Two large swathes of Willets Point land are being eyed for temporary Citi Field parking spaces, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
That’s because construction of the proposed $2.05 billion AirTrain linking LaGuardia Airport to the area will require staging areas be placed in Citi Field parking lots, the agency said. The work is expected to mostly affect the Southfield lot, which sits south of Roosevelt Avenue. The Willets Point sections in question would be used for replacement parking.
The sections are identified in a PowerPoint presentation by the Federal Aviation Administration about the LaGuardia Airport Access Improvement Project — which encompasses the AirTrain and a project to build more parking for LaGuardia employees — shown at a Sept. 18 meeting.
Outlined with brown lines on a page showing areas that will or may be impacted by the project are two sections of the Iron Triangle east of Citi Field. One occupies a northern chunk of the area, where businesses operate now, that goes as far northeast as Northern Boulevard and 126th Place, which is more than a half-mile from where the AirTrain would stop.
The other area highlighted is directly across the street from Citi Field and is mostly or completely composed of property the city bought and demolished for the Bloomberg administration’s plan to redevelop Willets Point.
A 2018 state Appeals Court decision killed that proposal. And while the de Blasio administration does intend to move forward with its own plan to remediate and redevelop the Iron Triangle it right now only has a plan for six acres near the area’s southern tip.
“Under no circumstances will AirTrain construction impact the City’s development plans at Willets Point,” PANYNJ spokeswoman Alana Calmi told the Chronicle.
But the second phase of the mayor’s redevelopment proposal would transform a 23-acre piece of Willets Point that overlaps heavily with the more southern of the two areas east of Citi Field identified preliminarily to be used for parking during the AirTrain construction. While a specific plan has not yet been settled on, two proposals for the 23 acres were released earlier this year.
But the city Economic Development Corp., which is overseeing the area’s redevelopment, doesn’t seem worried.
“NYCEDC does not anticipate any impacts to our plans for redevelopment in Willets Point as a result of the AirTrain construction staging,” a spokesperson for the organization said. “We look forward to continually working in close coordination with our partners at the Port Authority.”
Robert LoScalzo, a Whitestone resident making a documentary about Willets Point, believes that residents should have been made aware of how the AirTrain plan could impact the area’s land during the Environmental Impact Statement scoping meetings.
“After all, the public could not meaningfully comment on the EIS scope, if FAA did not disclose the areas to be affected at that time,” he said.
The Chronicle could not immediately get an answer from the FAA about why it did not disclose at the public meetings that spaces in Willets Point east of Citi Field beyond the AirTrain’s path may be impacted by the people-mover’s construction.
In addition to potential Citi Field replacement parking, there’s a possibility of Delta Airlines using Willets Point land while it replaces its terminal at LaGuardia Airport. The Queens Development Group, a joint venture of Sterling Equities and the Related Companies that the city contracted for the redevelopment, last year sent the state a letter indicating there may be temporary parking spaces installed in the area that would be used by Delta while the terminal’s being replaced.
South of Roosevelt Avenue, away from the land slated for redevelopment, the PANYNJ plans to build 500 parking spaces for LaGuardia employees underground. The spots would go below the planned AirTrain Operation, Maintenance and Storage Facility, which would be built on a piece of land that includes parts of the Southfield parking lot and the MTA’s Casey Stengel Bus Depot.
The building would have a total of 1,000 estimated parking spaces, according to the PANYNJ. The other ones would be used as permanent replacement spots for Citi Field, as well as for MTA and AirTrain employees.