Since the late 1950s, the mayoral administrations of New York City, have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to redevelop the Willets Point industrial area of Corona, northern Queens. Headway is finally being made, though, after the City Planning Commission (CPC) granted approval to build a mega-mall and mixed-use complex there, yesterday. The project is proposed to comprise over 1.4 million square feet of retail and entertainment facilities. Such a complex is part of a larger plan to redevelop the stretches of auto body shops that dominate the neighborhood.
CPC was kept busy with their agenda yesterday. It unanimously voted for plans to build condos on the 5Pointz site in Long Island City while also approving zoning changes for the $1 billion Hallets Point project planned for the Astoria waterfront. Lastly the Commission approved the landmarking of Jamaica High School and Forest Park Carousel, aided by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Only one CPC board member, Michelle de la Uz, voted against the Willets Point development. She explained that efforts adopted to relocate business owners are “questionable and weak.” The city Economic Development Corp. recently started offering auto body shop businesses one year’s worth of rent if the owners left their premised before November 30th. This is with the intention of easing and speeding up the process of redevelopment. However Marco Neira, the head of Sunrise Co-Op, a group of 60 Willets Point businesses, said that payouts provided were just far too low given the astronomical cost of rent throughout the rest of Queens. Many locations charge $4,000 per month upwards, with many even asking for several months’ rent as a security deposit. In Neira’s view, this would swiftly wipe out the payout being offered.
Nonetheless the 13-member panel of the CPC still managed to give overwhelming endorsement for the proposal. This has paved the way for a City Council vote within the next fifty days on plans to redevelop the area near Citi Field. Commission Chairwoman, Amanda Burden, explained that with this proposal, Willets is finally on the way to becoming a revived and inviting destination. Ultimately, plans for the mega-mall have received the green light.
The development group, formed in 2011 out of a joint venture between the Related Co. and Sterling Equities, will now begin briefing the City Council members on local civic leaders’ support for the plans.
The $3 billion redevelopment model for Willets Point includes 2,500 residential units as well as commercial, retail and entertainment space, as approved by the Council in 2008. The retail and entertainment areas will consist of roughly two hundred stores, restaurants and even a movie theatre. Such services are sure to make the entire project economically feasible, maintain the developers.