Unless one believes in the benevolence, integrity and generosity of the Wilpons and Sterling Equities of the New York Mets, the city’s plan for the redevelopment of the area around Citi Field does not appear to be a good deal for the city.
We had supported the original proposal because Willets Point is a mess. This flooded piece of real estate is currently home to auto salvage yards and warehouses. The plan called for putting this waterfront property, standing a stone’s throw from the beautiful Citi Field, to good use with a shopping plaza, a convention center, hotels and affordable housing with a public school.
But now we are told the construction of the housing and a school won’t begin until 2025 at the earliest. Worse, we learned last week this piece of land was given to the Wilpons and their partner, Sterling Equities, which formed the Queens Development Group, for free.
To thank them for accepting this gift, the city is committed to spending $500 million building sewers, creating better access to the Long Island Expressway and repairing roads.
This is something the city neglected to do for decades.
Just months ago there was talk that the Mets might be up for sale because the owners were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.
When the City Council approved the deal, it reportedly knew nothing of the land giveaway and trusted in the mayor’s promise to get back the money spent on buying out the businesses pressed into relocating.
We are not convinced building more hotels and a convention center in this part of Queens is financially viable, even though we welcome the construction and permanent jobs that might be created. What is the attraction when the Mets are out of town, except for the two weeks of the US Open?
Show us the numbers, Mayor Bloomberg. How will the city recoup the money it already spent? Where is the study showing that hotels and a convention center will be viable? There are already hotels close by serving LaGuardia passengers.
No shovel should hit the ground until a plan to build affordable housing is in place — and not in 2025. It should be done simultaneously with the other building.
Despite these reservations, we look forward to the day when Mets fans can walk through a beautiful plaza before and after a game.
But let’s make sure the city gets a fair deal from the Wilpons and Sterling.