The New York Economic Development Corporation and Mayor Bloomberg of NYC announced the completion of the final plan for Willets Point – a peninsula on the Flushing River in Northern Queens, New York. The development of Willets Point is part of the urban renewal project associated with Citi Field – the Mets’ new stadium. Nicknamed the Iron Triangle, the project will include housing for mixed incomes, retail and entertainment amenities, a hotel, a convention center, office space, parks and open space, and a new public school, all of which falls under the umbrella of LEED-certified buildings and infrastructure. As with every redevelopment plan, there are positives and negatives to restructuring the community.
Read on for more after the break.
The Willets Point Redevelopment Plan is a ten- to fifteen- year commitment to the regeneration of this district. There are many environmental concerns associated with this land. Historically, the 60-acre peninsula was used as an ash dump. It accumulated approximately 100 railroad car loads of ash per day. Since, it has also been contaminated by petroleum, paint, cleaning solvents and automotive fluids. A high water table exacerbates the environmental hazards, threatening to spread into other bodies of water. It also lies within the 100-year flood plain which requires that the grade be elevated significantly. In addition, storm water and sanitary infrastructure is lacking. Its neighbor, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, was marred by the same kind of environmental damage, but was restored in the early 20th century in preparation for the 1938 World’s Fair. Now officials believe it is time for Willets Point to follow suit.
Willets Point is valuable due to its geographic location. It has the potential to become a hub for a variety of activities from entertainment, residential use, outdoor recreation, and commercial and retail use. It is regionally well connected to the subway towards Manhattan, to the LIRR towards Long Island, the highways and airports. It is already well positioned in proximity to other popular destinations such as Flushing, Corona Park, the National Tennis Center, Shea Stadium and Citi Field. The benefits are tangible – the plan promises 25,000 “person-years of construction employment”, 5,000 permanent jobs, 1,000 indirect jobs that come from the convention center, mixed-income housing, a new diverse community and hub, an estimated 30-year fiscal impact of $4.2 billion dollars, and the rebuilding of environmental infrastructure throughout the peninsula, in addition to a LEED buildings.
Despite its advantages, there are challenges to the city’s plans. According to Smriti Rao’s article in DNAinfo on New York Neighborhoods, residents and local businesses in the area are reluctant to relinquish their properties to eminent domain. It is a legitimate claim to private property but is often pushed aside for development such as these. However, Bloomberg ensures that 95 percent of the property has been or is being acquired. Is there no way that the future plans could be incorporated into the already existing architecture and infrastructure that the community there has established? It is frequent tug-of-war between the two. As the project goes out to bid, we will be able to see if and how the redevelopment unfolds and changes the district for the better.