By Gina Martinez
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) joined Make the Road, Fairness Coalition of Queens and community leaders at a rally in front of Willets Point last Friday in support of his Willets Point Plan.
Moya, who is running for City Council, has proposed a plan to bring affordable housing, employment opportunities and a community market to the Willets Point site. The rally was held during Mayor de Blasio’s week in Queens as advocates sought to bring the mayor on board behind Moya’s proposal and reject the competing plan by Moya’s competitor for City Council, Hiram Monserrate.
The New York Appellate Court struck down an ambitious proposal for the site earlier this month. Queens Development Group has been fighting to build a proposed megamall and movie theater on the 30-acre site where Shea Stadium once stood. 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 megamall 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. In a 5-1 decision, the court decided that the developers needed consent from state legislators before moving forward.
Moya said Willets Point is the people’s space, and families in Corona and surrounding neighborhoods deserve to have a say in its future.
“I’m pleased to see so many of our community’s leaders and advocates stand with me today to fight for the fully affordable housing, job opportunities and public space we need,” Moya said. “I’m especially honored that Make the Road has come out in support of my plan. Our community is one of the most diverse in the entire country, and Make the Road’s commitment to giving New York’s immigrant communities a voice will help ensure that any development at Willets Point puts their needs first.”
Moya had the support of Make the Road Action member Agustina Velez, who said she is proud to endorse Moya for City Council because of his extensive record of fighting for immigrant communities and working people in Queens and throughout our state.
“His plan for Willets Point embraces the priorities of our community,” she said. “Environmental clean-up, truly affordable housing, good jobs for local residents, dedicated funding for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, and extensive community involvement.”
Moya is hoping to capture the seat currently held by Julissa Ferreras Copeland, who is not seeking re-election to spend more time with her family. Council District 21 covers areas of Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. Moya is running against Monserrate as well as fellow Democrats Christina Furlong, Erycka Montoya and Yonel Sosa.
According to Moya, his plan will include 100 percent affordable housing, with 33 percent going to families making $25,000 a year or less, guarantees for local hiring to fill both construction and permanent jobs at the site, and the creation of a “World’s Market” modeled on similar community markets around the city as a way to showcase local merchants and restaurateurs.
Moya added that to ensure community input, he is also advocating the creation a local community advisory council made of up members of adjacent community boards, Business Improvement Districts, and civic associations.
Moya and his supporters urged the mayor and other city officials to reject a competing proposal by Hiram Monserrate, who Moya emphasized is a convicted felon. Moya said Monserrate had previously weighed in on the issue while a member of the City Council and Senate, but continued to be embroiled in fallout from his arrest and conviction on corruption charges and an unrelated domestic violence case.
Monserrate has called on the mayor to honor the original Willets Point Redevelopment Plan, put forward by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008.
According to Monserrate, the plan included 5,500 housing units, of which 1,925 units would be permanently affordable, an 850-seat public school, the construction of new access ramps to the Van Wyck Expressway and a project labor agreement with a relocation plan for displaced businesses and living wage protections.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart