Even ignoring the fact the so-called blight in Willets Point was caused by the city’s neglect and not the small shop owners in the area, the linchpin to the approval of the 2008 Willets Point redevelopment plan was that it would include affordable housing.
Former Mayor Bloomberg, the architect of the plan, promised Community Board 7 it would have input in the developer selection process. Bloomberg reneged on his promise, and I suspect rigged the selection and gave it to the Mets’ owners, the Wilpons, and their affiliates, Related and Sterling Equities, billionaire real estate entities.
They never had any intention to pursue the plan and what they really wanted was a gambling casino in Willets Point. That was never going too happen. Subsequently, the developers pursued a ULURP process to allow them to construct a parking lot at the site. Hidden in the request was a large elephant.
They wanted the parking lot so they could vacate the Mets parking lot adjacent to Citi Field, use the one in Willets Point, and on the vacated Citi Field site construct a 1.4-million-square- foot shopping mall.
The absurd claim was these billionaires needed the monies the mega-mall would generate, assuming it would do so, in order to do the 2008 Willets Point plan.
Ultimately with Bloomberg’s and the City Council’s approval, an agreement was entered into that gave the developers Willets Point property the city had acquired for tens of millions of dollars for $1. That is correct, $1.
They were also given subsidies and tax credits for over $100 million. To add insult to injury, the developers were given the right to give priority to the mega-mall with Willets Point affordable housing held in abeyance until 2025. That is 17 years after approval of the 2008 plan, and in all likelihood it will never come to fruition.
They were also given the right to walk away from an obligation to construct affordable housing by forfeiting $35 million, an amount that to these billionaires would be akin to the tip one gives the youngster who delivers one’s groceries, and walk away they will. This raid on the city treasury for the benefit of billionaires is so outrageous, it would cause the infamous Boss Tweed to tip his hat in admiration.
It is good people will show up on April 25, 2017 at noon, before the Court of Appeals, which will be sitting at 111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, White Plains, to hear the case that seeks to uphold the decision of the Appellate Division that blocked the construction of the mega-mall at Citi Field.
I am one of the plaintiffs in that case. It is well and good for people to rally at Willets Point for affordable housing (Community seeks housing at Willets Pt., TimesLedger, March 10-16, 2017).
Unfortunately the majority of elected officials in this city are incompetents, who view their constituents as fat cat real estate operators and the little people be damned. As an example when the agreement above came before the City Council, the Council unanimously, but with one dissent, approved that sordid agreement.
Currently Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is advocating professional soccer and hockey stadiums in Willets Point, and I suspect the Mets are behind this further burial of the 2008 plan.
Until we drive these kinds of politicians out of office, sadly, they will ignore rallies.
Benjamin M. Haber