No one can argue that Willets Point is in dire need of redevelopment. The success of removing the pollution and adding a convention center, a hotel, retail shops and office space is not only important to the economics of the immediate vicinity but to the extended communities of Flushing, Corona, Jackson Heights and the borough as a whole.
The existing businesses of Willets Point must be taken care of. Some of these companies have been providing goods and services to city residents for a half century, and their needs must be understood and respected. Equitable compensation and assistance in re-location needs to be the city’s highest priority. The requirements of their employees for retraining and reeducation must be provided for.
However, while it is imperative to treat the current business owners fairly, overall progress on the plan cannot be slowed. The impact of this proposal is just too important. We cannot look back and ask why conditions at Willets Point were allowed to deteriorate to the point we are at today. We must look ahead.
Queens is in the midst of an economic developmental resurgence. Opportunities for jobs and business growth are occurring in every sector of our economy. Areas that for years have been in a downward spiral are rebounding like never before. Willets Point is yet another example. Projects like this are good for Queens’ businesses, and if it is good for Queens’ businesses, it’s good for Queens.
The mission of the Queens Chamber has always been promoting the general welfare of the borough and fostering its commerce. The creation of new commercial and retail space along with the enormous short and long-term job opportunities afforded by the Willets Point plan are consistent with this mission.
We will continue working with Borough President Helen Marshall, former Borough President Claire Shulman and the Flushing/Willets Point/Corona LDC to ensure the success of this plan. We will work tirelessly to overcome any obstacles or roadblocks that may be presented. We will make certain that the needs of existing business and economic revitalization of the area remain balanced.
As Citi Field grows day by day, the promise of a re-vitalized Willets Point moves from fantasy to reality. As the ULURP process progresses, we will be vigilant to insure that final plans include a first-class Convention Center and the entire site remains slated for improvements.
The road ahead will be bumpy. Change is never easy. But at the end of the day, a Willets Point that brings economic vitality to an entire borough, a Willets Point that attracts conventions and shows from around the country and a Willets Point that connects downtown Flushing, Corona and Jackson Heights to a destination anchor is something we should all work together to achieve.
Albert F. Pennisi is President of the Queens Chamber of Commerce