Council Approves Controversial Willets Point Plan

City agreed to increase affordable housing, but may still use eminent domain. On November 13, 2008, the City Council approved the City’s Willets Point Redevelopment Plan. The contentious plan, impacting a 62- acre area, designates Willets Point as an Urban Renewal Area, creates the Special Willets Point District, and lays out plans to develop a mix of uses, including 5,500 residential units, commercial space, a school, hotel and convention center, and publicly accessible open space. 5 CityLand 154 (Nov. 15, 2008).

At the Council’s October 17th hearing before its Planning, Dispositions & Concessions Subcommittee, Council Member John C. Liu questioned Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Leiber about the City’s plans to use eminent domain. Leiber responded that the City remained committed to negotiating with the remaining landowners, but would resort to eminent domain if necessary. Council Member Hiram Monserrate, whose district includes Willets Point, also raised concerns about the City’s plan to designate only 20 percent of the proposed 5,500 residential units as affordable housing. The vote was laid over until November 13th.

On November 12th, after negotiations between Monserrate, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, and the Mayor’s Office, it was agreed that 35 percent of the 5,500 residential units would be designated as affordable housing. The following day the City announced that it had agreed to purchase the properties of the three largest Willets Point landowners in exchange for allowing each to temporarily remain in the area.

The Subcommittee approved the plan when it reconvened on November 13th, and the Land Use Committee followed suit, with only Council Members Tony Avella and Charles Barron voting no. Both Council Members objected to the City’s continued invocation of eminent domain in redevelopment projects. The full Council approved the plan, with Avella and Barron as the only no votes.

Review Process
Lead Agency:Dep.Mayor’s Office,Eco.Dev.,
Comm.Bd.: QN 7,App’d, 21-15-2
Boro.Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 11-1-0
Council: App’d, 42-2-8

Council: Willets Point Development Plan (Nov. 13, 2008).

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