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City Withdraws Support from Willets Point Redevelopment Plan

By Katie Honan | August 20, 2015 2:48pm
 The city declined to fight a judge's ruling that blocked construction on the project. 
The city declined to fight a judge's ruling that blocked construction on the project. 
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

WILLETS POINT — The city won't join developers in a fight to appeal a judge's order that blocked a proposed mega-mall on a Citi Field parking lot, citing an issue with the timeline for its housing plan. 

A judge from the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs who argued against the plan in July, agreeing with the group that it violated a state law that protected public parkland. 

The city did not appeal that ruling on Wednesday, which was the deadline, although developers Queens Development Group did.

Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said in a statement that the city hoped for a quicker timeframe on housing, especially affordable units. 

"We really want to see significant improvements that would mean that the public would also see a healthy mix of affordable and market rate housing, delivered on a real timeframe," she said. "We know a lot has gone into this project, and we hope that this team will continue to work towards that goal with us."

The plan, which was first approved in October 2013, will turn the former "Iron Triangle" into a retail and residential destination after heavy remediation measures to clean it up. 

Those against the plan first sued in February 2014, then appealed the ruling that cleared the way for the plan in August 2014. A judge sided with them in a decision in July. 

City officials have evicted 60 businesses from Willets Point and already spent $400 million on the project.

A spokesman for the Queens Development Group, the developing organization of Sterling Equities and Related Companies, said they're still committed to the project and would appeal to be able to move forward with it.

"The QDG plan, which was overwhelmingly approved by the City Council, provides an additional $3 billion private investment which will finally clean up the long-contaminated land at Willets and provide the [housing, retail and entertainment] facilities and infrastructure for a brand new neighborhood," the spokesman, Phil Singer, wrote in a statement.

"We support the administration’s efforts on affordable housing and are committed to significantly accelerating the housing portion of this plan.  But those efforts need to be backed by a financially viable model."

The judge's decision provided the only opportunity for the de Blasio administration to alter the project, according to a city official.