The Jan. 31 Chronicle report concerning a presentation by Sterling Equities, Inc. and Related Companies — firms designated by Mayor Bloomberg as developers of Willets Point and Willets West — to the Queens Housing Coalition (“Plan for Willets Point housing is last step”) gives a false impression that business owner Marco Neira and I were among the attendees who “made passionate speeches about the need for affordable housing instead of a mall.” We made no such speeches.
Rather, Mr. Neira asked: What will happen to the hundreds of skilled mechanical workers who are employed by Willets Point businesses and will be displaced by the Sterling/Related plan, and what will happen to their dependents? What about the group relocation of businesses? Sterling/Related had nothing to say about any of that.
As for me — a healthy, 80-year-old resident of Willets Point who was also born there — I stated that I am proof that even an entire lifetime at Willets Point is not the slightest bit hazardous, contrary to the developers’ totally bogus claims about the area. Furthermore, I emphasized that the substantial, growing opposition to Sterling/Related’s proposed development, which would sacrifice 30-plus acres of public parkland, now includes the Queens Civic Congress, which represents more than 100 civic associations throughout the borough.
I respect the goals of the Queens Housing Coalition. However, it should be noted that Sterling/Related are the same developers who, when they responded to the city’s 2011 Willets Point Request for Proposals, submitted a plan that called for no housing whatsoever, that deliberately minimized the remediation of property to the greatest extent possible, and instead sought to construct a 450,000-square-foot casino using parkland beyond the bounds of Willets Point. For Sterling/Related now to pass themselves off as champions of affordable housing at Willets Point is simply incredible.
And even if Sterling/Related wanted to build housing sooner than 2025, they can’t, because any housing requires new Van Wyck access ramps as a prerequisite. The membership of Willets Point United Inc. and I are well aware that there is a six-year statute of limitations to file a lawsuit to challenge and prevent those ramps. We are confident that when the communities surrounding Willets Point comprehend the extraordinary traffic and other severe quality-of-life reductions that the proposed project will cause, the opposition — an end-of-term legacy project of the outgoing mayor — will continue to increase.