The upscale development of Willets Point is one step closer to fruition.
The Queens delegation of the City Council voted Monday in favor of the sale of 23 acres of land across the street from Citi Field in Willets Point, where a tremendous overhaul of the area has been planned. The only opposing vote in the Borough Board tally came from Community Board 7 Chairman Gene Kelty.
The land will be sold by the city, which has already purchased nearly all the property in the area, to the Queens Development Group for $1, and the demolition and remediation of the site will commence in 2014.
If everything goes as planned, retail and office space and a 200-room hotel are planned for Phase 1 work.
Economic Development Corp. representative Sara Tranter briefed the board on what the first phase of the project will look like. In addition to the demolition and remediation of the area, a temporary parking lot containing 2,750 spaces for those visiting Citi Field will be constructed, as the ballpark’s lot will become a mall and parking garage in the future.
Tranter also heralded the project’s ability to create 12,000 construction jobs during the renovation of the area and 7,100 permanent jobs once all the different buildings have opened for business.
The seven Council members voted in favor of the land sale, with Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) all basing their vote on the work of Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst) in getting the project off the ground.
Ferreras, while joking that the project probably won’t be finished until her newborn child is 15, believes that it will alleviate two major issues facing her constituents.
“The two issues that come before my office are affordable housing and jobs, and this project will mitigate that,” Ferreras said. “We’ve come to a place where we’re comfortable and I’m comfortable as the local councilwoman. I am very humbled and honored as a resident of Corona to give this vote here today.”
“I’ve watched Julissa work very hard on this project,” Koslowitz said. “Economically, it’s great for Queens. Queens is usually the forgotten borough and this will absolutely put us on the map.”
“Julissa Ferreras is an amazing woman and a terrific councilwoman,” Van Bramer added. “Because I believe in her and I know how much this project means to her and the future of Queens, I’m proud to join her.”
The housing component is proposed for a later phase of work, which is one of the major reasons driving grassroots opposition to the project.
It wasn’t all smiles in the Borough Hall conference room, as Kelty vehemently expressed his skepticism and opposition to the plan prior to the vote.
“Board 7 has no intention of voting for this agreement,” Kelty said. “We feel that we have not been dealt with fairly by the EDC.”
After Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) gave the second yes vote, Kelty stormed out of the room. In Comrie’s explanation for his vote, he urged everyone involved to take CB 7’s concerns to heart.