Willets Point development proposal draws concerns from community board about traffic congestion, possible homeless shelter

Willets Point
Community Board 7 members and members of the public in attendance.
Rachel Butler

A group of approximately 70 people including residents, labor union workers and New York City Football Club fans attended a Community Board 7 meeting in Whitestone on Nov. 15 to learn about the massive Willets Point Phase 2 proposal that would bring 1,400 residential units, a soccer stadium and a two-star hotel if approved.

The meeting, which took place at the St. Luke’s Pastoral Center, was held by the board’s Land Use Committee and was the first of several board meetings in which the public will be able to learn and provide feedback on the project that requires zoning approval before it can proceed. 

Board members expressed several reservations about the project, which is slated to go up in the vicinity of Northern Boulevard and Willets Point Boulevard, arguing that it would result in greater traffic congestion and a shortage of parking spaces. Furthermore, several were concerned that the proposed hotel could potentially become a homeless shelter or migrant center.

The proposal is a joint venture of the Queens Development Group, LLC, City Football Stadium Group and the New York City Economic Development Corporation and representatives were at the board meeting to present the plan and answer questions.

The plan was presented to the board by Ethan Goodman, a director of planning and project management for Fox Rothschild, who spoke about the six ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) actions needed in order for it to move forward. The ULURP actions sought essentially call for a deviation from city planning zoning code, a prerequisite in order for the development to be approved.

He said that stadium would seat 25,000 fans and that the project would bring 1,400 affordable homes, a public school, 40,000 square feet of open space, and a 250-bedroom hotel.

The location of the proposed soccer stadium proved contentious for many board members who said that its close proximity to Citi Field would add more congestion to the area. 

But Goodman refuted this claim, arguing that the Willets Point area is a good place for the potential stadium, as it is close to many buses and trains, and not near a residential area. He also said the project would create jobs and bring revenue to the neighborhood.

New York City Football Club revealed new details of the plan to build a $780 million all-electric soccer stadium at Willets Point at a Community Board 7 Land Use committee hearing in Whitestone. Courtesy of NYCFC

“We have assessed the area and think these reasons make it the ideal location for the soccer stadium, and it will be great for the fans of the New York Football Club to finally have their own home after being in New York for 10 years,” he said.

However, some board members remained unconvinced. A number of members were concerned that when games were being held at both Citi Field and the soccer stadium at the same time traffic congestion would be inevitable. 

Goodman replied that a schedule would be put in place to prevent games being held at both stadiums at the same time. He also noted that the soccer stadium would bring less traffic than Citi Field. For instance, the soccer stadium, even when sold out, would only have about 60% of the attendees as Citi Field. 

He also mentioned that the development group has been in communication with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is assessing whether to add bus stops and new routes to meet the needs of the area. There is the possibility, he said, for new routes to be added once the stadium is in operation.

Board members also expressed concern that the proposed 250-bedroom hotel will at some point become a shelter, with many inquiring about the quality of the future hotel. 

Goodman said they are expecting the hotel to be of a two-star standard and that the details have yet to be determined. 

The conversation, however, focused heavily on traffic, as well as parking spaces.

Goodman said that there are enough parking spaces at Citi Field and beyond to accommodate the needs of the new stadium as well as the greater development as a whole. For instance, he said, the residential buildings will contain a total of 823 parking spaces in the cellar areas.

The board will be holding another Land Use Committee meeting on the development on Nov. 29 before a full board meeting and vote on Dec. 4. The board vote is advisory and is just one step in the six-month ULURP process. The decision will ultimately be made by the city council with Council Member Francisco Moya, who represents the Willets Point area, likely to determine its fate.