By Gina Martinez
After receiving a scathing letter from Community Board 7 criticizing the New York City Economic Development Corporation for not sending a representative to a quarterly meeting about the future of Willets Point, EDC President James Patchett responded with a letter of his own.
Patchett’s letter, sent July 7, addresses CB7 complaints, saying the EDC was given short notice and that it is working with the board.
In its June 27 letter, CB7 said the purpose of its quarterly meeting was to give the community answers as to the future of Willets Point. According to the board’s letter, “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 plan 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 plan.
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.
CB7 condemned the EDC and city officials for not attending, and for not being more transparent.
“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.”
But according to the EDC, it was not given enough notice to attend the moved-up meeting. Patchett said the EDC received a voice mail two days before the meeting, asking that they confirm attendance, and by then they had a previous engagement.
“Unfortunately, we were not able to send a representative to the community board on such short notice,” he wrote. “Doing so would have required us to cancel a confirmed meeting with another Queens community organization. While this scheduling challenge was unfortunate, we remain committed to working with CB7 on all projects across the districts.”
Patchett said the EDC has worked closely with the community board despite their claims.
“Over the years the NYCEDC has maintained an open dialogue with this community board to share information and details on our progress on Willets Point,” he wrote. “We look forward to continuing this communication as this important project enters a new stage.”
Patchett said following the recent Appellate Court decision, the EDC has also been in close coordination with City Hall to evaluate the next steps for the Willets Point project to provide affordable housing and neighborhood amenities in an area that he said “has seen a history of disinvestment and neglect.
“We look forward to meeting with the community board in the fall once there is new information to share on next steps.”
After receiving the letter, CB7 still does not feel the organization has done enough.
“This administration does not treat Community Board 7 as a legitimate partner regarding the development of Willets Point and continues to patronize us,” the board said in a statement.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart