You are reading

First Phase of Willets Point Redevelopment Plan Gets Green Light from Queens Borough Board

The Queens Borough Board approved the first phase of Willets Point development plan on Monday (Photo: Queens Post)

May 12, 2021 By Christina Santucci

The Queens Borough Board voted to approve plans for the first phase of Willets Point’s redevelopment Monday evening – which would include construction of 1,100 affordable apartments, public open space and a new public elementary school on six acres of land.

The board, which is headed by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and includes City Councilmembers and community board chairpersons, gave the greenlight to the long-term lease terms during its meeting – with nine votes in favor and one abstention. The financial details of the lease were not discussed.

Under the plan, the six-acre site would be leased to Queens Development Group, LLC – a joint venture between Stephen Ross’ Related Companies and Sterling Equities, a real estate company that previously owned the Mets. Sterling Equities, which is owned by the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, sold the team in October.

The plan was approved with three conditions: that the EDC provide more regular reporting about the remediation of the school site, that meetings be held every other month to address community concerns, and that 50 percent of housing be designated for residents of Community Board 7.

The third condition would only apply if the city’s policy of allocating 50 percent of affordable units to people already living in the community district remains on the books when the Willets Point housing is built. The Anti-Discrimination Center is currently suing the city over the policy.

The next step for the plan – which consists of multiple leases up to 99 years long – is the deal’s closing, said Jana Pohorelsky, the EDC’s assistant vice president for Government & Community Relations.

“Tonight is about turning the tide at Willets Point by kickstarting the remediation and infrastructure investment that will literally pave the way for long awaited benefits in this area,” Pohorelsky told meeting attendees.

The Queens Borough Board voted to approve the plan for Phase 1 of the Willets Point development plan. Phase 1 (Screenshot of presentation)

Pohorelsky said the city aims to start its remediation this summer and then move on to infrastructure construction in 2022. Construction of affordable housing and the school is expected to begin in 2024.

Three residential buildings – with 1,100 apartments – would be built at the site. Of those apartments, 220 units would be designated for seniors under the Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) Program, and another 99 would be designated for families who were previously homeless.

The other 781 apartments would be set aside for households in six different income groupings – ranging from 30 percent to 130 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). For example, incomes would be capped at $32,220 for a family of three in the lowest bracket and $139,620 for a three-person family in the highest grouping – based on 2021 guidelines.

Pohorelsky said that about 55 percent of the apartments – including those for seniors – are reserved for households making less than 60 percent of the AMI – which is $64,440 for a family of three and $71,580 for a family of four in 2021.

The redevelopment also includes new streets and utilities, approximately 25,000 square feet of retail space, a 3,000-square-foot community facility space, about 310 parking spaces, an acre of open space and a K-8 school with 650 seats. The number of seats was increased from 450 in a previous agreement.

The plans for Phase 1 of the Willets Point redevelopment presented by Jana Pohorelsky, the EDC’s assistant vice president for Government & Community Relations (screenshot)

During a question and answer session, Community Board 7 Vice Chairperson Chuck Apelian raised concerns about the remediation of the school site – and his worries were echoed by Councilmembers I. Daneek Miller, Peter Koo and Bob Holden.

The school will be built within a 23-acre brownfield site in Willets Point. Pohorelsky said the environmental remediation of the brownfield will be coordinated and supervised by the state Department of Conservation and Department of Health.

The cleanup plan includes a steel, water-tight groundwater containment wall to protect the Phase One site from contamination seeping in, a layer of clean new earth placed after contaminated soil is removed, and a soil vapor mitigation system installed underneath the buildings’ foundations to prevent contaminants from becoming airborne.

Pohorelsky said that the city is complying with guidelines set by DEC and coordinating with the School Construction Authority – which she said was standard practice for city school sites.

Holden said he had a number of unanswered questions about the standards – and cost – of the remediation. “What I want is numbers, and we are not hearing them,” he said.

Councilmember Francisco Moya then responded to Holden, saying, “If you think that me – as a representative of the area – would not put the children’s safety first, then you’re sadly mistaken and you don’t know me as a colleague.”

Holden later abstained from the vote, citing his concerns. Apelian – as well as Councilmembers Karen Koslowitz, Paul Vallone, Barry Grodenichik, Adrienne Adams Selvena Brooks-Powers, Miller, Koo and Moya – voted in favor.

Moya praised the plan’s affordable housing, as well as the construction of a new school, during his comments earlier in the meeting.

“The overcrowding of our schools is an epidemic problem here. This new school will help alleviate that,” Moya said. “This is a very historic step forward.”

Pohorelsky also said that Queens Development Group pledged to pay workers a prevailing wage, participate in HireNYC, a program geared at getting local workers jobs, and set a 25 percent hiring target from minority- and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE). There was no estimate available Monday for the number of jobs that would be created.

Richards said he would like the target to be set at 30 percent for local workers and MWBE firms.

Attempts to redevelop Willets Point have been in the works for several decades.

“This issue  – Willets Point – has been kicked around for so long, that I was attending the Borough Board as a representative for Governor Mario Cuomo,” Grodenchik said. “I think it’s time to move ahead on this issue.”

The six acres to be addressed in Phase One are part of the 61-acre Special Willets Point District, bordered by 126th Street, Roosevelt Avenue, Northern Boulevard and the Van Wyck Expressway. Other parts of the district would be addressed in subsequent phases.

Pohorelsky said during the meeting that the specifics of Phase Two have not yet been determined.

“I hope we continue to work together to get the rest of Willets Point done,” Moya said.

email the author: [email protected]

One Comment

Click for Comments 

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Queens Botanical Garden hosts Lunar New Year celebration with globally beloved Miffy

About 4,200 people joined the world-renowned beloved rabbit Miffy to ring in the Year of the Rabbit at Queens Botanical Garden’s Lunar New Year celebration on Saturday, Jan. 28. 

Queens Botanical Garden’s Lunar New Year celebration included a visit from Councilman Shekar Krishnan, who gave remarks, followed by a program of activities for all ages. Attendees enjoyed a lion dance performance, zodiac crafts, demonstrations, lucky plant sales and more. Miffy was in attendance for photos, story time and to greet children throughout the event.

Mets owner Steve Cohen hosts second community visioning session regarding development of area around Citi Field

Hundreds of community residents and leaders gathered at the Piazza Club inside Citi Field to participate in a visioning session regarding the development of a nearby 50-acre lot. This marked the second visioning session New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has hosted at Citi Field in January as he attempts to collect as much community feedback regarding the development as possible.

Attendees of the visioning session went to a series of interactive stations, sharing what mattered most to them when it came to improving the area around Citi Field, including preferred forms of year-round entertainment, ability to access different forms of transportation and attainable local jobs and training. Information and input was collected from the community in how they would like to see the lot utilized. A common theme among many of those who took part in the visioning session was the desire to see something built there that would bring a lot of economic opportunity to the community and provide year-round entertainment.

NewYork-Presbyterian Queens doctor aims to bring awareness to women’s heart health

With February marking the beginning of American Heart Month, a cardiologist from NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Hospital spoke with QNS about the importance of heart health for women.

According to attending cardiologist Dr. Joanna Troulakis, approximately 400,000 women die as a result of cardiovascular diseases each year in the United States. She noted that women have suffered more cardiovascular disease deaths than men in recent years. When it comes to heart attacks, the mortality rate for women is higher than men.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

‘Where do we go now?’ Michaels set to close its doors in Fresh Meadows next month

The Michaels located at 187-04 Horace Harding Expwy. in Fresh Meadows will be permanently closing its doors on Feb. 23. The announcement that Michaels will be leaving the Fresh Meadows Shopping Center has led to an outpouring of reactions from many community members.

“We know this is disappointing to our customers in Queens, but we hope to continue to serve them at our other locations in New York City or online at,” a spokesperson for Michaels said in a statement to