‘We don’t want this to take another 10 years’: Community & city talk Willets Point development

Rendering courtesy of NYCEDC

While the future of a long-awaited Willets Point development project in Flushing remains in the balance, community members at a special meeting on Sept. 18 made it clear they want to see action as soon as possible.

After a court decision put the future of the Willets Point development in limbo, Community Board 7 met with a representative for the project’s developer — Queens Development Group LLC (QDG) — at a contract-mandated quarterly meeting in June.

Members of the board’s Building and Zoning Committee were openly critical of the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s (NYCEDC) failure to send a representative to the meeting and followed up with a letter to EDC outlining their complaints. Two weeks later, the city agency’s President James Patchett responded with his own letter, claiming EDC was notified about the meeting on short notice and remains committed to seeing the project move forward.

At the Sept. 18 session, all three parties were present to discuss any updates. Though the EDC representative admitted there was “not much to report,” he did present images of extensive demolition work conducted at the site while the city agency waited on the outcome of the court case. A total of 48 structures on 33 lots have been demolished and taken down to grade, according to EDC.

“While we were waiting for the court process to unfold, we were not just resting on our laurels,” the representative said.

He also noted that the contract has a provision that allows both the city and the developer the option to terminate the agreement with notice. However, right now, QDG still remains the developer on record.

The legal representative for QDG, Ethan Goodman from Fox Rothschild, said the joint venture between Sterling Equities and Related Companies and the city still have the option to pursue alienation, which would allow the Willets West component to move forward. It remains unclear whether either party will pursue this route.

After the EDC presentation, Committee Chairperson Chuck Apelian reiterated the board’s demand to be more included in the process.

“We want to be involved with EDC, with the mayor’s office,” Apelian said. “We’ve given a lot of input and a lot of support in the past — but what seems to happen over the past is that EDC will come and go … We don’t want to be patronized anymore. We want to be part of this process.”

“We don’t want this to take another 10 years,” member Joe Sweeney added. “And if you’re having conversation, as Chuck said, we want to be informed.”

The EDC representative said the agency continues to work to ready the site for development and is remains dedicated to remediating the site and building affordable housing.

“We want a time frame and a time limit for everyone to decide whether or not they’re gonna proceed and pursue alienation, or the current plan that this board and everybody has on the table,” Apelian said. “The doors have to be wide open.”

The groups will meet again in January.