Council Approved Willets Point Development Project Modification

Willets Point 126th North Full Development-SM

Long View Rendering of 126th Street and Citi Field. Image Credit: NYC EDC.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras praised for her successful efforts in the negotiations for a balanced transformation of the Valley of the Ashes. On October 9, 2013, the Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted unanimously to approve the Willets Point Development Project application. The application was a modification of the original 2008 Willets Point application. (See CityLand’s past coverage here).  Before the Subcommittee vote, Council Member Julissa Ferreras gave a statement highlighting all of the items that were finalized after extensive negotiations with the City and developers.

Council Member Ferreras began by thanking everyone involved in this lengthy process, and stated that “this deal is a win for her constituents, a win for Willets Point, and a win for New York City.” Willets Point, known as the “Iron Triangle” or the “Valley of Ashes,” has gone “for years without many of the resources that the rest of the City has received, such as sanitation, paved roads, sewage, and flood drainage.” As a result of negotiations from this application, in addition to the 35% of housing dedicated to be affordable, the City has now “agreed to release a request for proposals for two lots of land” in and around her district to construct additional affordable housing. This will bring the total affordable housing number to just over 1,000 units. Council Member Ferreras noted that this is the largest dedication of affordable housing that  Queens City Council District 21 has seen.

Council Member Ferreras also noted that this project would create 19,000 jobs in New York City, create a new public school with over 1,000 seats, a new library, and a day care center. She announced the applicant’s new traffic plan, which includes improvements in safety and mitigation, as well as the creation of new highway ramps in the Van Wyck Expressway. In order to ensure that the promises of ramps and, ultimately, affordable housing get fulfilled, the City will be allocating $66 million of the City’s budget for the design, construction, and build out of the new ramps. The developers will contribute an additional $7.37 million for traffic improvements and mitigation. The City will pay $15.5 million for the relocation, moving, and support of Willets Point businesses, including those that want to move together. In order to address concerns about the alienation of parkland, the developers will be contributing $17 million towards the maintenance and upkeep of Flushing Meadow Park, as well as an additional sum to build a green farm on the roof of the retail and entertainment center.

Following the Subcommittee vote, the Land Use Committee voted 16-1 to approve the application with a companion resolution. Council Member Charles Barron was the sole vote against the application. While congratulating the efforts of Council Member Ferreras, Council Member Barron stated that he wanted to vote with consistency. He stated that he is opposed to using the threat of eminent domain to drive negotiations. He also stated that 35% affordable housing is not enough, and that 65% of housing should be affordable and 35% should be market rate.

The full City Council voted to approve this application 42-3 on October 9, 2013. Council Members Barron, Daniel Dromm, and Daniel J. Halloran III voted in the negative. Council Member Halloran voiced objections to the “threat of eminent domain” that has hung over the Willets Point businesses since 2008. He stated, “Anytime the government wants to redistribute wealth by taking it away from one person and giving it back to a business as opposed to the City, we have thwarted the very meaning of eminent domain.” He stated that the ULURP process for this application should have started anew because the applications were substantially different from the applications approved in 2008. Council Member Halloran also noted that the ramps and mall were unnecessary, specifically stating that he does not know why a new mall is needed since Sky View Mall is 1,500 yards away with underutilized retail and parking spaces.

City Council: Willets Point Development Project (N 130220 ZRQ – text amendment); (C 130222 ZSQ – special permit); (C 130223 ZSQ – special permit); (C 130224 ZSQ – special permit); (C 130225 ZSQ – special permit) (October 9, 2013).


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