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Queens Chronicle

Northern Queens: Mayor unveils plan for Willets Pt. and USTA

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Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2012 1:16 pm | Updated: 2:28 am, Thu Oct 11, 2012.

At a breakfast meeting of the Queens Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, the mayor confirmed the latest plan for Willets Point and announced a $500 million proposal by the U.S. Tennis Association to update its facilities in Flushing Meadows Park.

Although plans for Willets Point, also known as the Iron Triangle, were leaked last month, Bloomberg outlined a timeline at the Laguardia Marriott Hotel in East Elmhurst that will see development on 126th Street and eventually the Citi Field parking lot.

“At Willets Point, where others have seen challenges, we have always seen enormous opportunities,” Bloomberg said. “I expect the project to be built.”

He indicated the Related Companies and Sterling Equities, the real estate firm controlled by the owners of the Mets, will develop the 23 acres of Phase 1. The project, he said, will “activate significant acreage” on both sides of Citi Field to create “a true center of economic growth for Queens.”

Plans call for transforming 126th Street, now home to auto repair shops and located across the street from Citi Field, into an area with a 200-room hotel and 30,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants, plus an interim 20-acre surface parking area that can be converted to recreational space when the Mets are not playing at home.

Following completion, the developers will erect Willets West on existing Citi Field parking space and and turn it into a retail and entertainment center with 200 stores, movie theaters, restaurants, a parking structure and surface parking for 2,500 cars.

That will be followed by building new Van Wyck Expressway access ramps and 2,500 housing units, more retail space, offices and another hotel in Willets Point. The starting date for the residential area is 2025.

But first, the city is required to conduct a new environmental review, hold public hearings and needs approval from the City Council. Then the city will pay $100 million for demolition, remediation and other improvements.

Bloomberg said the city now has agreements with 95 percent of Willets Point land owners to complete Phase 1. Later work calls for erecting a small convention center, up to 5,500 housing units and a park. No mention was made of a public school from the original plans.

The mayor also announced the USTA project that will include demolishing the 1964 Louis Armstrong Stadium and replacing it with a larger facility, adding a new grandstand stadium and moving around some tennis courts.

It will also require land-use review and work is not expected to begin until fall 2013. The project will allow 10,000 more people to attend the U.S. Open each day of the two-week run.

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