From the Times Ledger:
The 1.4-million-square-foot mall proposed for the parking lot of Citi Field called Willets West is more like the Wild West in terms of zoning regulations, Community Board 7 learned last week at a meeting where many details of the $3 billion Willets Point redevelopment project were revealed.
A delegation from the city Economic Development Corp. also told board members that there is no contractual requirement for new ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway and that the Queens Development Group, composed of Sterling Equities and Related Cos., have a first shot at building the third phase of the project, which has not yet gone out to bid.
The mall is the first phase, along with a hotel and a strip of retail along 126th Street across from Citi Field. Housing, more retail and a school are in the second phase. The city has not selected a company to build the third phase.
The partnership is seeking city approval to build an interim parking lot in Willets Point during construction of the mall. The developers also need the green light for a proposal to host community recreational activities on the lot when patrons of the Mets are not parking there. The plans then call for the lot to be torn down to accommodate the housing component.
“We want to talk about zoning controls because there are none,” CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian said at the meeting, referring to the mall site, which is mapped parkland.
The land is currently leased to the Mets, but converting its use to a mall would require a sublease involving the city Parks Department, the partnership and EDC.
The developers and the city said the zoning would be outlined in that sublease, and would closely resemble the commercial zoning outlined in the special Willets Point District.
But the CB 7 board had a problem: The lease will be drawn up by Parks and EDC, according to city representatives, not the City Planning Commission, which typically oversees zoning.
The board and members of a group opposed to the development also questioned EDC about ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway that are required to build the housing in the second phase.
According to the partnership’s plan, those ramps are slated for construction by the city in 2021 and completion in 2024 and are estimated at $50 million in today’s dollars, but there is nothing in the contract stipulating they have to be built.