Redevelopment of Willets Point will now go through a rigorous review process after its study was approved by the Department of City Planning (DCP).
The plan, approved by DCP on Monday, March 18, will first go to Community Board 7, which includes Willets Point, for an advisory vote. Borough President Helen Marshall will then get the plan for her own recommendation, followed by the City Council and DCP.
Between development at Willets Point and the addition of the shopping mall dubbed “Willets West,” the mixed use area will include housing, retail, hotels and an entertainment center.
Jesse Masyr, the project’s lawyer, said he’s confident the various levels of voters will jump on board with the plan, citing the environmental clean up that’s first on the project’s steps.
“It is a very, very significant effort and accomplishment,” he said, adding it would “reverse 50 years of unsuccessful attempts” to stop pollution in the area.
If the City Council ultimately rezones the area, the joint venture, between Related Companies and Sterling Equities, would begin by cleaning up the 23 acres commonly called the Iron Triangle. New York City has dedicated $100 million to removing spoiled soil and creating an infrastructure at Willets; the rest of the project is privately financed.
New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has pushed for the project since updated plans were announced last June — much to the chagrin of some Willets Point business owners.
“This marks a critical step towards beginning the long-needed cleanup of toxic land in Willets Point that for years has damaged the waterfront and been a blight on the community,” a NYCEDC spokesperson said.
Opponents, however, are not confident in a fair process.
Michael Rikon, the lawyer for Willets Point United, said the city would probably approve the rezoning, and the seven-month approval process was merely a formality at this point.
This didn’t stop Rikon, however, from saying there were reasons why the project should be fought — including building Willets West on what is mapped as parkland.
“The whole thing and the whole process is a shame,” he said. “There could be 15 great reasons why there should be a condemnation on the plan.”