By Gina Martinez
Police have taken action in clearing Willets Point.
On Feb. 28, the NYPD and city Department of Sanitation led an overnight operation to remove abandoned vehicles in the Willets Point area in Corona following multiple complaints from area business owners. From 8 p.m. to 11 a.m. the following day, NYPD said it removed and issued summonses to up to 100 cars.
Police said 85 cars were tagged for removal, 12 vehicles were summonsed and 50 were towed away for disposal. The following day, the 110th Precinct tweeted photos of the operation with the caption, “You spoke we listened, in and around Willets Point a joint operation conducted overnight with NYC Sanitation.”
Willets Point’s future has been in limbo for years. The land adjacent to Citi Field has been the center of a huge lawsuit. Queens Development Group had been fighting to build a proposed megamall and movie theater on the 30-acre site where Shea Stadium once stood. 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 megamall was slated to be built on the parking lot east of Citi Field, which is technically still parkland owned by 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.
In a 5-1 decision last June, the court decided that the developers needed consent from state Legislators before moving forward.
In early February, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz announced their new plan for the abandoned land that promised construction of 1,100 affordable apartments on six acres of Willets Point land starting in 2020. Of the entire 62-acre Willets Point area, the city purchased 23 acres located across 126th Street from Citi Field — named the Phase 1 development site with an early pledge to build affordable housing. The city evicted many auto-repair businesses that formerly operated in that section, and razed most of the structures.
The remaining 39 acres are filled predominantly with automotive parts and repair businesses, and the owners said that due to perpetual neglect by the city, the existing Willets Point community is forced to operate with substandard streets and roadways.
The remaining business owners have been fighting for the city to commit to providing roadway repair, maintenance services and other municipal services that they have long been denied to Willets Point.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart