The news that Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon has spoken to Charles Wang about building an arena in Queens and relocating Wang's Islanders hockey team to the site puts the spotlight on Willets Point: a 62-acre tract in Queens near Citi Field known as the Iron Triangle.
Last year, 29 potential developers formally filed paperwork with the New York City Economic Development Corp. to redevelop Willets Point. While Wang was not one of them, Sterling Equities, the Wilpon family's umbrella company, was, the EDC confirmed Tuesday.
The EDC said a formal request for proposals will be issued later
On the surface, a marriage between Wilpon, Wang and Willets Point seems ideal - there's a sports team already in place and the city wants to add housing, office space and retail. It was unclear Tuesday whether Wilpon would build an arena on the Willets Point land, or elsewhere near Citi Field.
Wang did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
Interviews show that developing Willets Point will not be easy. New York City officials have said they are not contemplating the idea of the Islanders, or Wang's $3.8-billion Lighthouse project, heading to Queens, because an arena isn't part of the approved plans for Willets Point. The entire process, they said, would have
to start over.
"There would have to be a very strong economic and development case made for it," said a New York City Economic Development Corp. official who asked not to be named.
Tuesday, Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said, "There are no plans for a professional sports facility" at Willets Point.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber says he would like to bring an expansion team to New York City as early as 2013.
Garber said he held talks with the Wilpons more than a year ago, but the Mets owners were preoccupied with the launch of Citi Field.
The Red Bulls, who moved into a brand new stadium in Harrison, N.J. this season, are in favor of adding a second team to the tri-state area.
They believe having a natural rival would help grow the popularity of the sport in the area.
Garber says he hopes to resume talks with the Wilpons, but that there are many other potential investors.
When will we stop condemning land and giving handouts to sports teams?