Tag Archives: Willets Point

Senator Peralta says Willets Point perfect for convention center


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Courting of Willets Point as a potential site for what could be the nation’s largest convention center – and a major booster for New York City’s economy – has begun, with an open letter from State Senator Jose Peralta to Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In the letter, Peralta notes that he supported the governor’s original announcement in January to build a convention center at Aqueduct.

He goes on to say that although it was unfortunate that current talks have fallen through, there are still options in north Queens.

“Fortunately, there is another viable venue in Queens that, I hope you will agree, has numerous significant advantages over other locations reportedly under consideration elsewhere in the city,” he writes. “That site is Willets Point.”

Peralta says the area that is currently the Iron Triangle would be ideal as it is close to Citi Field, the National Tennis Center and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“I hope you will give Willets Point the serious consideration its many advantages warrant and look forward to a meaningful discussion of the site’s merits,” Peralta writes.

Aqueduct convention center scrapped, Willets Point eyed


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

convention center

Willets Point might become the new destination for a convention center, after it was announced that plans for one near the Aqueduct Racetrack have fallen through.

Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged Friday, June 1, that talks for what would have been the largest convention center in the country were not working out. Any future plans to discuss building elsewhere will wait until voters decide on new gaming laws in November 2013, said Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Because the Genting Company – the desired builder of the center – holds the rights to build at Aqueduct, other investors may be called in for alternative sites, should the new gaming laws pass next year, he said.

While directly discussing potential projects with new bidders may not start until then, Friedman said planning for an alternative at Willets Point has already begun.

Willets Point would be the desired alternative, he said, because of its closer train ride to the city and LaGuardia Airport. Currently, the area known as the Iron Triangle is planned for a shopping mall, but Friedman said a convention center would bring more and better jobs.

“We’d like to see that plan modified for a much larger convention center,” he said.

Mets reach deal to develop Willets Point, according to reports


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A new deal has been reportedly struck between the city and a real estate firm to redevelop Willets Point into a mixed-use retail and housing hub, according to reports.

The city rescinded its bid two weeks ago to acquire and develop Willets Point through Eminent Domain, and instead, according to published reports, has reached an agreement with Related Companies and Sterling Equities — which is controlled by the owner of the Mets and Citi Field — to build a 1.4 million-square-foot mall with a parking garage on one side of Citi Field and a 200-room hotel and stores on the other.

A Sterling spokesperson declined to comment, and Jennifer Friedberg, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation, did not confirm the reports but said the city expects to have an announcement in the coming weeks.

Published reports anticipate another prolonged process and said the new proposal awaits an environmental review, public hearings and a public review by the city. However, Friedberg said the city is still scheduled to complete the project in 2013.

According to the Wall Street Journal, developers have until 2025 to begin construction on the property.

Meanwhile, property owners in the 20-acre piece of land are still fighting to keep their businesses and are urging the city to repair the severely deteriorated streets before emergency response times are more hindered and further revenue is lost.

Attorneys representing the land owners are also seeking over $281,000 in legal fees and disbursements spent on the eminent domain case over three years.

Willets Point biz owners fighting for repairs, legal fees


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Willets Point

A coalition of Willets Point business owners are urging the city to repair severely deteriorated streets in their “forgotten land” before emergency response times are more hindered and further revenue is lost.

“There is no reason to deny our neighborhood essential services. We are New York City taxpayers, and we will not tolerate having to operate our businesses under ridiculous conditions that are direct results of the city’s deliberate neglect,” said Ralph Paterno, who owns Empire Commercial Corps on 37th Avenue. “It’s been neglected for 40 years on purpose. Now we’re just fighting to get basic services that any other community has.”

According to Paterno and his group, Willets Point United, the dilapidated conditions of city streets in Willets Point — a district they say employs close to 1,800 people — obstruct the productivity of more than 250 businesses that operate there and discourage customer access.

Besides the streets being pockmarked with deep craters, Paterno said there are no sewers and few sidewalks in the area. He also said there is no sanitation pick-up, forcing business owners to pay for their own carting services.

According to Janice Serrone, also a Willets Point property owner, the poor condition of the roads directly impacts emergency responders.

“Right now, if a medical or fire emergency was to occur in Willets Point, emergency response vehicles — including ambulances and fire trucks — cannot get to their destinations within Willets Point efficiently or in spots at all,” she said, adding that in 2010, an entire fire truck got stuck in a deep pothole for an extended period of time. “By deliberately denying street repairs and maintenance services in Willets Point and allowing the terrible roadway conditions there to fester, the city is going to be legally liable if and when an emergency occurs and emergency response times are extended with deadly consequences.”

Willets Point United members said they have sent out about three written complaints to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) but said they have never received a response back.

A spokesperson at the DOT said the agency repairs — and will continue repairing — potholes on an ongoing, as needed basis both in Willets Point and throughout the city. More than 500 were fixed since 2008 in the Willets Point area, the spokesperson said, including nearly 100 in the past year.

According to the spokesperson, the agency completed a targeted strip-paving project in October 2010 to resurface a two block stretch from 34th Avenue going from 126th Street to nearby 128th Street. However, given ongoing repairs to sub-surface infrastructure in the area, the DOT said full resurfacing projects cannot be scheduled.

“Financially, I’ve suffered quite a bit,” said Joseph Ardizzone, the only homeowner left standing in Willets Point. “I think it’s a disgrace. Democracy is not alive in this country at this point in time right now.”

Last week, the city rescinded its bid to acquire and develop Willets Point through eminent domain, according to opposing lawyer, Michael Rikon. Rikon, who represents property owners in Willets Point, challenged the city’s legal bid to condemn property on the 12.75 acre piece of land. He said his firm is seeking about $281,000 in legal fees and disbursements spent on the case over three years. Combined with Arnold and Porter — the other firm working against the city — he said the bill could go as high as $800,000.

Meanwhile, city representatives said they will continue to pursue a revitalization of the neighborhood, which would transform the area into a retail, hotel and entertainment center in place of the established businesses.

“We anticipate an announcement soon for the future of Willets Point,” said Jennifer Friedberg, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation. “Since breaking ground on the offsite infrastructure in the fall, we have made enormous progress and are scheduled to complete the project in 2013.”

- Additional reporting by Liam La Guerre

Eminent Domain dead, but Willets Point will still proceed


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

New York City rescinded its bid to acquire and develop Willets Point through Eminent Domain and may not be able to obtain it for a while, according to an opposing lawyer.
“They cannot condemn this property,” said Michael Rikon, the lawyer who represented Willets Point property owners against the city. “That would require starting from square one.”

Last week, lawyers for the city called Rikon to inform him of their withdrawal of the bid to acquire the neighborhood nearby Citi Field using Eminent Domain. Rikon was shocked but saw the move coming.

“My reaction was surprised, but I understood because there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to win,” Rikon said. “The city saw that as well.”

However, city representatives said they will continue to pursue a revitalization of the neighborhood.

“We’re very close to having a deal in place that will transform Willets Point into New York City’s next great neighborhood and continue the historic progress we’ve already made there,” said Julie Wood, a representative from the mayor’s office. “Last week’s action ensures that our plan will comply with the site’s myriad technical and legal requirements.”

Before Rikon learned of the city’s decision, he was getting ready to argue that the city didn’t treat the business owners fairly at the public hearings.

“They targeted 150 Hispanic businesses with over 650 employees and they didn’t hire a translator,” he said. “That was so disrespectful.”

Rikon added that the property owners were not properly informed of public hearings. He said they should have been told about them personally within 10 days.
He also denied that the city could have actually transformed the entire 60-acre land for public use because he said there would be too much work for the city to do on a $3 billion.

Rikon admitted that the city could still buyout tenants and property owners.

According to the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the plan to improve Willets Point included a full makeover “with retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel and convention center, mixed-income housing and public open spaces.”

Ramps approved, repairs wait at Willets Point


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

willets point6w

As the redevelopment of Willets Point moves ahead, city officials are “ramped” up, thanks to approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) of the proposed ramps that would connect the Van Wyck Expressway to Willets Point.

However, area businesses fighting the city’s use of Eminent Domain to revamp Willets Point say that the ramps are not what is needed — pothole repairs are necessary.

Proprietors are dissatisfied over the recent decision, expected to greatly increase area traffic instead of decreasing the number of potholes lining the neighborhood’s major roadways.

According to several published reports, the area, referred to as the Iron Triangle, has been without repairs because it is slated for redevelopment. As part of a multi-phase process, the New York City Economic Development Corp. (NYCEDC) hopes to install retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel and convention center, mixed-income housing and public open space in the upcoming years.

According to the EDC, the purpose of these new ramps, approved by the FHA on March 22, would be to “provide direct access to the Willets Point Development District and to facilitate traffic circulation in the area once it is redeveloped.”

Willets Point United, a group of local property and business owners, has remained staunchly against this neighborhood makeover.

Larry Santana, manager of a plant that creates asphalt, has run his business in Willets Point for over 30 years. Santana’s company, Willets Point Asphalt, belongs to a collective of local businesses called Willets Point Industry and Realty Association.

He feels that the city needs to do something to repair the potholes.

“There are some pothole areas right in front of my yard that look like speed bumps but they’re not,” said Santana. “Whenever there are potholes and vehicles going over it, it’s not a good thing.”

According to a representative from the DOT, the agency repaired more than 500 potholes since 2008 in the Willets Point area, including nearly 100 in the past year. The DOT also completed a targeted strip-paving project in October 2010 to resurface a two-block stretch from 34th Avenue going from 126th Street to nearby 128th Street.

The DOT representative alleged that they are currently unable to schedule resurfacing in this area because of ongoing sewer work. They will not make paving adjustments until after all other roadway changes have been made.

– Additional reporting by Steve Mosco

 

Foreclosed Willets Point property will go up for sale


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The mortgage to a 3.5-acre piece of land in Flushing, in the midst of a foreclosure lawsuit, is expected to be sold within two weeks, officials said.

According to David Schechtman, executive managing director for Eastern Consolidated — who represents the lender and is supervising the sale of the defaulted mortgage — owners of the site, located on Janet and Roosevelt Avenues, did not pay the $37 million loan last December, so the bank sued for a foreclosure.

Schechtman said the bidding process for the land concluded last Friday, March 16, and he said offers are currently being reviewed.

“We’re pleased with the results. The market has demonstrated once again that the demand for both real estate and mortgages secured by real estate in Queens and Brooklyn remains incredibly strong,” he said.

Schechtman could not comment on the proposals in consideration.

However, Dian Yu, executive director of the Flushing Business Improvement District, said he hopes the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) will purchase the mortgage as part of the ongoing Willets Point Redevelopment project.

Plans to turn Willets Point into “New York’s next great neighborhood” — with retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel and convention center, mixed-income housing, public open space and community use — was announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007.

Since then, the city has been able to acquire nearly 90 percent of the land, officials said.

“I think that would be great. Many people would agree that junkyards in Willets Point are an eyesore for the community. We want this place to develop and attract more business and more tourists to visit Downtown Flushing,” Yu said. “It’s really going to connect Downtown Flushing and Willets Point.”

Abs Flushing Development, the former property owner who bought the land in 2006, did not return calls for comment as of press time.

‘Offensive’ billboard taken down


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Senator Toby Ann Stavisky

A shot at advertising for one vodka company didn’t go down as smoothly as planned.

A Willets Point billboard — declared offensive by local leaders — read “Escort Quality, Hooker Pricing.” The provocative message, officials feared, could potentially reverse efforts and resources put into developing the area into a residential, retail center for families.

The sign hung above 127th Place and Northern Boulevard, overlooking Citi Field, before local leaders said they pushed to have manufacturers take it down.

“The offensive nature of this ad in such close proximity to a family destination like Citi Field was highly inappropriate,” said Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz, who worked alongside Senator Toby Ann Stavisky to have the billboard removed. “Keeping such content out of the view of young children should be a priority.”

Stavisky and Simanowitz said they wrote to James Dale, CEO of Panache Beverages — which manufacturers the promoted Wodka Vodka brand — to urge the company to consider removing their ad.

Soon after, they said the company complied, and the sign came down on Monday, March 12.

“I’m glad the vodka company agreed to remove the billboard. We took particular exception with placing such a distasteful and disturbing advertisement in a neighborhood we have worked so hard to rehabilitate,” Stavisky said.

However, according to a marketing executive for Wodka Vodka, the company took down the slogan simply and only because “the campaign ran its course.”

“Contrary to apparent memos that have been circulating in the community, we did not take the billboard down because of supposed community uproar, letters or other pressures,” said Brian Gordon, CEO of Engine Shop, the marketing agency that handles Wodka Vodka. “We’ve always stood by the campaign.”

Gordon cited data that shows “at least 80 to 90 percent of people actually look at the billboard favorably.”

“There are much more serious issues going on. Community leaders should focus on jobs, the economy, crime and so on, rather than a billboard that was obviously created to be humorous,” he said.

But Stavisky said the issue is not “a silly distraction.” The sobering truth, she said, is that it “sends a message that denigrating women is acceptable, or worse, fashionable.”

Gordon said the company plans to put up new billboards next week. While he said he did not yet know the location, “there will be at least one site in Queens,” he said.

This is not the first time Panache Beverages has been slammed for its unfavorable marketing campaigns. Last November, a Manhattan-placed advertisement read “Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing,” which incensed the Anti-Defamation League and was ordered to be taken down.

Could Queens get two convention centers?


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Possession is nine-tenths of the law — a lesson Governor Andrew Cuomo has apparently learned the hard way.

According to published reports, when the governor proposed a plan for the largest convention center in the country next to Resorts World in South Ozone Park, he was under the impression the land belonged to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The property, however, is reportedly owned by New York City and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who may be hesitant to sell due to his plans for a convention center of his own in Willets Point.

The Willets Point convention center is part of a redevelopment of the entire area, which will include retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel, mixed-income housing, public open space and community uses.

The $4 billion project in South Ozone Park, dubbed the New York International Convention and Exhibition Center (NICE), would be financed by Resorts World and encompass 3.8 million-square-feet, including 3,000 hotel rooms.

Repeated attempts to contact Cuomo’s office went unreturned. The mayor’s office declined to comment pending further information.

Bettina Damiani, the project director of Good Jobs New York, a watchdog on the city’s economic development subsidy program, is disappointed the city and state have been unable to collaborate to promote the most productive project.

“Why is the Cuomo administration pushing for a convention center at Aqueduct when the Bloomberg administration has already put so much effort into one at Willets Point?” Damiani asked. “One hand not talking to the other is disappointing.”

Despite the recent rush to construct convention centers, Damiani believes the facilities may not be the best venture for New York.

“History shows convention centers are not a good investment,” she said. “A report by the Brookings Institution showed that attendance to convention centers has been declining across the country since the late 1990s.”

Other Queens leaders believe the borough could benefit from both facilities, with neither diminishing the other.

“The governor’s proposal is exciting, but I don’t think it prevents the one in Willets Point,” said Claire Shulman, president and CEO of the Flushing, Willets Point, Corona Local Development Corporation, which is advocating for the Willets Point project. “The one in Willets Point is a bit more modest of a convention center, which would deal with LaGuardia Airport business. Queens can use both.”

Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, echoed Shulman in promoting the distinct benefits each center would offer.

“The Ozone Park convention center is great for the borough,” Friedman said. “It is transformative, and in many ways, will help establish the borough as a tourist destination. It is a huge opportunity to rebuild south Queens area, specifically downtown Jamaica and the Rockaways. For years, Queens has suffered from tourists coming into our airports, taking cabs into Manhattan and not spending any money in the borough, and I think this will change that. The one in Willets Point is a completely different type of convention center. It is for smaller trade shows and exhibitions. The thoughts of convention centers in South Ozone Park and Willets Point are not mutually exclusive – they can support each other.”

Ground broken at Willets Point


| brennison@queenscourier.com

WilletsPt-20w

After years of planning, protests and public hearings, ground was broken at Willets Point — marking the first physical step in the area’s redevelopment.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was joined at the Thursday, December 1 ground breaking by New York City Economic Development President Seth W. Pinsky, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Councilmembers Julissa Ferreras and Karen Koslowitz, Borough President Helen Marshall and State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

“The development of Willets Point and the benefits that it will provide for the entire city cannot become realities without a multimillion dollar investment in infrastructure improvements that have been needed for many years,” said Marshall.  “Expanding the city’s sewer network and increasing storm water drainage in the area will address longstanding issues and put new development on a firm foundation for the future.”

The infrastructure work is estimated to cost $50 million and will include construction of a sanitary sewer main and reconstruction of a storm sewer and outfall. This phase should be completed in 2013.  The construction will mostly occur between October and March, so as not to interfere during the baseball season with Citi Field which sits next door to Willets Point.

Bloomberg called Willets Point “New York City’s next great neighborhood.”

A plan for the redevelopment of Willets Point was announced by Bloomberg in 2007.  Since that time, the city has been able to acquire nearly 90 percent of the land.  Nine private property owners remain in the projects Phase 1 area, according to the city.

The plan for Phase 1 includes up to 680,000 square feet of retail, up to 400 units of housing — 35 percent of which will be affordable — a hotel, two acres of open space and parking.

Fiancee of Sean Bell urges NYPD Chief Ray Kelly to fire officers in beau’s shooting death


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Fiancee of Sean Bell urges NYPD Chief Ray Kelly to fire officers in beau’s shooting death

Sean Bell’s fiancée Thursday urged the city’s top cop to sack all five officers who fired in the shooting frenzy that killed her beau on their wedding day in 2006. Nicole Paultre-Bell made the demand of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly after an NYPD trials commissioner recommended Tuesday that one of the cops, Detective Gescard Isnora, be booted from the force for violating department protocol while undercover and firing the first shot in the 50-shot barrage. Read More: Daily News

Mayor Michael Bloomberg breaks ground on Willets Point redevelopment 

Mayor Bloomberg broke ground Thursday on a controversial redevelopment that he vowed will transform gritty Willets Point into “a major engine for economic growth.” Bloomberg unearthed dirt with a slew of elected officials just steps from the mix of auto body shops and junkyards that abuts Citi Field. Read More: Daily News

Enter The Courier’s Giveaway of the Day Contest

The holidays are in full swing and in keeping with the spirit of the season of giving The Queens Courier is handing out free prizes daily. Today, four tickets to the North Shore Towers Cinema will be raffled off.  All you need to enter is an email address and your zip code. Click here to enter the contest. Check back daily as new prizes will be offered each day.  Yesterday, Robert Vasquez took home two tickets to the St. John’s Red Storm. Via Queens Courier

21 charged in scheme to defraud NY car dealerships

Members of a New York City auto crime ring busted this week bribed people into applying for expensive automobile loans for Cadillacs, Porsches and other luxury cars, then defaulted on millions of dollars and sold the cars on the black market. One of the 50 cars wrongly procured, a Porsche, was used to dump the body of one of two victims shot in 2009 inside the Long Island condo belonging to pro football player Jonathan Vilma, authorities said. Read More: Wall Street Journal

Disgraced former New York Controller Alan Hevesi will keep rotting in prison as parole board turns him down

 

Disgraced former state Controller Alan Hevesi was denied his first attempt at parole Thursday and will spend at least another year behind bars, the Daily News has learned. The once powerful Queens Democrat is serving a one-to-four year sentence at medium-security Mid-Hudson Correctional Facility in Oneida County for his role in a massive pay-to-play pension fund scandal during his tenure as state controller. Read More: Daily News

Alexander’s Secures $275M Refinancing of Rego Park II in Queens

 

Alexander’s, Inc. has completed a $275 million refinancing of its 610,000 square foot Rego Park II shopping center located in Queens. The seven-year loan bears interest at LIBOR plus 1.85 percent and amortizes based on a 30-year schedule. The proceeds of the new loan were used to repay the existing loan on the property. Alexander’s, Inc. is a real estate investment trust that has seven properties in the greater New York City metropolitan area. Read More: CityBizList

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Another step closer to the new Willets Point’


| smosco@queenscourier.com

The chop shop wasteland that is Willets Point continues to inch toward a rebirth.

According to published reports, major developers and the owners of the New York Mets are among the firms that submitted Requests for Proposal (RFP) for the right to develop the site adjacent to Citi Field in Flushing.

Sterling Equities, which is controlled by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, teamed up with The Related Companies and submitted a proposal to develop phase one of the project, which covers 12.75 acres. Other bidders include Flushing-based TDC Development and Silverstein Properties – the latter of which is building three towers at the World Trade Center site.

Though the firms would not comment on the proposals, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) said that it has received numerous proposals and that each one will get a fair review and equal consideration.

“After receiving numerous responses for the first phase of development, we are another step closer to the new Willets Point,” said EDC spokesperson Jennifer Friedberg. “This project will create thousands of jobs and allow an environmentally contaminated area to become a model center for economic growth for Queens and New York City. We are eager to continue examining the proposals and to create the blueprint for the future of Willets Point.”

The effort to redevelop Willets Point – dubbed “The Iron Triangle” – has been a long and arduous process and requires several steps before a shovel can be put in the ground. The site requires environmental remediation, infrastructure upgrades and land acquisition leading up to the project, which the city has split into three phases, covering 61.4 acres and approximately nine million square feet of development.

While the city controls a majority of the land, the remainder might have to be scooped up by Eminent Domain. The first phase, which includes housing and retail, is projected to be completed by 2016 and the entire Willets Point project is scheduled to be finished by 2022.