Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Willets Point plan nothing like what was promised
Because Willets Point is far from being ready to attract home buyers, builders want to push back the housing component until 2025. They would start by cleaning up a 20-acre swath that needs extensive remediation—greater than the 12.75 acres called for in the request for proposals. Related and Sterling Equities would then build parking lots, a retail strip and a 200-room hotel just to the east of Citi Field along 126th Street.
After that, they would add a new component to the project—an approximately 1 million-square-foot retail and entertainment complex on the parking lots just west of Citi Field. This new piece became possible because the Mets control the lease. Tentatively called “Willets West,” the mall would connect Willets Point and Citi Field to Corona, expanding the scope of the redevelopment and creating thousands more jobs. It serves two main purposes: to make the rest of the project economically viable and to make the desolate area more of a destination before the housing comes in.
Once the mall west of Citi Field is built, the developers would start construction on the housing and additional retail space east of the stadium. The city negotiated a clause in the deal that would force the developers to pay $35 million if they don't break ground on the housing by 2025. The city could also replace the developers at that point.
The city's budget for the project hasn't changed—it still has about $400 million earmarked—but some of that money will be moved around to help the developers with remediation and infrastructure. Economic activity from the initial parts of Related/Sterling project will allow the city to put $65 million into its capital budget for 2020 to build Van Wyck Expressway ramps that are needed for the housing.
The changes virtually ensure that one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's signature economic development initiatives will not get off the ground before he leaves office. Assuming approvals are granted, the new plan calls for remediation to begin in 2014.