will clean up dozens of acres of toxic land and create thousands of jobs for Queens residents,” he said. “We are grateful for the significant turnout, strong enthusiasm and extensive engagement from the community on this critical project, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue we move forward.”

‘Don’t sell out’: Brooklyn holdouts’ message to Willets Point owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The battle against the behemoth billion dollar Barclays Center has long been lost for some Brooklynites, but leading opponents of the project are hoping the war waged against the city will be won in Willets Point.

“Fight to the bitter end,” said Donald O’Finn, one of 14 Brooklyn plaintiffs that took state developers to court in 2009. “These are really important fights. We lost our battle, but the war is not done.”

The Barclays Center — Brooklyn’s new 675,000-square-foot sports arena and home to the Nets — opened on Friday, September 21, but only after a decade of debates by community activists who opposed the project and multiple lawsuits filed by landowners fighting to keep their properties.

Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” (DDDB), a volunteer-run community coalition, said he fought against developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner, for seven years in federal and state court until eminent domain was used to condemn the entire 22-acre site, including 171 units of housing and 35 businesses, in 2009.

O’Finn, co-owner of Freddy’s Bar — which received a “Ratner payout” to vacate — recalled the seven years spent aggressively fighting legal battles as “sad,” in light of the arena’s grand ribbon-cutting last week.

“It seemed wrong the way things were happening, with the misuse of Eminent Domain, how things were sort of just taken by people who have power and wealth just because they want to,” he said. “It was just so wrong.”

Meanwhile, a similar battle has been brewing over in the next borough.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in June that he had selected the Wilpons of the Mets, Sterling Equities and Related Companies to develop 23 acres of land in Willets Point into a major hub for retail, hotels, entertainment and dining.

But before “environmental remediation” can begin, the entire area — home to scores of long-established auto repair shops near Citi Field — must first be vacated, according to Benjamin Branham, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

Twenty-seven property-owning entities in the “Phase 1” area have reached deals with the city for an undisclosed amount, while four have refused to sell, Branham said. They are Janice Serrone, Ralph Paterno, George Romano and Tony Crozzoli — none of whom returned calls for comment.

The city rescinded its first bid to acquire the “Phase 1” neighborhood using Eminent Domain in May. Branham said the city would only go back to using it “as a last resort.”

“It remains our strong preference to reach negotiated agreements with these remaining owners, and we’re optimistic that we can achieve this,” he said.

O’Finn, who urged remaining residents in Willets Point not to sell out, said the key to securing victory is to ignite the community.

“You need to get people to listen,” he said. “If you can find a way to get people to actually hear you — that would be my advice, especially in New York, where everything is so busy and fast. I really hope at some point we can win this war.”

Goldstein, however, said the land grab in Willets Point is only similar to what happened in Brooklyn in one way.

“They’re getting screwed just like we are,” he said.

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.

More testing ordered at Willets Point


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Further environmental testing at Willets Point has been ordered by a court ruling, but is not expected to hold up development at the site, a member of the project’s team said.

The August 14 decision by the Manhattan Supreme Court said development of what is commonly called the Iron Triangle would not move forward until the city conducts a better environmental review of the area.

“The city will not proceed with development in Willets Point,” the ruling reads. “The appropriate environmental review will be prepared and any additional approvals that are necessary will be sought for future development in Willets Point.”

This ruling was not driven by the June announcement of concrete plans for what will become a major retail area and destination spot; rather, it refers back to a case between the city and Willets Point United, an advocacy group against development of the area.

“The city had filed a stipulation of discontinuance prior to our being designated,” said Jessie Masyr, a land use lawyer for the joint venture of Related Companies and Sterling Equities. “We’re doing a do-over, in essence, of the environmental review…we just saw it come out.”

The filing dates back four months before the decision was released, Masyr said.

The city currently has 95 percent of the land in the Iron Triangle, and only about four or five shops are holding out, Masyr said during a Courier editorial board meeting.

Cleanup for the Willets Point area is expected to be completed by 2015, according to a plan provided by the joint venture. This cleanup effort includes leveling the scores of auto body shops, inserting new soil and creating an infrastructure such as drain sewers, developers said. Development of the project is not expected to be held up by the court decision.

One shop owner said the city should have done additional testing years ago, as the area is poorly cared for and has scores of potholes.

“They should have done it 30 years ago,” said Michael Nieto, owner of Gringo’s Auto Parts Express. “This area’s been so neglected by the city, and it just seems like sometimes to their convenience is when they want to buckle down and follow the rules.”

Nieto, who rents his property, said he’s allowed to stay until 2015, when the cleanup is expected to be completed. The city had neglected the area, he said, and was now trying to blame the tenants and owners for the crumbling infrastructure.

“Now they want to do soil,” he said. “I think it’s just a joke. They’re [the city] only doing it to try and gain some advantage to say that we’ve never taken care of the property here.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 79. Winds from the SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%. Tuesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Low of 75. Winds from the South at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70% with rainfall amounts near 1.5 in. possible.

EVENT of the DAY: Special preview of Ira Sachs’s latest film “Keep the Lights On” at the Museum of the Moving Image 

This event closes “Looking for Love: The Films of Ira Sachs,” the first comprehensive NYC retrospective of Sachs’s work that includes all his feature films and a selection of short films, each followed by a Pinewood Dialogue with Sachs in person. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Plans to convert College Point paint factory into waterfront condos back on table

A stalled proposal to transform a 150-year-old paint factory in College Point into a waterfront condo complex may be coming back to life — sparking community concerns. Read more: New York Daily News

Cops in hot water

Abandon ship! A Queens couple was forced to make a desperate leap into Jamaica Bay moments before a powerful 600-horsepower NYPD Harbor Patrol boat rammed into their tiny fishing dinghy. Read more: New York Post

Court orders city to do proper environmental review of Willets Point

Plans to revamp the gritty industrial landscape of Willets Point must remain on hold until the city can produce an “appropriate” environmental review, a court has ruled. Read more: New York Daily News

Schumer: Deny cop killers parole for murder of NYPD officer in 1988

Sen. Charles Schumer has spoken out, demanding four convicted cop killers to not be granted parole. Officer Edward Byrne was killed back in 1988 while he was sitting in his patrol car protecting a local citizen’s house who feared retribution local drug gangs. Read more: CBS New York

IBO: Longer NYPD shifts would bring greater efficiency

City police officers could be working longer hours, if the city implements the ideas from a new study.
The nonpartisan Independent Budget Office suggests lengthening officers’ shifts from 8 hours, 35 minutes to anywhere between 10 and 12 hours. Read more: NY1

Dems open convention in push for tested president

Four years later Democrats have gathered again, this time in support of a president who carries the power and the burden of incumbency, both in evidence as the opening gavel is struck at the Democratic National Convention. Read more: AP

Stanford scientists cast doubt on advantages of organic meat and produce

Does an organic strawberry contain more vitamin C than a conventional one? Maybe — or maybe not. Stanford University scientists have weighed in on the “maybe not” side of the debate after an extensive examination of four decades of research comparing organic and conventional foods. Read more: New York Times

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.”

Willets West will ‘commemorate’ Shea


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

SHEA BASE 02w

To the left of Citi Field’s main entrance is a parking lot where Shea Stadium once stood.

In this parking lot, amid the white lines that now outline parking spaces, are four bronze plaques that mark the bases that made Shea’s diamond. A first base where Keith Hernandez and Ed Kranepool stood; second where Wally Backman darted back and forth; third base, where more than 120 have played the position, from Don Zimmer in 1962 to current all-star David Wright.Then a home plate 90 feet away from a bronze rectangle to outline where Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and many others would set team and MLB records.

This site will soon, however, become home to Willets West, a one-million-square-foot shopping area that promises to bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the area.

While there are no set plans how the bases, or Shea’s 44-year legacy, will be remembered, fans and developers agree there should be some sort of tribute to the ballpark.

Ron Dresner, who is the managing editor of The Very Unofficial Mets Fan Site, said development in the area is something he supported fully — noting that Willets Point has always been prime for that. At the same time, the lay of the land needs to also be considered, he said.

“You can still move ahead with economic development and neighborhood plans but customize the design according to your ‘landscape,’” he said.

“I am not a design or engineering professional, but any new plans must incorporate the memory and recognition of Shea Stadium – especially marking the base locations,” he continued. “The last thing I would want to see is some huge movie complex built right over the old Shea diamond.”

Speaking on behalf of the Queens Development Group, spokesperson Cristyne Nicholas said that as Willets West was in the earliest stages, there had not been a set-out plan to memorialize the former home of the Mets and Jets. The developers would, however, ensure that the would be some sort of tribute in the 200-store shopping area.

“Although Willets West is still in the early planning phase and the design layout has not yet been finalized, Shea Stadium and its historic contribution to Queens will be properly and proudly commemorated,” she said.

Dresner noted that in the past the team’s legacy has been put into question. In 2009 when Citi Field opened, he said the ballpark overemphasized its Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants roots with little to no memory of the stadium where the Mets won two World Series championships.