MAP: Here's How Far Willets Point Redevelopment Projects Have Progressed
CORONA — A gleaming new neighborhood is set to rise from the blighted and toxic Willets Point and surrounding areas after years of controversy.
After a lawsuit seeking to stop the construction of a massive mall in a parking lot next to Citi Field was tossed out last week, a large-scale project to completely overhaul the area is moving forward.
Thousands of units of housing, hotels, a mega-mall, a convention center, a school and some new parkland are among the developments planned for Willets Point, Flushing and Corona — anchored by the $3 billion project centered around the revitalization of the former Iron Triangle, which for decades was host to dozens of auto body shops sitting atop polluted ground.
Officials are also looking to rehab some 60 acres around the Flushing River, which are considered polluted brownfields.
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The development is not without controversy, however. An investigation in 2012 by the Attorney General’s office found the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (LDC), along with the Economic Development Corporation, illegally lobbied City Council members in 2008 to approve the Willets Point redevelopment plan.
Here are some of the construction projects around the area, with their progress:
► Corona Convention Center
Developers bought DiBlasi Motors, at 112th Place and Northern Boulevard, in January for $17 million and permits for demolition and construction were filed in April and May, according to city records.
The plan is to build a 25-story hotel and apartment complex atop a more-than 105,000-square-foot convention center, the Daily News reported in January. There will also be retail space and parking.
Workers were still at the car dealership on Aug. 22 but an employee said they should be out by next week.
It was not clear when construction would begin. An email to the site's developers, Fleet Financial Group, was not immediately returned.
► Flushing Commons
Construction broke ground in May on the first phase of the approximately $850 million development of Flushing Commons, in an area bounded by Union and 138th streets and 37th and 39th avenues.
The project will include approximately 600 rental units, a 62,000-square-foot YMCA, about 500,000 square feet of commercial space that will include restaurants and office space and a 1.5-acre park with a fountain plaza, according to the EDC.
It is replacing a former city-owned municipal lot.
► Willets West
This project, part of the bigger renovation of the area around Citi Field, will bring a large shopping mall to a parking lot near the ballpark.
A group made up of state Sen. Tony Avella, local civic groups, residents and business owners filed a lawsuit to block the plan, arguing that non-park projects were prohibited from being built on top of parkland without approval of the state Legislature.
It's not clear when this portion of the project will begin.
► Willets Point
Approximately 100 businesses, primarily auto shops, have moved from Willets Point as of August, and two-thirds have received a relocation payment, according to the EDC.
The city has given these businesses about $2 million, and is working with approximately 30 tenants who remain on payments and relocations, the EDC said.
Once the businesses are gone, the city can begin to remediate the toxic land, which will then be developed in phases.
The first phase will include retail and public space, and other phases will include 5,500 units of housing and a new school.
The plan was approved by the city council in October. But construction of housing will begin sooner than the original plan called for after Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras secured $66 million in the budget to build new ramps for the Van Wyck Expressway, which was necessary to accommodate the new units.
A group of businesses formerly at Willets Point signed a lease in March to move to a Hunts Point warehouse, but as of Aug. 22 there were still auto-body businesses in the blighted area.
► Janet Place
This large, vacant lot on a small street across Flushing Creek from Citi Field was sold for more than $33 million last year, according to city records.
The man who brokered the deal, Richard Shechtman, told The Real Deal last December that the owner planned a “mixed-use complex” with both retail and residential.
That owner, identified by DS Group 1 LLC, could not be reached for comment.
► Flushing Brownfield Opportunity Area Project
The development of the 60 acres along the Flushing River is still in the planning stages, according to Alexandra Rosa, a project consultant for the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation.
“Things are progressing well,” she said.
They are beginning to work with the Department of City Planning, which will begin to take over the environmental assessment for the plan, she said.
The group received a $1.5 million grant in 2011 from the Department of the State to identify ways to revitalize the area designated as a brownfield. By the grant deadline of 2015, they hope to have a proposal to rezone the land to begin development.