Mayor Unveils Massive Willets Point Redevelopment Plan

By Smriti Rao on June 14, 2012 1:41pm 

A 1 million-square-foot mall, 200 shops and 2,500 parking spaces all coming to Willets Point, Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed on June 14, 2012
A 1 million-square-foot mall, 200 shops and 2,500 parking spaces all coming to Willets Point, Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed on June 14, 2012
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QUEENS — Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday the extensive final plan to overhaul industrial Willets Point — complete with a massive mall, movie theaters, housing and a 200-room hotel that will cost $3 billion in the project's first phase alone.

The latest incarnation of the controversial project, which aims to remake the area near Citi Field that was nicknamed the Iron Triangle for its glut of body shops, is bigger than earlier anticipated and expected to create almost 3,000 jobs in the area, Bloomberg said.

According to city officials, the plan now includes 2,500 housing units, 875 of which will be affordable, 900,000 square feet of retail space, 500,000 square feet of office space, an additional 280 hotel rooms and more than five acres of public space.

The project will require $3 billion in private investment and $100 million from the city to clean up the contaminated site. It's not clear how much of the private funding has been secured.

Redevelopment of the 62-acre site has run into fierce opposition from activists and local businesses that will be relocated under the rule of eminent domain, according to published reports

The project, handled by Queens Development Group (a joint venture between Mets owners Sterling Equities and Related Companies) hopes to complete work on the site in the next 10 to 15 years, according to the group.

"At Willets Point, where others have seen challenges, we have always seen enormous opportunities," Bloomberg said.

Saying the neighborhood was well on its way to becoming a "historic development site," the mayor said he was confident the project would create jobs in the local economy, drive business and increase tax revenues in the area.

Bloomberg also said that the city had made progress convincing reluctant local residents and businesses to relocate, ensuring that almost 95 percent of the land required for the project had already been or is in the process of being acquired.

More than a dozen local property owners sued the city to stop their eviction but a judge tossed out the claim in 2009, according to the Daily News.

The last resident of the area, Joseph Ardizzone, has lived on the same block for 78 years and has fiercely resisted moving, according to the New York Times.

The initial phase of the project, which was first approved by the City Council in 2008, is expected to get underway in the next few months and will include the acquisition of 23 acres in the special Willets Point District east of Citi Field.

This highly contaminated stretch of land will then be cleaned up so that retail and residential spaces can be built in the area, according to the Queens Development Group.

The next step is the development of 126th Street corridor, which is expected to house a 200-room hotel and 30,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

This step also includes a 20-acre surface parking area that can be used for sports like baseball and basketball in the off-season. It's not clear if the area would be concrete or grass.

On the west side of Citi Field, officials hope to build "retail and entertainment spaces," drawing in shoppers with a 1 million-square-foot mall that has over 200 shops, which is the new component of the plan.

That will be followed by the housing construction.

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