Even the best proposals unfold slowly in New York City. For years the city Economic Development Corp. has been attempting to redevelop Willets Point. The area that abuts the new Mets stadium is an urban disaster with regularly flooded streets and automobile salvage yards that make the area look like a dump.
The EDC says it has 29 responses from developers interested in developing the land east of Citi Field. The development will include 2,000 units of mixed-income housing and 500,000 square feet of office space. The redevelopment is expected to create more than 5,300 permanent jobs and 18,000 construction jobs.
Although we understand the concerns of those business owners who will most likely be forced to relocate, we think this is for the greater good. According to the EDC, about 75 percent of the land is already under city control. The rest of the properties will be acquired through what the EDC calls “fair negotiations.”
Fair is a relative term. Some of the business owners that have operated there for 40 years feel betrayed. This area was badly neglected by the city. Nothing was done about constant flooding in the streets. These businesses paid taxes and provided employment. They should be treated well.
There is also concern that the past condemnation process used to open the way for public projects was never intended to be used to facilitate private development like that envisioned at Willets Point.
Thus far the courts have upheld the city’s plan for the area. In November Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Edward Korman dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Willets Point Industry and Real Estate Association, a coalition of property owners who claimed the city had neglected the area over the past 40 years with the hope of acquiring the property cheaply.
The judge maintained the claim could not be substantiated. We doubt there was a grand conspiracy here — just government neglect.
Hopefully, the redevelopment will move swiftly now and those businesses being forced out will be relocated and be well-compensated for their losses.