‘We did not expect to be abandoned:’ Community board pens letter to city on stalled Willets Point project

Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

A long-stalled $3 billion Flushing development plan has a local community board frustrated with the city, and they’re not just looking for apologies.

Community Board 7 penned an impassioned letter to NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President James Patchett and Borough President Melinda Katz in the wake of a recent Willets Point development committee meeting where members were dismayed to discover both NYCEDC and the mayor’s office neglected to send a representative.

According to the board, both groups conceded to send reps to all of the board’s quarterly meetings regarding the development as part of the board’s agreement to approve the plans in 2013.

The long-proposed Willets West development was again brought to a halt after the New York State Court of Appeals announced on June 6 that the first phase of the proposal, labeled “Willets West,” by the Queens Development Group LLC (QDG) would not be able to move forward without approval from state legislature. The two-phase development proposed by QDG, a joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies, includes plans for a shopping mall, public school and affordable housing in the area where Shea Stadium once stood.

The June 27 letter, signed by board chairman Eugene Kelty and first vice chair Chuck Apelian, said the committee did not expect “definitive answers” on the project due to the newness of the court decision, but rather “clarity and answers to many objective questions.”

During the project’s land use review in 2008, the board received feedback from over 500 people in opposition to the rezoning and land acquisition necessary to make the project happen. At that time, the board writes, “[the city was] our best friends.”

“We approved Willets Point because we believed in the project and the administration, but we did not expect to be abandoned,” the letter continues. “Shame on EDC and shame on the mayor’s office.”

In a previous statement, the NYCEDC said that the agency was invited to the meeting one day before it was held.

According to Apelian, the city agency contacted him directly four days before the meeting to inform him they would not attend. The mayor’s office contacted him three days before.

“EDC simply arms their team with the pleasantries and spins of ‘We’ll get back to you,'” the letter said. “This must end immediately, and we do not want apologies or a politically driven response to this letter.”

A spokesperson for EDC said the city agency received the board’s letter on Monday, July 3.

“As we continue to review the very recent court order and our options, we very much look forward to engaging with local stakeholders and accelerating the affordable housing, schools, libraries retail and open space this community has long been promised,” said Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio.