The city has been “delinquent” in its discussions with Community Board 7 on the future of the troubled Willets Point development, according to the board’s First Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian. And at Monday night’s quarterly meeting with the project’s stakeholders, Apelian put the city and developers on notice.
“I want to be very clear,” Apelian said. “We expect to be involved.”
The future of Willets Point has been uncertain since a June ruling by the Court of Appeals halted a major part of the proposed development, a mega mall known as Willets West, because it was planned for a parcel of land connected to nearby Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Building the mall on public parkland would require approval from the state legislature, the court said.
And while Willets West was only part of a larger development plan that included hundreds of affordable housing units and environmental remediation, the developers maintained that the mall was the “economic engine” that would make the project possible. Now, the developers and city are deciding whether to pursue a long campaign for state approval or make changes to their plan. But changes to the project could concern Community Board 7, which approved the most recent proposal in 2013.
“If the original concept has been now modified, that’s not what this board voted on,” CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty said on Monday.
Nate Bliss, of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said that, regardless, the city plans on being a partner with the community on the process. Apelian expressed hope that this was true. If the parkland was not alienated by the state legislature and Willets West was abandoned, he expects the project could change “dramatically.”