CB 7 chairman says BP Katz did not bail on Willets Point meeting

By Gina Martinez

With the future of Willets Point unclear, Community Board 7 is lashing out at the city and the Economic Development Corporation over what it says is a lack of transparency.

The board sent a letter condemning the city administration and the EDC for not showing up to the latest Willets Point Quarterly Committee Meeting. According to CB7, after the state Appellate Court announced its decision on the Willets Point Development, the board sent an email to Queens Development Group to come together for a quarterly meeting before the summer and for it to send a high-level EDC representative.

In a letter dated July 12 reacting to the TimesLedger story, CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty said Borough President Melinda Katz did not bail out on the meeting as originally reported.

The meeting was moved up due to “timeliness,” given the recent decision, the board said.

According to the board “no one from the EDC or the administration attended our meeting, although lower-level representatives from both called last week to relay politically correct excuses.”

Earlier in June, the Court of Appeals denied the Willets Point mega-mall in a 5-1 decision. The court decided that the developers needed consent from state legislators before moving on with the project to be built on parkland.

Queens Development Group has been fighting to build a proposed mega-mall and movie theater on the 30-acre site where Shea Stadium once stood as part of the original $3 billion redevelopment of the Willets Point auto shop The lawsuit — filed in Manhattan Supreme Court in February 2014 by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), along with the City Club of New York, Queens Civic Congress, members of Willets Point United and nearby residents and business owners — challenged the transfer of Queens parkland worth about $1 billion.

The lawsuit focused on the proper use of the land. The mega-mall was slated to be built on the parking lot east of Citi Field, which is technically still parkland belonging to Flushing Meadows Corona Park and under lease to the New York Mets.

Arguments centered around a 1961 law allowing the construction of Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows Park.

According to CB7, the purpose of the meeting was to give the community answers as to the future of Willets Point. Some questions were included in the letter such as: What site work has been performed to date? If the current plan is abandoned, does QDG have the contractual right of first refusal to submit a new plan, or will the city send this out for bid again? Does Queens Development Corp have the right to walk away if the current plan is abandoned? Will there be penalties?

A spokesman for EDC said it was given short notice before the meeting and was not able to attend, but the agency still is in the process of evaluating the next steps regarding the project.

“Unfortunately, we were not able to send a representative to the community board meeting on such short notice, but we look forward to continuing this discussion with them as we determine next steps for this important project.”

“Shame on EDC and shame on the mayor’s office,” CB7 said in its letter. “We were charged with a very serious and grand responsibility when we partnered to have Willets Point approved. We certainly understood our role,QDG certainly understood their role, but apparently, the city did not understand theirs.”

The board ended its letter by saying it was not seeking apologies, or even a response to their letter, but rather a meeting to re-establish dialogue moving forward.

(correcting story to say CB 7 did not bail out on the meeting)

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart[email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.