Willets Point United urges mayor not to proceed with sale of land to QDC

Willets Point activist are speaking out against Mayor de Blasio seliing 23 acres of Willets Point land to Queens Development Group.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Gina Martinez

The Willets Point community is criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio for proceeding with the sale of “Phase One” Willets Point Land to Queens Development Group.

The 23 acres would go to QDG, the developer chosen by the Bloomberg administration in the original Willets Point proposal, which included a mega-mall that the New York State Court of Appeals ruled cannot proceed as it lacks legislative approval. The community was outraged when the Bloomberg administration had set a controversial sale price of $1 for the 23 acres.

In June the Court of Appeals denied the Willets Point mega-mall plan in a 5-1 decision. 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.

Following the court victory the community was hoping the mayor would rescind the city’s contract with Queens Development Group and its “unjustified” $1 property sale.

Robert LoScalzo, a member of Willets Point United, a group of business owners in the area against eminent domain abuse, for said if QDG cannot build its Willets West mega-mall, a key component of the developer’s proposal, there should be a new request for proposal open to other developers instead of continuing with QDG on no basis. According to LoScalzo, only de Blasio can set a price for Willets Point lots acquired by the city after December 2013, and the price needs to be approved by the Queens Borough Board, which has not occurred.

In addition, Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) has plans to form an advisory committee to help guide development choices at Willets Point. LoScalzo said it makes no sense to lock in QDG as developer before Moya can assemble his advisory committee and before it has an opportunity to participate. LoScalzo contends this is similar to what former Mayor Bloomberg did with the Willets Point Advisory Committee during the 2011-2012 developer selection process.

In a statement a spokesman for the mayor said no decision has been made yet and that the city is continuing to talk with stakeholders to reach a workable solution.

“Our priorities remain jump-starting the affordable housing, schools and resources this community was promised years ago,” the spokesman said.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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