Feb. 6, 2018 By Christian Murray
The ambitious Willets Point development–which was on life support after the developer’s most recent plans were blocked–has been resuscitated, with the Mayor announcing today that 1,100 units of affordable housing units and a school will be built on a 6-acre section of the 62-acre industrial area.
The plan will bring three, 100 percent affordable buildings, with one building consisting of 220 units for low-income seniors as well as families at the lower end of the income scale. The plan also includes public open space, retail and a 450-seat elementary school.
“This project delivers big on the number-one priority for the people of Queens: finding an affordable place to live,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s time to jumpstart Willets Point and we are doing that by building more than 1,000 homes for seniors and families struggling to make ends meet.”
Plans to develop Willets Point go back to 2002, when the Bloomberg administration announced plans to overhaul the 62-acre area that was home to about 200 auto-repair shops and junk yards. Ten years later, after several issues were resolved, the plans for Phase I — covering 23 acres–were unveiled that would lead to the creation of a giant shopping center, with 875 affordable housing units and a school to follow years later.
The plan, however, involved taking over the city-owned parking lot that was used by Citi Field, which was part of Flushing Meadow Park. The shopping center, which would have consisted of about 200 stores, was supposed to be built on the parking lot, which the developers viewed as the financial engine driving the massive development.
A state court nixed the plan last year by ruling that the park land could not be taken for the mall. The plans appeared to have died. The city had already spent $287 million on buying land and cleaning it of waste, among other costs.
The latest plan, which will be developed by the same two firms selected in 2012–The Related Companies and Sterling Equities–reached an agreement to move forward with the project, despite the setback from the court ruling.
De Blasio said the developers have agreed to clean up the site, which is expected to be completed by 2020. The city anticipates that 500 of the 1,100 homes to be completed by 2022.
The city has formed a task force to make recommendations as to how the remainder of the 17 acres in Phase 1 should be developed, which will be chaired by Borough President Melinda Katz and Council Member Francisco Moya.
“After years of false starts and controversies, this is a thoughtful way to get shovels in the ground, keep our promises to this community and begin building an affordable neighborhood for seniors and working families,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen.
The affordable housing units will be offered to seniors, formerly homeless families and families earning middle income wages or less.
Seniors earning between $17,190-$35,800 will be eligible for the 220 units of senior housing. There will be 99 units designated for the formerly housing. The remaining units will be for applicants who earn less than $111,670 for a family of three.
Queens Borough President lauded the plan.
“The city has immediate, desperate needs for affordable housing units and school seats, especially here in Queens. This agreement to build 100 percent affordable housing at Willets Point is the right plan at the right time.”