City still thinking next steps on Willets Point
by Benjamin Fang
Sep 19, 2017 | 1346 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Representatives from the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Queens Development Group were on the hot seat Monday night at a Community Board 7 meeting about the status of Willets Point.

The team behind the Willets Point revitalization plan were grilled by members of the board’s Building and Zoning Committee, led by chair Charles Apelian. After a Court of Appeals decision threw a wrench in development plans in June, city officials have been in talks with the developer about a possible path forward.

“Conversations are ongoing between City Hall and the developer around a number of different permutations working to move forward on the project,” said EDC executive vice president Nate Bliss.

Bliss confirmed that Queens Development Group, made up of Sterling Equities and Related Companies, was still the designated developer in the deal. After the court’s “unappealable decision,” both the city and the developer reserved the right to “be released” from their contract.

However, the parties are staying on board to work out a possible solution.

“We did start talking about what the options are for the two sides,” said Ethan Goodman, a representative for Queens Development Group. “We can’t execute the plans originally envisioned, so we do have to work with the city for an agreement on a new plan.”

Bliss said the city has acquired all of the property within the project’s first phase. They have also relocated nearly all tenants and demolition is “substantially complete.”

In total, the city demolished 48 sites on 33 lots, in what Bliss called “visible progress” in Willets Point.

It’s unclear what the city and developer will do with the Phase I property. The proposed mall in Willets West, originally the main source of funding for the rest of the project, was ruled out by the courts without state approval of park alienation.

But Bliss said the city’s objectives are still the same.

“Our objective is still to advance an affordable housing program here, as well as advance the remediation of the site,” he said. “Right now, we are in productive conversations with the developer partner on how we might achieve those objectives.”

When asked about a time frame should they pursue state approval of the proposed mall, which is required because the property is technically parkland, Bliss said the city is not “interested in waiting for alienation.”

“In the meantime, we have made real progress getting the property ready,” he said.

Apelian insisted that the city and developers involve the community board in conversations about the future of the project moving forward.

“My suggestion is we want to be involved with EDC, the mayor’s office and developers on what will be built in this area,” he said. “We want to be involved.”
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