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‘Major step closer’: Massive Willets Point transformation project enters city’s land use approval process

Oct. 16, 2023 By Bill Parry

The city’s arduous public review process is underway for the massive plan to build a new neighborhood at Willets Point.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced Monday the formal beginning of the Uniformed Land Use Review Process, known as ULURP, for the city’s largest all-affordable housing community since the 1980s, and the city’s first Major League Soccer stadium, that will be privately financed, at the 23-acre site known as the Iron Triangle, that was home to scrap yards and auto body shops for decades.

“Today, we take a major step closer to creating 2,500 affordable homes — New York City’s largest fully affordable housing project in decades — while simultaneously creating 16,000 good-paying jobs to provide a true pathway to the middle class, right in the heart of Queens,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “With this plan, our administration is seizing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a brand-new neighborhood — a Willets Point that offers opportunity for working people and all New Yorkers. As we begin the land use review process, we look forward to building on our extensive engagement by continuing conversations with community members and building a true ‘City of Yes.’”

The mayor and Council Member Francisco Moya announced the project last November that will include a new 650-seat public school, 40,000 square feet of new public open space, retail space, a 250-key hotel and the permanent home for New York City Football Club (NYCFC).

Mayor Eric Adams presented the city’s plan for the transformation of Willets Point at the Queens Museum in November 2022. File photo by Paul Frangipane

“We are one step closer to finalizing a project that has it all. This is a once-in-a-generation project that prioritizes housing in a city that is currently facing a severe housing crisis,” Moya said. “It’s not just about providing homes but also about creating stable job opportunities, helping alleviate the burden of our neighboring schools which are overcapacity, enhancing open spaces, and establishing a state-of-the-art privately funded soccer stadium, which will act as the economic engine driving this entire vision.”

Led by NYCEDC, the project is expected to generate $6.1 billion in economic impact over the next 30 years, creating 1,550 permanent jobs and 14,200 construction jobs.

“NYCEDC is excited to begin the ULURP process for the transformational Willets Point development and looks forward to working alongside our development partners, Council Member Francisco Moya, Queens Community Board 7, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards throughout this review process,” said NYCEDC President & CEO Andrew Kimball. “We’ve made substantial progress in the environmental remediation and generational investments in infrastructure that will serve Willets Point and all of Queens and are looking forward to breaking ground on the first phase of 2,500 units of affordable housing before the end of the year – one year ahead of schedule.”

The Willets Point transformation project entered the city’s public review process on Oct. 16, according to the NYCEDC. Rendering courtesy of NYCFC

The proposal was first presented in 2018 by the Willets Point Task Force, a group of Queens stakeholders represented by state and local elected officials; Community Boards 3, 4 and 7; economic development groups; community-based organizations; and local civic associations. The project will be developed by the Queens Development Group, comprised of Sterling Equities and Related Companies, which has undertaken significant remediation of the formerly contaminated soil at Willets Point, allowing construction of the first 1,100 affordable homes, which have already received public approval, to begin by the end of the year. An additional 1,400 additional all-affordable housing units are a part of the Phase 2 project.

“The potential at Willets Point cannot be overstated, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with all our partners to ensure this transcendent project delivers for everyone involved and everyone it will touch in the future,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “As this project continues through the land use process, we must all be steadfast in scoring goals not just for those who will 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 that this effort will generate.”

Richards had threatened to withhold his approval of a street de-mapping element of the Willets Point plan last month unless the Mayor’s office allowed unauthorized street vendors to return to Corona Plaza after they were ousted in July, but he told NY1 on Monday that he had reached a tentative agreement with the city for their return. His office declined further comment on the agreement.

NYCFC plans to build a $780 million, privately-financed, state-of-the-art 25,000-seat soccer stadium across Tom Seaver Way from Citi Field.

“Today marks the continuation of the conversation with the community and elected officials to approve our building a privately-funded soccer stadium with 100% union labor alongside our development partner QDG, who will anchor this new community by delivering 2,5000 units of 100% affordable housing,” said NYCFC Vice Chairman, Marty Edelman. “Queens and New York City need and deserve this transformational new community in Willets Point. We promised our growing fan base we would build their home in the five boroughs and with their continued enthusiastic support, we continue our journey to have that home as part of this unprecedented new housing community.”

The Willets Point transformation project entered the city’s public review process on Oct. 16, according to the NYCEDC. Rendering courtesy of NYCFC

While members of Community Board 7 (CB 7) raised questions last month over the public use of the stadium and questioned the logic of building a 250-room hotel while the city is mired in an ongoing migrant crisis, CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian took note of the years of effort that led up to the public review process.

“We are excited to see years of everyone’s hard work come to fruition. A vibrant new community of 2,500 affordable housing units with a new elementary school, a soccer stadium and a hotel will rise from the remediated ashes of the former Willets Point junkyards,” Apelian said. “In addition, we look for the City’s support to increase public safety in Community Board 7 Queens.”

Queens Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Tom Grech hailed the start of ULURP.

“The revitalization of Willets Point represents an incredible opportunity for Queens and our entire city,” Grech said. “We applaud Mayor Adams and everyone at NYCEDC for their commitment to this important project that will create jobs and catalyze economic activity that supports local businesses.”

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