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New Willets Point Developers Looking for $43M in Tax Breaks

By Katie Honan | December 6, 2013 9:22am
 Willets Point, from above.
Willets Point, from above.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

WILLETS POINT — The developers planning to overhaul the Iron Triangle have asked the city for millions in tax breaks, saying the money they'll bring into the city will make up for it — but local shops say the big businesses shouldn't get any more help.

A hearing was held Dec. 5 to determine if the Queens Development Group, a joint partnership between Sterling Equities and Related Companies, should receive tax breaks of up to $43 million over the next 25 years for various portions of the site, according to documents filed with the Economic Development Corporation's Industrial Development Agency.

The developers say they'll bring more than $200 million in revenue to the city even with the tax breaks on a planned parking facility, upcoming retail facilities and a hotel. And the breaks are part of the original deal, which was struck in October.

"These provisions are a small part of the overall $3 billion private investment QDG is making in Willets Point which will reverse decades of contamination and create thousands of new jobs, affordable housing, retail and open space," said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Queens Development Group.

Some local groups, though, disagree with the developers' calculations — and think they've already gotten enough breaks.

"The City has never publicly offered any comprehensive accounting of the actual costs to City taxpayers of implementing the Willets Point / Willets West mall development," activists wrote on the blog Willets Point United on Wednesday.

They argue that the tax breaks are "corporate welfare" and that the "alleged benefits" of the development project "do not offset that cost."

State Sen. Tony Avella, an outspoken opponent of the development plan, submitted testimony to the hearing saying he didn't believe the Queens Development Group's figures, either. He requested a more thorugh analysis of the tax breaks.

"I believe it is inappropriate for the Industrial Development Agency to grant any of the requested funds until a complete analysis including the information described above is included and made available to the public for review," he wrote.

The Queens Development Group plans to turn the heavily-polluted, 23-acre site from a stretch of auto-body repair shops into a massive retail and residential destination.

The deal was approved by the city council on Oct. 9, with additional housing promised by the developers and a promise to provide $17 million to the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park Alliance, which was formed this summer under the deal to expand the USTA, according to Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras.

An additional $15.5 million will be provided by the city to pay for the relocation, moving expenses and support for the tenants from Willets Point.

Business owners — many who have worked in the Iron Triangle for decades — protested the plan, and requested group relocation and more compensation.

A group of shop owners are now eyeing space in Hunts Point to relocate close to 60 shops, but the deal hasn't been finalized.

The Industrial Development Agency board, which includes Kyle Kimball, president of the EDC, other city officials and representatives from local community boards, will vote on the tax breaks at a public meeting on Dec. 10.