Questions regarding development at Willets Point, directed mainly at three of the six candidates, became a significant part of a recent forum for borough president.
Councilmembers Peter Vallone Jr. and Leroy Comrie, State Senators Jose Peralta and Tony Avella, former Councilmember and Assemblymember Melinda Katz and former Deputy BP Barry Grodenchik took the stage at the Friday, April 12 meeting, co-hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and St. John’s University.
Specific questions were directed at each candidate, with Comrie, Vallone and Peralta each addressing how, if elected, he would reshape the area known as the Iron Triangle.
Peralta harkened on making Queens a destination location – a policy of incumbent Helen Marshall. With the planned “Tech Campus” coming to Roosevelt Island, Peralta suggested pushing for a tech sector near Willets Point. But affordable housing and better infrastructure are the first step, he said.
Comrie, who chairs the Council’s Land Use Committee, said he’s open to re-exploring a convention center at Willets Point. He also mentioned a potential center at Aqueduct, where Governor Andrew Cuomo had originally proposed one.
“We really need a convention center for the borough,” Comrie said, adding better transportation options would need to be explored for south Queens if convention center talks resurged.
Vallone said Queens residents, in a recent poll, would like to see full-gaming in the borough at Resorts World Casino New York City.
The councilmember, however, is also open to a convention center or further retail shops at the site. But, he said, it would have to be the community’s call on what goes there.
There is about 4.5 million-square-feet of Willets Point the city plans on developing over the next few decades, once the projects on either side of Citi Field are completed.
The borough president’s role in Queens, better transportation and small business growth were also hot topics at the business-focused forum.
Traditionally, a Beep has been branded a “cheerleader” for Queens, but most felt it was more than that.
Grodenchik said he viewed the role as a leader and if elected, he wanted more to be “the quarterback of Queens.”
Katz, who chaired the Land Use Committee before Comrie, touted her record of working across the city and what it takes to be borough president.
“You should be able to create an economic vision for the borough of Queens,” she said. “I think it’s important to span that throughout the borough.”
State Senator Tony Avella said the borough president needed to also serve as a public advocate for the diverse neighborhoods, and the “mom and pop” small businesses who often get hit with city fines.