Similar to how the Council granted the USTA land to expand in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for a set of community programs and benefits, their decision to open the door to development in Council District 21 came with $199 million in community benefits package including affordable housing, new jobs, a 105,000-sq.-ft. K-8 public school, traffic mitigation, environmental remediation, a plan for business relocation and more.
“After many long years of reviewing this proposal and taking my districts needs into account, I am confident that this development will be a win for my constituents, a win for Willets Point and a win for the great City of New York,” said District 21 Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras.
Phase one of the Willets Point development project includes over one million square feet of leasable entertainment and retail space on the west end of the stadium and the approval of a 200-room hotel and 30,000 additional square feet of retail space to the east.
In the agreement for the “Phase 1B” segment of the project, anticipated developers Queens Development Corporation are required to work under the NYC Zoning Resolution’s Special Willets Point District. This includes an affordable housing development requirement of 35 percent, or 872 total units.
“For the first time in history, the 21st Council District will finally have affordable housing,” Ferreras said. “All the other community benefits made possible through the agreement between the Administration and developers will undoubtedly have major positive impact for my constituents."
While 40 percent of the affordable housing units will be targeted towards residents with an annual income of $107,000, nearly 60 percent of the units are reportedly aimed towards those who make under $50,000 per year.
As part of the agreement, The Queens Development Group have been asked to work with local groups such as Make The Road New York and local Queens Community Boards to provide an estimated 12,000 construction jobs and 7,200 full and part time positions.
They are also expected to work with the city to provide $15.5 million to the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance and invest in green infrastructure like a rooftop farm and greenhouse.
"Their $15.5 million commitment, $8 million for capital improvements and $300,000 annually over 25 years for maintenance, will have a significant and lasting impact on Queens' most popular park,” said Holly Leicht, the executive director for New Yorkers for Parks.
Developers have also pledged to work with the Queens Museum of Art, Queens Theatre, Queens Botanical Garden, Flushing Town Hall, Louis Armstrong House Museum and others to develop programming for a 25,000-foot community space.
The space will include a new branch at the Queens Library, a day care and an outdoor events space.
“For decades, Willets Point served as an ash dump for the City, and, now, as a collection of automobile service shops,” said Councilman Leroy Comrie. “Now we have a real opportunity to remove the blight and ensure it is a place for families to enjoy living and shopping.”
In addition to several capital improvements for traffic and subway procedures, the city also agreed to build $66 million ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway for access to Willets Point.
While 42 members of the NYC Council voted in favor of the Willets Point development project, Council members Daniel Dromm, Dan Halloran and Charles Barron voted against the proposal. Peter Vallone, Jr. was reported the only abstention in the vote.
The Queens Ledger did not receive comment from both Councilmen Halloran and Barron at the time of press and Councilman Dromm refused to comment.
Father George Anastasiou of Faith in New York said he remains skeptical of the agreement.
“We are disappointed that our mayor and Economic Development Corporation are giving over $99.9 million in taxpayer subsidies to the developers of Willets Point,” Anastasious said. “We believe the developers of Willets Point, given the power and wealth God has allowed them to have, should be legally required to do even more.”
Anastasiou said his congregation would continue to fight for additional living wage jobs, “real” affordable housing, more open space and room for community input.
“Going forward, any development in New York City should pass an equity test, which is a set of common-sense standards we should expect of developers and city leaders before a single shovel is placed in the ground,” he said.