Could affordable housing plans for Willets Point be scrapped for airport construction parking?

Posted On Tue, September 18, 2018 By

Posted On Tue, September 18, 2018 By In affordable housing, New Developments, Queens

Willets Point from Citi Field. Image: Wiki Commons.

The city and developers have filed preliminary plans to pave a 6.5 acre stretch of city land for 665 parking spots, Crains reports. The economic development site within the industrial neighborhood of Willets Point, in Corona, Queens also known as the Iron Triangle was slated for a cleanup of its toxic soil and the creation of affordable and senior housing, plans which resulted in the demolition of a cluster of small businesses.

Though the housing plans were a decade in the making, this year the city and a development team, whose members included the Wilpon Family, owners of the New York Mets, floated plans to use the publicly-owned property for parking lots. The parking lot plans skip removal of the contaminated ground below. Though that plan was never pursued, city officials didn’t rule out the possibility of a use different from what was intended when the land was rezoned in 2008.

The state’s Court of Appeals had nixed a version of the Willets Point plan that put a small shopping mall on parkland. The development team working on the project, which is comprised of The Related Cos. and Sterling Equities, the real estate arm of the Wilpon family, proposed a 1,100-unit affordable-housing complex on six acres, with the remaining 17 acres of public land still in discussion. “It’s time to jump-start Willets Point, and we are doing that by building more than a thousand homes for seniors and families struggling to make ends meet,” Mayor Bill De Blasio said when the plans were announced.

But according to according to documents discovered by Queens filmmaker Robert LoScalzo, the developers told the state agency overseeing soil remediation on the site that they were planning to build parking lots instead. It was suggested that the parking lots would be used by Delta Air Lines, which is involved in a massive renovation of its terminal at La Guardia and has been scrambling to find space for contractors to park (there is currently an agreement with the Mets to use Citi Field parking). LoScalzo, who is working on a documentary about Willets Point, said the parking lot plan means “the city has drifted over to other priorities” different from those which justified hundreds of business being booted from the area.

The developers have said they remain focused on building the affordable housing, and Delta and the city deny that there is any parking lot deal in the works. The city has said, however, that it is still open to the idea, as it would help mitigate alleviate traffic congestion during the airport renovation project, which is not expected to be completed until 2026. Moving forward with a new proposal would mean the final plans would would need to be submitted to the state, and additional approvals might be required. A task force is slated to submit final recommendations this month.

[Via Crains]

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