Community Board 7 (CB 7) on Dec. 4 voted overwhelmingly to approve phase two of the Willets Point Revitalization Plan that will bring 2,500 units of 100% affordable housing — the city’s biggest affordable housing community since the 1980s — a 650-seat public elementary school, a 250-room hotel and a 25,000 soccer stadium as the new home for the New York City Football Club, on what was known as the Iron Triangle across Tom Seaver Way from Citi Field.
The motion passed 37-2 with conditions on parking, event scheduling and assurances that the hotel will not be converted into a homeless or migrant shelter, allowing the massive project to clear the first hurdle in the city’s land use review procedure.
“I’m thrilled about the green light given to the Willets Point Revitalization Plan by Community Board 7,” Council Member Francisco Moya said. “The game-changing project, embracing 100% affordable housing, smart urban planning, and the cutting-edge NYCFC stadium resonates with our shared goal of nurturing a vibrant and robust community. This revitalization of Willets Point is a bold leap toward a better future for our borough, and I’m proud to stand alongside the community in championing this exciting transformation.”
The first 1,100 units of affordable housing at Willets Point passed the ULURP process last year, with groundbreaking expected by the end of the year.
“The potential at Willets Point cannot be overstated and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with all our partners to ensure this project, should it become reality, delivers for everyone involved and everyone it may touch in the future,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “I look forward to this project coming before my office later this month as part of the land use process. As it does, we must all be steadfast in scoring goals not just for those who may eventually call Willets Point home, but also for the surrounding immigrant-heavy communities of Corona and Flushing through capitalizing on local economic development and empowerment opportunities this effort will generate.”
CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian welcomed the project and all future neighbors that will call Willets Point home.
“We are excited to see 15 years of everyone’s hard work come to fruition,” Apelian said. “A vibrant new community that will include 2,500 housing units that are 100% affordable, local retail, a new elementary school, a soccer stadium and a hotel will rise from the remediated ashes of the former Willets Point junkyards.”
Throughout the process CB 7 Chair Gene Kelty and Apelian pushed the Adams administration for an additional precinct within the 109th Precinct in Flushing, which has seen the greatest percentage increase in crime of all precincts citywide, and is the second largest precinct geographically.
Council Member Vickie Paladino announced that they had received a written commitment from Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks that the city will assess public safety needs and identify all available resources for an additional patrol precinct within the 109th Precinct.
“This community has been in dire need of an additional police precinct for over 20 years, and while I am not thrilled with the length of time it took, I am grateful to receive confirmation now that a precinct will be on the way,” Paladino said. “This is a huge step in the right direction and I know myself and Community Board 7 will remain vigilant until we see the doors open on the new precinct. As of right now we will be exploring locations around College Point and Whitestone for placement.”
Kelty said he was ecstatic.
“I look forward to working with the administration and our elected officials, especially Councilwoman Paladino,” he said. “Even though it took well over 20 years, we need to implement it as quickly as possible.”
The Willets Point project is being led by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Queens Development Group, a partnership by developers Related Companies and Sterling Equities.
“NYCEDC is thrilled that Queens Community Board 7 voted in favor of the Willets Point Phase 2 development and looks forward to continuing the ULURP certification process and working with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards next,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “New York City is proud to make a generational investment in Willets Point that will bring the largest new affordable housing development in over 40 years, not to mention new public open space, hotel, much-needed infrastructure, and the city’s first soccer-specific stadium that will be 100 percent privately financed. This next phase of development will help create nearly $6 billion in economic impact over the next 30 years, more than 14,000 construction jobs.”
Related Companies CEO Jeff Blau spoke on behalf of the Queens Development Group.
“For the last decade, Community Board 7 has been a steadfast partner ensuring that the development of Willets Point delivers what’s best for this community,” Blau said. “We are grateful for their hard work, their dedication and for their approval of this vision that will deliver a vibrant mixed-use community built on the bedrock of thousands of affordable housing units.”
NYCFC fans cheered the result of the CB 7 vote inside St. Luke’s Church in Whitestone.
The $780 million privately financed stadium will be the city’s first soccer-specific venue.
“NYCFC is grateful for this vote of confidence from Community Board 7 to help continue a vision for Willets Point that will unlock thousands of jobs, historic affordable housing, and NYC’s first-ever, union-built soccer stadium,” NYFC Vice Chairman Mart Edelman said. “NYCFC committed ten years ago to build in the five boroughs, and we are thrilled to be closer to bringing this promise to life in Queens – the World’s Borough will be our home for The World’s Game.”
Outside the church, several organizations protested against the project, including members of the Guardians of Jamaica Bay, who say the stadium will take up space that could be used for more affordable housing construction.
“Our number one concern is that we deserve better from our city-owned land and nothing is more representative than the special Willets Point district,” Guardians of Flushing Bay Executive Director Rebecca Pryor said. “”This is abusive land use and we don’t deserve it.”
Jenny Dubnau, of the Western Queens Community Land Trust, said her group tries to take land off the speculative market and give it to the community.
“Public land should be for the public good, there should be no profit taking at all on public land,” she said, adding that sports stadiums have been proven to not bring economic improvement to communities.
Corona native Alex Moran is a lifelong soccer fan who attended the first NYCFC match at Yankee Stadium.
“I can safely say, I love this team. I’ll admit that I was initially excited at the prospect of a soccer stadium so close to home,” Moran said. “I am here today, however, to voice my opposition to this development plan. The truth is seeing this project through in no way guarantees economic revitalization or improvement of our neighborhoods. Let’s call this what it is, a sale of public land for the exclusive benefit of investors.”
The union members that cheered the result inside the church would differ.
“Tonight’s community board vote on the new soccer stadium represents a critical next step in forging the creation of family-sustaining careers for hard-working New Yorkers in Queens,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “With the help of union tradesmen and tradeswomen, this project will provide our soccer fans and players with the world-class venue they deserve and further establish the neighborhood as a premier sporting and cultural hub in New York City. Our members look forward to contributing to this critical development and pursuing the opportunities it creates for them and their families.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.