City officials and local lawmakers celebrated the start of the environmental cleanup of Willets Point Wednesday — which paves the way for the redevelopment of the area.
Six acres of land near Citi Field is being remediated to prepare for the construction of three buildings that will include 1,100 affordable apartments, retail and community facility space. There will also be a stand-alone school and public open space.
The ceremonial groundbreaking follows nearly 15 years of wrangling over the fate of the area that has long been occupied by autobody shops and junkyards. The remediation work begins as the city looks to recover from the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.
“A recovery for all of us is happening right here in Queens,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at the groundbreaking. “Willets Point represents the best of our comeback – new units of affordable housing, more school seats for our children, adding public space and detailed infrastructure improvements.”
The environmental remediation will remove contaminated soil in the brownfield-designated area and replace it with clean fill. Workers will also raise the ground so that the future buildings and infrastructure will be above the floodplain.
The remediation efforts will be completed in 2023. Infrastructure construction is expected to begin in 2022, followed by the construction of the apartment buildings and school in 2024.
The cleanup and first phase of construction will lead to more than 800 construction jobs, according to the city. Upon completion, nearly 200 permanent jobs will be created.
“The environmental cleanup is a critical step in the first phase of the Willets Point project,” said Council Member Francisco Moya, who noted that New York has been dealing with an affordable housing crisis and overcrowding in schools for some time.
“Today we are taking another critical step forward in tackling these issues,” he said.
A large development company has purchased the vacant lot next to St. Sebastian’s School in Woodside for $5.5 million.
United Construction and Development, which has a portfolio of mixed-use buildings throughout Queens, bought the vacant lot from St. Sebastian’s Roman Catholic Church on March 25.
The company confirmed that it purchased the 39-53 57th St. site under the name Woodside 57 Street Realty.
United Construction, located on Northern Boulevard in Corona, is a major player in several large developments in Queens.
It is part of a consortium of developers behind the 68-story Skyline Tower in Long Island City, the tallest building in Queens. It also is the developer of the Justice Avenue Tower in Elmhurst, near the Queens Place Mall.
The Woodside site, once a playground for school children at St. Sebastian’s, is large with a frontage on 57th and 58th streets. The property is 1/2 an acre in size.
On June 8, United Construction filed plans with the Dept. of Buildings calling for the site to be subdivided into 8 tax lots. The company has yet to file building plans.