City unveils new affordable housing plan for Willets Point

City unveils new affordable housing plan for Willets Point
The city revealed 1,100 affordable apartments would be coming to Willets Point.
Photo by Michael Shain

Affordable housing is finally coming to Willets Point.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) unveiled their new plan for the abandoned land that promised construction of 1,100 affordable apartments on six acres of Willets Point, starting in 2020.

This new plan will offer 225 additional affordable homes than the original development proposal. According to the mayor, this new plan will include three, 100 percent affordable buildings including a standalone building with 220 homes for low-income seniors and also apartments for families at lower incomes than originally proposed.

The one-million square foot project will also include a new 450-seat public elementary school, neighborhood retail and public open space and according to de Blasio the city will pursue additional school seats if more residential units on the site are built.

De Blasio said this project will focus on the community’s main concern, affordable housing.

“It’s time to jump-start Willets Point, and we are doing that by building more than a thousand homes for seniors and families struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “ I look forward to working with Borough President Katz and Councilman Moya to ensure these homes are delivered on time, and that we build even more affordable homes, schools and parks across Willets Point,”

The city will still work with developer Queens Development Group but the new plan increases the affordable homes to 1,100 across just six acres, compared to the 2013 agreement, which would have produced 875 affordable homes across the entire 23-acre development site. This new agreement will also provide more homes for individuals who earn less than $17,190, or $25,770 for a family of three. The city announced that nearly 100 apartments will be reserved for formerly homeless families and 220 apartments for seniors.

According to the mayor, environmental remediation of the 23 acres will be completed by the developers by the end of 2020 and by 2022 at least 500 of the project’s housing units are expected to be finished.

One of the more controversial aspects of the 2013 proposal has been modified as well, The city will retain ownership of the property through a long-term ground lease for the six-acre site. Under the 2013 plan all of the 23 acres would have been sold to the developers for only $1.

Last June the New York Court of Appeals ruled against the development of a proposed mega mall project, ruling that the developers needed approval from the state Legislature before moving on with the project to be built on parkland.

Willets Point United, a group of business owners in the area against eminent domain abuse, are not happy with the City’s decision to stick with original developer QDG. The group said if the initial phase of development is going to be limited to the Willets Point Phase One property without expanding the project onto public parkland as QDG had proposed, then the City should re-start the developer selection process, with no unwarranted special status given to QDG, Sterling Equities or The Related Companies.

“There is absolutely no basis to think that QDG is the “best” developer for this six-acre site and configuration, because the de Blasio administration did not implement any competitive sealed proposal process (although it should have done so).” The group wrote in a blog post.

Recently elected councilman Moya said the city will move forward with his proposed task force where the community can give input on their priorities and come up with recommendations for the remaining 17 acres of the development site.

“Willets Point has been 12 years of bad politics and broken promises,” he said. “With this deal, we can look to providing some great housing relief for a lot of people who need it. By securing school seats, deep affordability, and senior housing we have accomplished something none of the previous iterations have been able to, and now with the task force I will co-chair, we can ensure this same community minded development continues in future phases.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart[email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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