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Queens Chronicle

City makes new Willets Point deal

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Posted: Monday, February 5, 2018 2:30 pm

The de Blasio administration on Tuesday officially announced its new agreement with the Queens Development Group for the Willets Point urban renewal plan.

Covering six acres of land, the deal includes a 450-seat elementary school, retail, open space and 1,100 apartments for moderate-and low-income tenants. There will be no mall.

According to City Hall, the six acres will have three completely affordable buildings. One of them will have 220 units for families with lower incomes than planned under the original redevelopment proposal, along with low-income seniors.

For the other 17 acres of Phase 1 land, the de Blasio administration said, a "task force" will come together to come up with a recommendations and "identify community priorities" for its development. City Councilman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst), the de Blasio administration and Borough President Melinda Katz will be members of the group.

"As the sponsor of the 2008 Urban Renewal Plan, I am encouraged that we are moving forward in putting a shovel in the ground, and that housing and a school are the first priorities," Katz said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to working closely with the community to help steer the future of this highly coveted area to meet the needs of Queens’ growing families."

The environmental remediation of the 23 acres, which will be completed by the developers, is expected to finish by the end of 2020, the Mayor's Office said. And by 2022, 500 of the project's housing units are expected to be finished.

Notably, the city will lease the six-acre site to the QDG. Under the 2013 plan, all of the 23 acres would have been sold to the developers for $1.

Last year, the state Court of Appeals ruled that the proposed Willets West mega-mall — which the developers had argued was financially necessary to follow through on the larger redevelopment — could not be built because its location, the Citi Field parking lot, is technically parkland. The future of the Iron Triangle had been a question mark since then.

Not everyone is completely happy with the news, though.

In a Tuesday blog post, activist group Willets Point United criticized the city for sticking with the QDG as its private sector partner.

"There is absolutely no basis to think that QDG is the 'best' developer for this six-acre site and configuration, because the de Blasio administration did not implement any competitive sealed proposal process (although it should have done so)," the group said in the post.

The new arrangement between the city and the QDG was first reported by The New York Times on Monday.

Demolition has taken place in the Phase 1 land, though businesses still operate in the other part of Willets Point.

The EDC acknowledged but did not immediately answer a Chronicle inquiry about how the new plan would be financed. 

UPDATE

This story has been updated to include statements from Borough President Melinda Katz, a quote from Willets Point United's blog post and information about the deal that was announced by the de Blasio administration on Tuesday.

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