Apart from the destruction of hundreds of small businesses and the loss of jobs by thousands of people and their dependents, as an article that appeared in The New York Times April 13 makes clear, the proposed Willets Point project is a folly. The article referred to the following projects in downtown Flushing:
1. Flushing Commons, a 1.8 million-square-foot, mixed-use development that will include office and retail space, 600 condos, a YMCA facility and a small park.
2. Another mixed-use development that will include a 168-room Hyatt Place hotel with three levels of retail space and a separate tower for office space and apartments.
3. On the former RKO Keith’s Theatre site there is to be a mixed-use development that will include 357 rental apartments, retail space and a senior center.
4. 1,800 to 2,800 residences near the waterfront.
5. The Sky View Center, an 800,000-square-foot mall.
6. Sky View Parc, a condominium tower with 448 units and a planned addition of 600 units.
In view of the forgoing legitimate and serious questions with regard to the Willets Point project, do we need another hotel? Do we need more luxury apartments? Do we need more luxury retail space, given the fact that we already have the Javits Center, which does not make money and nationally there exists a glut of convention space? Do we need another convention center?
Given all that has occurred and is planned for downtown Flushing, why would any sane person hazard crossing the congested Van Wyck Expressway and Grand Central Parkway for what already and will be available in Flushing? Should taxpayers subsidize real estate developers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for a project that does not make sense?
The fact of the matter is that the small Willets Point businesses rendered an important consumer purpose, more so than a plethora of upscale retail shops. Yes, it does require major repairs, but since the city took taxes from those businesses, it had the obligation to make the necessary infrastructure repairs. New York City’s default and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s romance with fat-cat real estate interests does not comport with good government.
Benjamin M. Haber